Posted February 19, 2009
On February 18, a group of NYU students calling themselves “Take Back NYU” occupied the Kimmel building on the south side of Washington Square. They have a website at http://takebacknyu.com/ and have released the following statement:
WHAT’S MINE? THE UNIVERSITY, OF COURSE. IT’S YOURS, TOO!
A group of student-empowering, social-justice-minded rabblerousers have occupied the Marketplace at Kimmel and we refuse to move until our demands are met. All are encouraged to join us on the third floor and help us sustain this occupation until NYU complies with our demands. Our demands are as follows:
- Full, annual disclosure of NYU’s operating budget and endowment.
- The election of a student body whose purpose is the socially responsible investment of NYU’s funds and all of whom are full, voting members of the Board of Trustees. That this body investigate NYU’s investments in war and genocide profiteers, specifically the Israeli occupation of Gaza.
- That tuition be stabilized; that no student pays more tuition than they did their first year. That the University meet 100% of students’ government-calculated financial need.
- That all NYU employees, including graduate students, are granted union rights, and that work study employees are allowed collective bargaining rights.
- That NYU provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, and that it offers scholarships for 13 Palestinian students annually.
- That NYU grant public access to Bobst Library and that student groups get priority when reserving space in all NYU-owned or -leased buildings.
- That the NYU Administration agrees to resume negotiations with GSOC/UAW Local 2110 – the union for NYU graduate assistants, teaching assistants, and
research assistants. That NYU publically affirm its commitment to respect all its workers, including student employees, by recognizing their right to
form unions and to bargain collectively. That NYU publically affirm that it will recognize workers’ unions through majority card verification.
- That NYU signs a contract guaranteeing fair labor practices for all NYU employees at home and abroad. This contract will extend to subcontracted
workers, including bus drivers, food service employees and anyone involved in the construction, operation and maintenance at any of NYU’s non-U.S.
We apologize for inconveniencing the loyal lunchgoers of the Kimmel Marketplace, but we are not sorry for causing a disruption! Established channels have been insufficient to make our voices heard by the administration, and we have waited too long to be taken seriously. By disrupting the University’s functioning now, we are forcing the administration to deal with those people it depends upon the most — we, the students!
Our demands, though many and varied, are united by the desire to empower students to take part in the governance of their University.
By making public the endowment and budget, and establishing a student voice in the investment of funds and on the Board of Trustees, we are creating a means for active student participation in the administration of the University. By providing union rights for graduate students and collective bargaining rights for work study employees, we are guaranteeing that the students upon whom the University depends for labor are treated and compensated fairly.
By drastically reducing the amount that tuition can increase, we are forcing the University to reassess its spending and cut back appropriately (instead of making a low-income student take out more loans, perhaps the University can build one less abroad site). By forcing the University to meet 100% of students’ financial need, we are ensuring that students spend less time working multiple jobs to make ends meet and more time making the University a place where active minds flourish.
By demanding investigation into war and genocide profiteers, providing aid to Gaza, and offering scholarships to Palestinian students, we are demanding that the University heed our own voices immediately. Through these demands we are also stating our solidarity with the students who have occupied their universities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere demanding aid for war-torn Gaza.
By demanding students have priority in reserving space in NYU buildings, we are literally making a space for ourselves in the University and putting students above groups who rent out space in our buildings. By allowing the public access to Bobst Library and the wealth of knowledge it contains we are building a bridge between NYU and the community it so often displaces, while empowering students of all universities (as we as alums of our own) to take part in information that is too often consolidated in the Ivory Tower.
We have waited too long for the University to respond of its own volition. We have let administrators push us around through endless red tape, through never-ending tuition hikes, through unfair labor practices, through secrecy and lies, through power being consolidated in a tiny group of (mostly) rich white dudes who know nothing about our lives as students. We wrote John Sexton a nice letter and struggled to contain our rage in Town Hall after Town Hall; we’ve agitated and tabled and built our coalition. Our demands serve and concern all students. We refuse to dignify the University’s lack of response with our own inaction.
So we take action! We’ve got food and sleeping bags and good friends and we are not going anywhere. Join us! This is a sleepover for student empowerment, a party for participation in the University, a disruption for democracy, an occupation for all!