On Friday, September 4th and 11th, Dean Pearl sent emails explaining the initiation of Macaulay’s “Actions for Racial Equity”
Here’s what they had to say:
“The fact is that in relation to the background rate of diversity in the senior colleges that co-host Macaulay students, Macaulay has a smaller percentage of people who are Black and/or Latinx.
Macaulay’s role in admissions is limited... the more outstanding students of color who apply, the more will be admitted...Whether it is speaking to your guidance counselor, visiting an AP class from your high school, or visiting a high school that you believe would be a good source of Macaulay students, it would be great for Macaulay’s efforts to diversify!... If you let us know your intentions, we can supply you with recruitment guidance and materials. Over 400 high schools have been the source of Macaulay students over the years, and the more schools visited, the better.”
“This shared commitment is guiding and informing our plans to create a more anti-racist organization, and foster a more diverse and inclusive community... please let us hear your thoughts. Your efforts to hold us accountable are critical to Macaulay's positive growth, and I hope you'll continue to be candid and forthcoming with your ideas.”
Let’s break that down.
Dean Pearl and the Macaulay administration want to hear our thoughts.
They want us to contribute to Macaulay’s positive growth.
They want us to be candid and forthcoming about our ideas.
They want us to hold Macaulay accountable.
Now what does that look like in practice?
On Tuesday, September 1st, we began circulating a form encouraging students to share stories of discrimination and demands for change that they would like to see made in Macaulay. In ten days, we received over sixty responses. The responses reiterated the same point: the lack of diversity in the Macaulay student body coupled with anti-Blackness and structural racism inherent in teaching and administrative logistics has created a learning environment where students of color, and particularly Black students, feel “like outcasts”,6 “not valued”,4 “invisible”,8 and “powerless”.11 Far too many students do not feel welcome at their own campuses. Far too many students feel active discomfort on campus and in their classrooms. These reports speak to the abhorrent culture that exists at Macaulay. While we received plenty of responses, we acknowledge there are stories that we did not hear. There are so many incidents that go unreported. A school that prides itself on being a champion of social mobility for the working class has instead created a learning environment that fosters white supremacy.
While Macaulay has communicated a desire to build a “more inclusive, more just environment,” we have repeatedly seen the emptiness of these words. Rather than using paid directors of enrollment and outreach to improve recruitment from predominantly Black and Brown high schools, Macaulay instead chose to outsource free labor to its student body. Rather than acknowledging the systems of segregation ingrained in education, Macaulay instead chose to engage in racist rhetoric, blaming the lack of diversity on a lack of “outstanding POC applicants.”
In response to these deeply disappointing efforts, we present you with an uproar of Macaulay students who demand that you enact robust structural change by centering the needs, demands, and voices of Black and Indigenous students. We have collected stories of discrimination from Macaulay students as well as synthesized their calls for change into concise demands. Their stories can be found in full on page 7.
We acknowledge that students and faculty before us have made attempts to correct the course of Macaulay’s transgressions. In this letter, we offer our vision, which we hope can serve as an implementable roadmap to build an inclusive, unified, and transparent honors program that truly reflects the working-class institution it serves.
With a CUNY population greater than 75% POC, why is our university-wide college honors program 50% white (c/o 2018)? Predominantly white institutions exist not just as universities, but as honors programs, scholarships, unpaid internships, and other elitist opportunities that continue to uphold structures of whiteness and white supremacy. Macaulay Honors College touts its place in the CUNY system (a working-class institution) and in New York City, yet it is simultaneously an elitist white institution that creates a toxic learning environment for both CUNY’s Macaulay and non-Macaulay students.
