Stanford GSB Investigates Racial Slurs Written Outside 2 Student Dorm Rooms

Students and faculty of Stanford Graduate School of Business gathered for class walk-out and rally outside the Wall of Change on February 25. Courtesy photo

Students and faculty of Stanford Graduate School of Business gathered for class walk-out and rally outside the Wall of Change on February 25. They wrote messages of support of Black students in response to a racial slur written outside two GSB students’ dorm rooms. Courtesy photo

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is investigating a hate incident from February 22 in which the N-word was written on the whiteboards outside two GSB dorm rooms. The outrage that resulted led to a student walk-out — and raised questions among MBA students about the school’s response.

Both incidents occurred in Jack McDonald Hall, which provides housing for the entire first-year MBA program. The first dorm room belonged to a Black student living there, says Davon Robertson, an MBA ‘22 candidate at GSB and co-president of the Black Business Student Association. The second dorm, also in Jack McDonald Hall, belonged to a White student who had had a Black student visitor in her room earlier in the day. Both dorm rooms were located in the same hallway, Robertson says.

Davon Robertson

Davon Robertson

“It’s infuriating,” Robertson tells Poets&Quants, speaking for himself and not in his capacity as BBSA co-president. “Disappointing. My mind goes to keeping my community safe. Knowing that someone–potentially being in the GSB residencies–is targeting people is a scary thought. And I hope that whoever did this is found.

“If people did not know about the racism in the United States, they know now that it’s not just in the South or in the Midwest or wherever. It’s really everywhere, including a place like Stanford.”

Stanford’s Department of Public Safety, the university’s police department, is investigating the incident.

In a March 2 email to students (an update from a February 23 email), GBS Dean Jonathan Levin wrote that should a perpetrator be identified, he or she could face disciplinary action including expulsion. Criminal charges, Levin wrote, would be determined by the district attorney’s office.

“Last week, you heard from classmates, faculty, and staff about why this event is so upsetting, infuriating, and painful. We are upset because it violated our deeply held campus values,” wrote Levin on March 2; the email also was signed by associate deans Paul Oyer and Margaret Hayes. “What is worse, the GSB residences are homes for GSB students. The perpetrator violated the basic right to safety and security we deserve in our homes.”


In a blog post dated February 28 and attributed to the Editorial Board of Nondisclosure, an online magazine written by the GSB community, the authors noted that they’ve heard variations of the idea that “this couldn’t happen at the GSB.”

“While we want to believe that is true, we must accept that it is not,” reads the post, which was written with the support of the BBSA and which includes a photo of one of the whiteboards, along with a warning about explicit content.

Students write messages on a banner covering Stanford’s Wall of Change at the February 25 rally.

“The written use of the N-word in our shared home is an abhorrent violation of the humanity and safety of our Black community members,” the post reads. “This is a racial slur that has been used to dehumanize Black people throughout the history of our country and carries a painful reminder of slavery, of families being ripped apart, of power and agency being stripped away, and of the root of systematic injustices that carry on to this day for Black Americans.

“This was a targeted attack, meant to incite fear in our Black community and to undermine what the GSB stands for as a community.”

On February 25, the MBA Student Association and its Diversity Committee organized a class walk-out, in consultation with the BBSA, where students gathered at the Stanford Wall of Change to condemn the slur, speak in solidarity, and cover the wall with messages of support.

As BBSA leadership spent the week connecting with classmates, making sure they were safe, and connecting each other with mental health and other resources, Robertson appreciated the support of the larger GSB student community to organize the rally.

“I’m thankful for all of them. I’m a firm believer that we’re not going to win this fight by ourselves. We need people outside the Black community to support us in our mission for equality and balance in the world,” Robertson says. ”I was very happy with the support and the leadership to create a space where they could elevate our voices.”


Bradford Williams, director of communications and media relations for GSB, sent Poets&Quants four emails to students and the larger community. The emails were from GSB Dean Levin to students (dated February 23), from the MBA Student Association to faculty (February 24), a follow-up to students from Oyer and Hayes on February 24, and email to students from Levin, Oyer and Hayes on March 2.

“I cannot begin to fathom why someone would degrade themselves by writing a racial slur on a student door. It is a mean, repugnant act,” Levin wrote in his first email to students. “It shows disrespect for our black students, who hardly need a reminder of the N-word and its racist history. We are all diminished when members of our community are antagonized, and a racial slur on a student door is abhorrent. I am sorry it has happened …

“For the past few years, the efforts of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to advance racial equity have been a source of pride for me and the school. Those of us who have invested our time and hearts in that effort should know that this does not lessen our work, but rather reminds us why it is important.”

Next Page: Concerns about a slow administration response  

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