In late August, we stood before you to call for unity and address an issue that threatened the principles of our Emory community regarding Professor Zwier’s use of a racial epithet during the first week of a first-year Torts class. Today, it pains us to say that the problem of cultural and racial insensitivity persists. Professor Zwier continues to use the “N-word,” and recently used it during office hours with an African American student on October 31, 2018. When asked why, Professor Zwier’s justification is that:
“its use in a private conversation between two people, as we talk about what our experiences are, I did not feel like there was the same kind of harm that was to be caused, or the ability to be misunderstood.”
Professor Zwier’s words and actions undermine the academic, social, and professional environment that we have worked so hard to cultivate. Professor Zwier’s failure to understand the impact of his words and actions disrupts not only our ability to learn, but also our ability to thrive as aspiring attorneys. Consequently, some students feel the need to transfer. After hearing about the incident from students, we met with Dean Hughes last week to understand the administration’s action plans. We understand that a decision has not been made yet, and we want to ensure that students’ concerns and requests are heard.
Emory administration, we cannot and will not tolerate such blatant disregard for our safety and emotional well-being. We call on you for change.
First, we request that the administration immediately remove Professor Zwier from the law school. Additionally, we request that the school still offer the classes that Professor Zwier was scheduled to teach in the Spring. In the event these classes are no longer offered at Emory, access to these classes at other law schools should be made streamlined for students.
Second, we request that the administration implements these three policy changes: Require mandatory cultural competency, unconscious bias, and sensitivity trainings for all faculty and staff who work directly with students. A committee of at least three students should collaboratively work with faculty and staff in the creation and implementation of these trainings.
Create a committee of faculty, staff, and students who discuss race, culture, religion, and marginalized groups on campus. This committee will host programs to increase awareness and conversations surrounding these topics and can provide recommendations to the Provost on suggested outcomes in response to an incident.
Provide notification within three days of an incident involving student, faculty, or staff that broadly impacts student life. (e.g. Including, but not limited to: death, when a member of our community loses a loved-one, or racial and cultural insensitivity).
Third and Final, we request more transparency from administration and faculty on decisions where student feedback was sought. For example, students should receive an explanation in a faculty hiring decision when the candidate chosen is the candidate who received the lowest reviews from students.
These requests reflect the needs and concerns of students who came together to support the African American students struggling first-hand. In unity, we are repairing and reviving our beloved community.
Only if we come together can we create change. We invite all students and student organizations to sign this petition. We ask the faculty who have lent their support to create their own petition.
The Concerned Student Body
Emory Law Black Law Students AssociationEmory Law Student Bar Association