“In my regular Hunter classes, the demographic is extremely different. In my Anthropology lecture, a majority of the class was Black, Latinx, or South Asian. Going into Macaulay, I expected the student body to be just as diverse as the Hunter population, but I was extremely wrong.” - Soobin Park (Hunter College, she/her)
“Being a Hispanic student in Macaulay Hunter definitely hasn’t been an easy experience. Coming from a very diverse high school it was quite a culture shock and I quickly began to see the difference amongst the students at Macaulay. I wasn’t able to interact with many of them and often felt like an outsider rarely seeing someone that looked like me.” - Anonymous
“I was in shock because there were no Black students in the class to defend themselves or represent the topic with justice. There was a pit in my stomach, again feeling powerless.” - Queens College, She/her
“I am a part of the Lehman Scholars program, the sister program to MHC. Lehman is a mostly minority school but our elite programs do not have the representation that it should. I want to see more people that look like me.” - Lehman College Scholar
““As a program that likes to tout it's ‘New York-ness’, the demographics of it's students does not show it”
To resolve the lack of diversity in the Macaulay Student Body and to enact the structural change that is necessary in order to make steps towards being an anti-racist institution, we, the Macaulay Student Body, demand the following:
- We demand that the Macaulay Honors College substantially increases outreach to New York City predominantly Black and Brown high schools.
- This can be done by employing administration and allocating funds to the Macaulay Diversity Initiative in support of their Guidance Counselor project.
- This can also be realized by the permanent creation of the Bridge Programs targeted at both high schools and community colleges;
- We demand that applications to any CUNY-Macaulay senior colleges submitted by any student from a New York City predominantly Black and Brown high school are automatically considered for acceptance to Macaulay Honors College, regardless of if they submit an application to the program;
- We demand that Macaulay Honors College establishes a holistic admissions approach:
- Cease accepting any standardized test as part of the admissions process;
- We acknowledge the Macaulay Admissions team’s decision to remove standardized testing as a requirement for the upcoming application cycle, in light of COVID-19. Macaulay Administration was able to recognize that the pandemic has made it increasingly difficult to access fair standardized testing conditions and opportunities that would generate scores that truly reflect the student’s potential. Pandemic or not, this is the reality for largely Black and Brown school districts that are underfunded and non-specialized high schools with talent that are just as deserving of a scholarship as any other student. In the near future when COVID-19’s impact is minimized, the same population of students who had access to fair standardized testing before the pandemic, will have it after. For this reason, we demand that Macaulay Admissions extends this temporary policy to a permanent rule to ensure that students from every background are not disqualified from the admissions pool due to forces outside of their control.
- Standardize a student’s course rigor and performance relative to their high school before comparing to the rest of the applicants -- i.e. a student should not be penalized for not having taken AP Calculus if their school did not offer AP Calculus.
- Inequity in access to AP courses among New York City schools has been recognized as a barrier to equality in education. This demand is reflective of the NYC DOE’s “AP for All” Initiative.
Curriculum, Faculty, and Student Life
Macaulay’s lack of diversity in both the student body and faculty has created an unjust, and unhealthy learning environment for its students of Color. How can any student genuinely reflect on “the People of NYC,” if professors are not required to include topics on historic gentrification?
“There are so many students who received fellowships and scholarships that were never acknowledged or appreciated by the advisors and director. The director and advisor of Macaulay made BIPOC students feel invisible.” - Hunter, She/her
“There have been instances of bullying and having racial slurs be casually thrown around in Brookdale by Macaulay students in my cohort. It has made me really uncomfortable to know that I’m living and working in close proximity with those who neither understand nor respect boundaries of their peers” - Macaulay Hunter, Brookdale Resident
“What we overheard was gut-wrenching. These mostly White and Asian students spoke about how uncomfortable they were dorming in a mostly Dominican neighborhood because of the loud music and such. What made us even more upset was their criticism of Spanish and how "they can't ever understand what neighbors are saying” - Lehman College
“Students in the program are racist. Students have defended slavery, called other students “dirty Hispanics” and excused racism” - Ana Cristina Bedoya
“Every time I've been to the Macaulay building or attended a Macaulay event, I was struck by how white the administration is. Only the security guards or the janitors are Black/of color. Overall, it's an uncomfortable atmosphere for people of color, and this isn't even considering the shamefully low and disproportionate numbers of Black students admitted to Macaulay. Macaulay and CUNY Honors programs wonder why their students aren't "involved" in their spaces, but those spaces are not created for students of color.” - John Jay College
To ensure that Macaulay curricula, faculty, and student life emphasize racial justice, fairness, and equity, we demand the following:
We demand that Macaulay Honors College incorporates anti-racism and sensitivity training into its student orientation. This can be done in the form of workshops led by hired activists of Color.
