A New York law dean’s decision to retire after referring to herself as a “slaveholder” during a faculty meeting in the fall was preceded by months of escalating tension with the school’s faculty, stemming from her push to grant early tenure to a white professor ahead of several minority professors.

City University of New York School of Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek explained in a March 20 email to the law school community that her use of the offensive racial term during a personnel and budget committee meeting was the reason for her upcoming retirement—which she initially announced Jan. 19 with no mention of the incident. She apologized in the March 20 email, said she was in counseling, and urged university officials to name an interim dean before her planned departure in June.