Lawsuit filed by Baruch professor over ‘white fragility’ training

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Agata Poniato | The Ticker

Anacaona Rodriguez

According to an interview with The New York Post, anthropology professor Robin Root said that the department’s Faculty of Color Caucus responsible for the training “levied outlandish accusations at white faculty in general, all while citing no specifics whatsoever about any discrimination nor any conduct by any department faculty or against any faculty.”

“I thought we were operating as a team here, to address these issues,” Root said. “Now we’re marking out who is white, and who is not white, and you’ve decided without knowing anything about me, without knowing about my background, that I am only white . . . At a minimum I just wanted to have some dialogue about this, because it is complex and sensitive.”

The training in question, according to Root, required professors in the department to read Robin Di Angelo’s book “White Fragility” and “learn to reflect on how ‘white normativity’ plays out in the department.”

When she complained about the environment within the department, Root says Baruch’s chief diversity officer asked her to read Di Angelo’s book while another dean refused to meet with her.

In response to the lawsuit, the Baruch administration told The Ticker that they could not comment on pending legal matters.

“From a broader perspective, Baruch College has consistently reiterated its long-standing commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity,” a spokesperson for the college said. “Most recently, on September 29, President S. David Wu sent the campus community the following message ‘Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity at Baruch’ to report on the College’s latest efforts on enhancing a diverse and respectful campus community.”

Root also told the Ticker that she was not at liberty to discuss the pending issue beyond the scope of The New York Post article.

Many professors in the department declined to comment on the issue, some in fear of increasing tensions in the workplace.

“Professor Robin Root is a gifted teacher, distinguished researcher and scholar and person of unquestionable integrity and I never saw anything racist or discriminatory in her words and actions,” emeritus professor Michael Plekton, who is not involved in the lawsuit, told The Ticker. “I can say the same of all my colleagues still teaching there — and it should be noted our school has historically been the most diverse of all the CUNY campuses with over 120 languages represented in the students, staff and faculty.”

Plekton added, “I can say finally that in the Soc/Anthro department there was an intense awareness of the racism, and other forms of discrimination and oppression experienced by our entire community — students, faculty and staff. I am grateful to have taught with such fine students and worked alongside such exceptional and humane colleagues.”

Root is seeking to find CUNY, which oversees Baruch College, liable for discrimination against her.