The dean of the City University of New York School of Law has revealed that her decision to retire was precipitated by a racially offensive comment she made during a faculty meeting in November.

In a March 20 email to the law school community, Mary Lu Bilek explained that she referred to herself as a “slaveholder” during a committee meeting in which members were discussing the appointment of an associate dean. Bilek, who is white, earlier this year announced her intention to step down as dean and retire at the end of the academic year, but had not explained the reason for her departure. She also urged the university to move quickly to appoint an interim dean so she could leave the school before June.