CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek is back at the news in what people are calling for a case of”self-cancellation.” After referring to himself as a”slaveholder” at a faculty meeting, Bilek declared her premature retirement in response to what she predicted momentary but severe lapse of judgment this past year. We previously discussed Bilek’s troubling view of free speech after conservative law professor Josh Blackman has been stopped from speaking about”the importance of free speech” Bilek insisted that interrupting the address on free speech has been free speech. She has now effectively ended her own speech, at least since the Dean of CUNY. She has also sent herself counseling to overcome her”biases.”
Last October, Bilek also made headlines when she insisted that a law student threatening to decide on a man’s Israeli Defense Forces sweatshirt on fire was only”expressing her opinion” The student was accused of not just making the danger but holding a lit lighter. Critics asked whether Bilek would have taken the identical view with a sweater for different groups or causes.
Dean Bilek sent an email into the CUNY community declaring she’d be quitting her job after the November incident. She clarified that she referred to himself as a”slaveholder” at a discussion of a proposition that some believed would have a disparate impact on racial minorities. There is not any transcript of this assembly or verbatim quote provided in the correspondence or policy. Bilek wrote:
“In a misguided effort to draw an analogy into some version of reparations so as to place blame on myself, since Dean, for racial inequities at our college, I thoughtlessly referred to myself because the’slaveholder’ that must be held accountable. I realized it was wrong the minute I heard myself and couldn’t believe the term had come out of my mouth”
…I’m still shocked at what I said and have begun education and counseling to uncover and overcome my biases and further understand the history and consequences of systemic and institutional racism.”
She decided to take premature retirement”because the work it would take to fix the trust required to lead the Law School is a burden that I don’t need to inflict on the faculty or the area.” It is not clear why Bilek waited for almost four weeks to declare her own self-cancellation for a statement she immediately regretted at the meeting. She had already stated an intention to resign in June. So this move happened close to her scheduled date for retirement.
It is also not evident why Bilek felt an apology would not be enough since she was using the term for self-criticism in dealing with what she viewed as inequities at the college for minority professors. Bilek is sending out a message that aim is insignificant and an apology is inadequate when covering an accidental crime in the usage of a phrase in a faculty meeting.
As we recently mentioned, there is an increasingly common position that aim no longer matters if the usage of phrases are deemed offensive, even when employed as the foundation for conclusion. Lately, a New York Times editor has been fired for its usage of the”n word” although it was agreed that he was using it in response to some question and not as a intended slur. Does objective not thing, any utterance is possibly a one-strike crime. Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn announced in a memo that”we don’t tolerate racist language regardless of intent.”
Similarly, we have discussed professors investigated for utilizing the”n-word” in classes for purely pedagogical factors. Lately, college are targeted with the term as a acronym or using the censored version of the expression.
The message sent by Bilek is you can possess a non-racial intent (indeed an intent to advance anti-racist coverages ) but you should still resign even after an apology for using such a word. Four months after using this word at a faculty meeting, Bilek is saying a resignation is needed to fix the injury she caused.
In my career, I have observed occasional incidents of offensive language used by college. Professors like most of folks are imperfect. They make mistakes, such as utilizing ill-considered or offensive phrases. There was a moment when college could discuss these controversies and solve (and learn from) them in good faith as part of a community. Over 20 decades ago, I intervened in one such case with a professor after students complained. He was shocked and sentenced to the pupils. He worked hard to prevent any other sexist remarks as well as the students explained that they were impressed and gladdened with his attempt. Of course, that was before the growth of a cancel civilization in our campuses.
Evidently, Bilek may hold herself to their own standards in resigning and beginning counseling sessions. Every academic can reach their own conclusions on whether they can continue to work in their positions after such a controversy. Really, such demands are common like the current campaign to compel the resignation of the University of Vermont Professor Aaron Kindsvatter after the making of some movie arguing that antiracism schedule on campus amounted to racist treatment of white faculty and students.
Yet again, if we’re sincere about calls for”talk about race,” we all need to let room for discussion, such as unintended but offensive statements as part of these discussions. I have been a believer of Dean Bilek within her views of free speech. However, I do not think she’s a racist and that I think she and profoundly regrets her usage of this word. We are in need of a dialogue as opposed to a diatribe if we are to come together as a country and address racial justice difficulties.
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