- We demand that Macaulay Honors College standardizes their curriculum such that it actively incorporates African American History / Black Studies / Afro-Caribbean Studies / Latino Studies / Latin American Area Studies / Asian-American Studies in the Macaulay seminars. This involves:
- Teaching how Black and Indigenous New Yorkers actively shaped the social makeup and history of New York City, emphasizing how the history of Black New Yorkers is the history of all of New York City;
- Teaching how Black and Indigenous New Yorkers impact and are impacted by New York City public policy, society, culture, environment, technology, and so on through an interdisciplinary lens of social science, natural science, and humanities. For example, teaching about the history of civil rights and liberation movements in New York City;
- Highlighting the activism, works, and creations of Black and Indigenous New Yorkers;
- Incorporating theories and texts by Black and Indigenous New Yorkers;
- Additionally, we demand that Macaulay require at least one liberal arts course requirement to be in Pluralism and Diversity, particularly in but not limited to African American History / Black Studies / Afro-Caribbean teaching;
- To successfully teach these courses, we demand that Macaulay hires more Black and Indigenous educators;
- We demand that Macaulay cut all ties with the New York Police Department, and transition from and dismantle the CUNY Public Safety Department as it currently exists at the Macaulay Honors College Building;
- We demand that Macaulay publish official demographic statistics on the Macaulay website each year;
- We demand an expansion of mental health staff and counseling resources exclusively for BIPOC students. In hiring more mental health staff, priority should be given to Black and Brown counselors and culturally competent therapists;
- We demand the hiring of more Black and Brown advisors committed to supporting, guiding, and accommodating students of Color and ensuring they receive the opportunities for advancing their professional, educational, and personal futures (such as, but not limited to, fellowships, internships, course advisement, and study abroad);
- We demand that any student and faculty member that engages in racism be investigated and held accountable and that reparation be provided for the incident;
- We demand the implementation of the preceding demands in the form of revisions to Macaulay’s strategic plan, and the creation of new programs.
Macaulay Honors College has the potential to be a champion of social mobility and access for New York City residents. As the student body, we demand more from the administration in order to meet the urgency of this moment.
A reply is expected within 48 hours of receipt, and we look forward to meeting with administration to chart a course for a Macaulay that we will be proud to call home.
CUNY for Abolition & Safety Macaulay Art of Science
Macaulay Diversity Initiative Macaulay Theater Club
Macaulay Peace Action Macaulay Chamber Society
Macaulay Queer Alliance Macaulay Service Initiative
Macaulay Pre-Health Macaulay Green Initiative
Macaulay Feminist Society Humans of Macaulay
The Macaulay Triplets Macaulay Book Club
Macaulay Art Tank Macaulay Marauders
Macaulay Students’ Stories of Discrimination
- “I was a member of the Macaulay Business Club, the only student from lehman at that. After a disagreement with one of the Vps, she was white, she told me, " you need to learn how to speak to people who are superior to you". Filled with anger, I did not respond and went straight to student development the same day. Telling my story and showing all the text message exchanges, I was sure that student development would see it as a microaggressive comment. However, when they met with her and the President of the club, they totally disregarded the actual complaint, the microaggressive comment. I quit the club and never looked back. I did not want to join a macaulay club since it seemed administration was not even on my side.”
- Marie Elise Milius, Lehman College
- In my last macaulay seminar, my professor did a unit on policing. During which he expressed how he agreed with the broken windows theory and believed that increased policing was not harmful and was in fact an effective way to handle "high crime areas". I was the only one of two Black students in the class and I felt that his lessons did not capture the harmful nature of policing and the anti-Blackness inherent in the broken windows theory. It was my least favorite part of the seminar.
