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White dean of law school cancels herself for saying she’s a ‘slaveholder’ during faculty meeting

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The dean of the City University of New York School of Law said she’s retiring as soon as possible because she referred to herself as a “slaveholder” during a faculty meeting last fall, the New York Post reported.

What are the details?

Mary Lu Bilek, 65, said at the beginning of the year she would step down in June — but on Saturday she revealed the reason why in an email to the college community, the paper said.

During a personnel committee meeting in November about an open position for associate dean, Bilek used the word “slaveholder” as a way of taking the blame for a hiring proposal some colleagues thought would have a “disparate racial impact,” the Daily News reported.

“In a misguided effort to draw an analogy to a model of reparations in order to place blame on myself, as Dean, for racial inequities at our school, I thoughtlessly referred to myself as the ‘slaveholder’ who should be held responsible,” Bilek wrote, according to the paper.

“I realized it was wrong the minute I heard myself say it, and couldn’t believe the word had come out of my mouth,” she also noted, the Daily News said.

Bilek added that she apologized immediately at the meeting “and have since apologized without reservation to the faculty,” the paper said.

“I am 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,” Bilek also wrote, according to the Daily News.

More from the paper:

BIlek, a Harvard Law School grad, first joined the faculty in 1985 and was later associate dean for academic affairs. She was named dean in 2016.

She wrote that she ultimately decided to retire “because the work it would take to repair the trust necessary to lead the Law School is a burden I don’t want to impose on the faculty or the community.”

Bilek said she urged CUNY to appoint an interim dean “as quickly as possible so that I can step aside as Dean even sooner” than she planned to leave.

Bilek did not return messages for comment.

Anything else?

Also last fall, Reason said Bilek came to the defense of a student who threatened to set on fire another student’s Israeli Defense Forces sweatshirt — which the student was wearing at the time. Even though the threatening student was wielding a cigarette lighter during the incident and stated, “F*** Israel. Free Palestine” in subsequent social media post, Bilek said the student was merely expressing an opinion, Reason added.

Bilek’s CUNY faculty page says she’s credited with “spearheading programs that increased the diversity of the Law School and the profession, and supporting the development of programs to address the justice gap.” The page also said she’s chaired the Section on Legal Education Diversity Committee, has served on the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission and the National Center for Economic Justice, and is a member of the NYC Bar’s Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession.

(H/T: The College Fix)

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