NYU Tisch film student caught writing racial slurs in class

An NYU undergraduate was caught writing racial slurs in a notebook during a seminar. When asked why they did it, they pointed to a Black student sitting a few rows ahead.

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Gabriel Vasconcellos

(Gabriel Vasconcellos for WSN)

Adrianna Nehme and Bruna Horvath

An NYU student was found writing racial slurs in a notebook during a 50-person Film & Television class at the Tisch School of the Arts last week, leaving some students in the class concerned about their safety. The student, who is no longer enrolled at NYU, was escorted to Campus Safety by a classmate, after which a Campus Safety officer asked multiple students in the class about the incident, according to two students who were present.

Some students left the class, titled Senior Colloquium: Exit Strategies, immediately after the incident, according to Addison Knies, a student in the class. Knies said the student was first discovered when two classmates noticed what they were writing in their notebook and alerted the professor, Sharon Badal. Badal then asked the student why they were writing the slurs.

In response, the student pointed their finger at a Black student in the second row of the classroom, according to Knies, who added that the perpetrator did not give their name when the professor asked. Instead, they asked to withdraw from the class and left the room shortly after.

Badal did not respond to questions about the incident, instead referring WSN to NYU’s public affairs office.

Federal law limits the university’s ability to share specific information about individual student incidents,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman said. “This incident was promptly reported, and the appropriate offices are involved and responding in accordance with university policies and protocols. We are also providing support to the students in the class who may have been affected by the incident.”

In cases of student misconduct — including discrimination, bias, harassment and retaliation — on university premises, NYU’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policy urges victims to report the conduct, and states that the university will take appropriate investigative and disciplinary action to prevent similar instances in the future.

A Jan. 26 email to students in the class from Devon Pryor, the assistant dean of student affairs at Tisch, and Ezra Sacks, the chair of Undergraduate Film & Television at the school, stated that after the university reviewed the incident, it did not find reason for further concern. The email also read that the university has taken the steps necessary to respond to the incident.

“Our aim — Professor Badal’s aim and the aim of many colleagues across the university — has been to ensure you feel supported, cared for, and secure, and that you can carry on your studies comfortably and safely,” the email co-signed by Pryor and Sacks reads.

Knies added that a group of around 12 students stayed behind in the classroom after the class ended, and that some of them spoke to Campus Safety officers in the building about what happened.

Another student in the class, who requested anonymity out of fear for their personal safety, said that they did not recognize the student writing in the notebook, nor did any of their classmates. They added that Badal continued to teach the class after the student left and that they immediately left after class was dismissed because they felt uncomfortable.

“I don’t think she’s ever handled something like that before, so while she may have made the wrong decision to continue in class, she also probably didn’t really know what to do,” the student said. “I’m sure she’s realized that wasn’t the right decision to keep the class going, but this is an opportunity for the school to train professors in handling situations like this.”

Carmo Moniz contributed reporting. Contact Adrianna Nehme at [email protected] and Bruna Horvath at [email protected]