- Diana Kennedy, she/her, Hunter college
- In my Macaulay Seminar classes, it is especially easy to see how non-diverse the Macaulay student body is. Last semester, I was one of three Asian people in the class, while the rest of the class was made up of 1 Black student and the rest white students. This semester, I am also one of three Asian people in my class. In my regular Hunter classes, the demographic is extremely different. In my Anthropology lecture, a majority of the class was Black, Latinx, or South Asian. Going into Macaulay, I expected the student body to be just as diverse as the Hunter population, but I was extremely wrong. It is very disappointing to see how Macaulay is majority white, and I would love for the program to accept more BIPOC to better reflect the diversity of Hunter. I know from the white people in my grade that many of them come from very privileged backgrounds. While diversity is extremely important, I also believe it is important that Macaulay provides its resources to people from more underserved neighborhoods in order to bridge gaps in education in NYC.
- Soobin Park (Hunter College, she/her)
- I know for a fact that there are White students admitted to and/or enrolled in Macaulay who say the n word or make racially insensitive “jokes.” Macaulay’s administration was made aware but these students were not disciplined at all. This made me feel like my valid feelings and concerns were not valued at Macaulay.
- Macaulay Alum, Class of 2020
- I feel that Macaulay benefits more wealthier upper class students due to how the scholarship works. Lower income students who qualify for TAP & PELL and receive these grants, can’t even use them to pay for books, supplies , school fees, or other educational needs because Macaulay puts all that money towards paying their tuition and then “covers the rest”. For instance, I am one of those students that qualifies for TAP and Pell. Guess how much Macaulay is contributing towards my tuition this Fall semester? A whopping $42.50. So how is it that upper middle class students or students that otherwise do not qualify for TAP and Pell and receive no financial assistance from the government have Macaulay pay their full tuition. If these students do not qualify for need-based financial assistance, then that means that they could probably cover tuition costs and school fees. What about the lower income population? Who does Macaulay really serve here?
- Concerned CCNY (GSOE student) she/her
- Being a Hispanic student in Macaulay Hunter definitely hasn’t been an easy experience. Coming from a very diverse high school it was quite a culture shock and I quickly began to see the difference amongst the students at Macaulay. I wasn’t able to interact with many of them and often felt like an outsider rarely seeing someone that looked like me. I did ended up making friends mostly consisting of either Asian or black. At the same time it bothered my to see so many arrogant white students at Macaulay. To see the way in which many didn’t seek to make friends with students of a different color or simply carried themselves with a superiority simply because they where the majority “honors” students. It’s definitely an institutional issue that should be addressed. It will allow more students of color to follow their en devours without feeling like an outcast.
- When I was in my honors lounge one day in 2017, I was watching Dear White People on Netflix. For context, Dear White People is a fictional show about Black college students. In the episode, one of the Black students was held at gunpoint by a police officer during a house party, which made me cry. I finished the episode and went to leave the lounge when a White Jewish boy tried to have a conversation with me. I didn't want to be rude, so I stayed and talked to him. Not wanting it to be a long conversation, I talked to him while standing halfway across the room. I thought the social cue of being headed for the door, all my belongings in tow, would signal to him I didn't want to talk for long. It did not. He asked me if I watch political television while completely ignoring the fact that I'd been crying. To his benefit, I don't know if he noticed I'd been crying. I said no because political tv makes me uncomfortable and sad. I didn't know where the conversation was going, and I didn't want to find out what else he had planned to say, so I quickly changed the topic to the show I was just watching. I told him about the show, how I relate to it as a Black college student, and how that episode made me cry. He asked why it made me cry. I told him it's because I went to a majority-black high school, so this situation could easily happen to one of my friends. Then I mentioned that I live in a majority-black neighborhood, and he proceeded to ask me if there was a lot of crime in my neighborhood. Then he asked me if there are a lot of police and shootings where I live because there are a lot of black people. After being horribly offended by him assuming where I live is dangerous because so many residents of my town are people of color, I ended that conversation as quickly as possible and walked out of the lounge. I've had only one Macaulay class where I feel like I was being taught about different people and cultures. It was the second seminar and my professor was Ariana Martinez. Professor Martinez often works with BIPOC and immigrants when she teaches so she has been educated by her students through first-hand accounts of their experiences. We need more professors like this. We need more professors who have been surrounded by diverse groups of people because they are the ones who are best equipped to either pass along stories they've been told about the experiences of BIPOC or to tell us their own stories as a BIPOC. Being surrounded by BIPOCs is an educational experience because the way we experience life is different from people who are not BIPOC. We share our stories with those around us. We need more first and second-hand accounts of the BIPOC experience, especially in social science classes. This is how we learn and make change.
