So-called “dude-walls” (walls of portraits of accomplished white men) are being taken down from universities across the US, in order to not hurt the feelings of their students.
Portraits of Nobel Science winners and top doctors on the “dude walls” are too intimidating for students, especially those of ethnic minorities, who see their experiences with “racism” reflected in the pictures.
Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako, studying at Yale Medical school, said that he didn’t feel bad about the portraits all the time, but that feelings can be triggered at any point:
I don’t necessarily always have a reaction. But then there are times when you’re having a really bad day — someone says something racist to you, or you’re struggling with feeling like you belong in the space — and then you see all those photos and it kind of reinforces whatever you might have been feeling at the time… If this was Harry Potter, if they could speak, what would they even say to me? Everywhere you study, there’s a big portrait somewhere of someone kind of staring you down.
The term “dude wall” was coined by Rachel Maddow, when she saw a wall of 30 portraits of scientists from Rockerfeller University who had won either a Nobel Prize or a Lasker Awards. Leslie Voshall, a neurobiologist at the uni, said the so-called “dude wall” was imposing:
It just sends the message, every day when you walk by it, that science consists of old white men… I think every institution needs to go out into the hallway and ask, “What kind of message are we sending with these oil portraits and dusty old photographs?”
At Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, one of Harvard’s teaching hospitals, a lecture hall had one wall covered with 31 portraits for decades. Dr Jeffrey Flier, who said that they had “made an impression,” was suddenly taken aback when he walked in to the hall and found they were all missing.
“Instead of this room filled with portraits of historically important figures from the Brigham, the walls were empty,” he said.
When I last lectured in @BrighamWomens Bornstein auditorium, walls were adorned with portraits of prior luminaries of medicine & surgery. Connecting to a glorious past. Now all gone. Hope everyone is happy. I’m not. (Neither were those I asked- afraid to say openly). Sad. pic.twitter.com/Bsz89r2SBB
— Jeffrey Flier (@jflier) April 12, 2019
It remains to be seen as to whether the universities will stop responding to the demands of snowflake students, or whether they will continue pulling down pictures for being too white, male, or just accomplished.
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