NYU Protests

Ken AshfordEducationLeave a Comment

Student occupations of the administration buildings, police whopping students, pepper spray… it's like the 60's, man.

Some setbacks apparently…

New York Times:

The students pushed tables and chairs against the doors, and a woman with a megaphone outlined the group’s demands.

They included a full and annual reporting of the university’s operating budget, expenditures and endowment. The students also demanded that N.Y.U. provide 13 scholarships annually to students from the Gaza Strip and give surplus supplies to the Islamic University of Gaza. On the group’s Web site, it also asked that all participants in the protest be granted amnesty from punishment.

Well, that place more emphasis on Gaza.  Here are the actual demands from the protest website:

  1. The inclusion of an elected representative from the student body in New York University’s (NYU) Board of Trustee meetings. This representative should have rights, including voting rights, equal to that of Trustees, as well as the authorization to make public statements on the operations of the Board of Trustees without prior approval from any administration official.
  2. Public release of NYU’s annual operating budget, including a full list of university expenditures, salaries for all employees compensated on a semester or annual basis, funds allocated for staff wages, contracts to non-university organizations for university construction and services, financial aid data for each college, and money allocated to each college, department, and administrative unit of the university. Furthermore, this should include a full disclosure of the amount and sources of the university’s funding.
  3. Disclosure of NYU’s endowment holdings, investment strategy, projected endowment growth, and persons, corporations and firms involved in the investment of the university’s endowment funds. Additionally, we demand an endowment oversight body of students, faculty and staff who exercise shareholder proxy voting power for the university’s investments.

That's the general demand.  Then there is the "occupation demands":

  1. Amnesty for all parties involved.
  2. Full compensation for all employees whose jobs were disrupted during the course of the occupation.
  3. Public release of NYU’s annual budget and endowment.
  4. Allow student workers (including T.A.’s) to collectively bargain.
  5. A fair labor contract for all NYU employees at home and abroad.
  6. A Socially Responsible Finance Committee that will immediately investigate war profiteers and the lifting of the Coke ban.
  7. Annual scholarships be provided for thirteen Palestinian students.
  8. That the university donates all excess supplies and materials in an effort to rebuild the University of Gaza.
  9. Tuition stabilization for all students, beginning with the class of 2012. Tuition rates for each successive year will not exceed the rate of inflation. The university shall meet 100% of government-calculated student financial need.
  10. That student groups have priority when reserving space in the buildings owned or leased by New York University, including, and especially, the Kimmel Center.
  11. That the general public have access to Bobst Library.

Not exactly "fuck the draft", but you know… it's 2009.  Wotchoo gonna do?

The protest website is here, although access to it is sporadic.  From last night:

The police pepper-sprayed the crowd earlier and a few supporters in the street were injured. There are still between 400-500 people out there and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere. We, the students of the occupation, remain firmly against violent action and we hope the crowd stands in non-violent solidarity with us. Negotiations are ongoing and we thank you all for your support!!

And later, at 3 a.m.:

We are writing to you from inside NYU. There are still hundreds of dancing masses swelling at the exterior of the building. Morale is high. We are sticking this out. 

The administration’s negotiation consisted of repeating the same ultimatum over and over. They proposed probation (not amnesty in the slightest) for all students involved in the occupation, a disbanding of the occupation and the ability to meet with only two administrators in order to meet to discuss the demands. So… basically they offered to blacklist us, end the occupation and we get 5 minutes in a room with Lynne Brown (Senior Vice President for University Relations and Public Affairs) and Linda Mills (Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and University Life). This is not negotiation, this is mandate with no room for bargaining.

The  crowd’s energy is high. They overtook the streets several hours ago, and are maintaining their position along West 4th St. They are shouting, dancing and having a good time. At a certain point in time, the crowd began to push against police barricades in front of the Kimmel entrance. There was one confirmed arrest, who was told informally that he was charged with assaulting an officer. These claims are not fully confirmed.

We’re all busy blogging, napping noshing and chanting to the crowds. We appreciate your support, and are open to negotiation at all times. Contact your professors, contact administrators, contact your parents. All we ask is a seat at the negotiations table. We don’t need to bargain to negotiate. We don’t need to plead to talk. We will be heard.

I'm all for student activism; when I was in school (in the eighties) there was an appalling pervasiveness of apathy.  I'm not quite sure that the NYU students are going about this right (could this just be activism for activism's sake?).  [NOTE:  Case in point].  But then again, I'm woefully ignorant of the details and history of the controversy. Having been to law school at NYU, I know Dean Sexton pretty well.  He's not an eminently reasonable guy. 

UPDATE:  Not everyone is rallying behind the students. [Pictured below: a Zac Brown lookalike outside the Kimmel Center]