- She/Her at Queens College
- The Macaulay advisors in Hunter would never reach out or help out the BIPOC students. They would always reach out to the same 5 or 10 white students or really outspoken BIPOC students, but never took the time to reach out to other students who are also doing great things. Those 10 students always reaped the benefits of internships, fellowships, and other events/opportunities, whereas, the rest of the Macaulay students never felt like they were a part of the Macaulay community or acknowledged for their accomplishments. To a certain extent, it is a student’s responsibility to take initiative or ask for help, but our society has created a culture where BIPOC students always take a backseat when white students talk in class discussions or club meetings. The Macaulay advisors need to do better in getting to know all of the students and their accomplishments; create more welcoming advising sessions; respect and value diversity. There are so many students who received fellowships and scholarships that were never acknowledged or appreciated by the advisors and director. The director and advisor of Macaulay made BIPOC students feel invisible.
Additionally, the director of Macaulay was an outspoken Pete Buttigieg supporter during the presidential primary, and would impose his beliefs onto students. He would encourage the (white) students to apply for a job on the campaign, which made a lot of students uncomfortable. Many BIPOC students applied, but they didn’t receive any answer from the campaign. As an educator and administrator in a college institution, you should not impose your political beliefs on students.
- I am a Macaulay Honors student in the class of 2023. Coming in as a freshman last year, I had noticed the lack of diversity in my own cohort. There are significantly less black/brown and Hispanic individuals compared to the others in a program that advocates diversity and inclusion.
- I am a part of the Lehman Scholars program, the sister program to MHC. Lehman is a mostly minority school but our elite programs do not have the representation that it should. I want to see more people that look like me.
-Lehman College Scholar
- In many of my seminar courses I have seen students make very unaware comments about the experiences of students of color. One day a student said that as a class field trip we should go to the subway station because she had never been, clearly belittling the experiences that many students of color have no choice but to use public transportation. It was said in a very condescending tone and I didn’t feel comfortable with that comment. I’ve had conversations with other students of color at Macaulay who have felt the same thing — powerless. I wish I could have said something in that moment, about how blind and insensitive that comment was, but I felt powerless. Another time during a seminar class, we were talking about African Americans and how poorly they were treated after WW2 (red lining & housing discrimination). Then a white student talked about how people should just “let it go”, bringing up the Holocaust (speaking confidently in front of the class mind you) to negate two bad experiences. I was in shock because there were no African American students in the class to defend themselves or represent the topic with justice. There was a pit in my stomach, again feeling powerless.
-Queens College, She/Her
- Coming from a predominantly white high school, I was excited to attend a CUNY because of the diverse population. I thought that I would be able to meet like-minded peers that share my ethnicity. That way, the stress of being a first-generation Latina college student wouldn’t be as daunting since someone else could be going through exactly what I’m going through. Though I do get to interact with the greater CUNY population, making up mostly BIPOC, I am strongly encouraged to mingle with my Macaulay cohort, which is predominantly white. I’ve found that less diverse populations lead to ignorance and lack of education.
-Genesis Rodriguez (she/her/hers) Hunter College
- There have been instances of bullying and having racial slurs be casually thrown around in Brookdale by Macaulay students in my cohort. It has made me really uncomfortable to know that I’m living and working in close proximity with those who neither understand nor respect boundaries of their peers while also being insensitive enough to continue to use loaded terminology despite (hopefully) being aware of its social and historical implications.
-Macaulay at Hunter - Brookdale resident
- I am a Brown, mixed, Latinx student. A little over a year ago, my friend (another Bronx, mixed, Latinx student) and I went to do homework at the Macaulay reading room after our seminars. Both of us are also immigrants from Latin America whose first language is Spanish. As we were getting ready for our study session, we started having a conversation in Spanish. She was talking Spanish in her South American Spanish accent, while I spoke in a North American Spanish accent but regardless of the accent difference, we understood each other. In the same room were students from one of the clubs that would practice in the building that evening. What we overheard was gut-wrenching. These mostly White and Asian students spoke about how uncomfortable they were dorming in a mostly Dominican neighborhood because of the loud music and such. What made us even more upset was their criticism of Spanish and how "they can't ever understand what neighbors are saying" [said in a very condescending tone btw] as we spoke in Spanish in the same space that they were in. We got so tight. We started speaking in Spanish even louder. We started passively complaining about the remarks we were in Spanish--but they continued on with their microaggressions.
On another occasion in the reading room, with the same friend, we overheard another groups of mostly White and Asian students complain about how the Macaulay Bridge Program only accepted transfer students from BMCC and BCC (two predominantly Black and Brown institutions). One of the White students argued that their cousin who went to Kingsborough was wrongfully left out from this opportunity and that it was an unfair decision by Macaulay to only take students from BMCC and BCC for their first transfer program.
- Lehman College
- On top of being overwhelmingly white, some students in the program are racist. Students have defended slavery, called other students “dirty Hispanics” and excused racism by reminding everyone of their minority status, as if that changes anything.
- AnaCristina Bedoya
- Macaulay Honors College provides free laptops, a dorm room, and full tuition coverage to their students. Their support would be extremely beneficial to Black and Hispanic students who are more likely to come from a lower income background due to the impact of systemic racism. So, why are Black and Brown students not the primary recipients of the honors scholarship? Why is the program not being marketed to schools in poorer neighborhoods, as it is marketed to specialized high schools? The differences between the demographics of Macaulay Honors College and CUNY, is unacceptable. Their administration needs to reevaluate the purpose of the honors college, as so far it primarily functions to reinforce white supremacy by attracting and uplifting the most privileged.
- I chose Macaulay because I thought I'd find people like me and I havent. In a city as diverse as New York its almost insulting to have an honors college made up almost entirely of white and asian Long Islanders. It perpetuates racist narratives about intelligence and more importantly, perpetuates inequity.
- When sending my application to CUNY I needed some documents to be approved/revised by them. It was pushed aside to the point where because of its tardiness, I was not accepted.
- I have had a seminar professor randomly bring up a discussion about police brutality during office hours simply because I am black. I was there to discuss my research paper that had nothing to do with racial policing.
- Every time I've been to the Macaulay building or attended a Macaulay event, I was struck by how white the administration is. Only the security guards or the janitors are Black/of color. Overall, it's an uncomfortable atmosphere for people of color, and this isn't even considering the shamefully low and disproportionate numbers of Black students admitted to Macaulay. Macaulay and CUNY Honors programs wonder why their students aren't "involved" in their spaces, but those spaces are not created for students of color. The required Macaulay seminars (and orientation) were also heavily focused in white/European culture, and all four of them taught by white professors. Most of the professors for the Upper Level classes are also white. I've always felt like an outsider within Macaulay. Finally, while I'm grateful for the benefits I've gained from Macaulay, it is unacceptable that the numbers of Black students and students of other ethnicities are not in keeping with the rest of CUNY. Black people and people of color make New York City what it is. We make CUNY what it is. We lead the cultural organizations and clubs, and student movements. The resources that Macaulay offers should not be limited to White students, and to an extent, Asian students. Get rid of this false scarcity. Give all students what they need. This withholding of resources is racism in its most basic, material sense.
- John Jay