Student Occupation at NYU

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 and have released the following statement:


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!


2 responses to “Student Occupation at NYU”

  1. RED DAVE Avatar

    Reading about the NYU occupation takes me back to December 1966 when NYU was the site of the first student strike in the New York area. The issue was the third tuition increast in a year and a half, as the US economy was being subject to inflation due to the War in Vietnam.

    After a week or so of masss meetings at Loeb Student Center, the predecessor to Kimmel, a large contingent marched across the park and occupied Main Building. During the night of the occupation, Richie Havens, a black folksinger who was, I think, the opening performer at Woodstock, came over from one of the Greenwich Village folk cluds and entertained us.

    The occupation led to a one-day student strike, which was honored by local unions who refused to deliver to the school.

    Although the issue was, ostensibly, the tuition hikes, the radical philosopher Paul Goodman addressed the students and insisted that they face the fact that the war was causing the inflation and the hikes.

    NYU didn’t rollback the increases, but the occupation and strike led to the election of a radical student government and the creation of NYU as one of the centers of radical student politics in the late Sixties.

    Several of us from the ISC, a predecessor organization of Solidarity, including myself, were extremely active in the actions. It’s good to remember what happened back then, but it’s even better to see that students following in our footsteps.


  2. Isaac Avatar

    Two updates from this morning:

    From an activist with Campus Antiwar Network (CAN):

    As of now, students from Take Back NYU ( still control kimmel. They have been officially occupying the building since 10pm wednesday night. Internet access was cut to the building this morning, so the folks inside haven’t been able to email out info about another support rally for them. Please make it to the building if you can or email John Sexton and demand that he negotiate with the students. So far the administration is still giving an ultimatum saying that students can either except probation with possible repercussions anyway due to the university being able to figure out who is inside (from press related interviews and other things) or face expulsion. The administration has yet to agree to negotiate on any of the demands including amnesty to those who leave.

    That being said. The students inside are still going strong. There was a massive rally last night in front of the building with hundreds of students and community support. Shortly around 1am, the crowd surged through the pens connected to the street, occupying washington square south and animating both the crowd and the occupiers watching from the balcony. A scuffle broke out with police the full length of the building resulting in pepper spray and clubs being deployed on the crowd. No one was seriously injured but several people were hurt and one woman appeared to have been pretty badly pepper sprayed. There was also one arrest of someone the cops accuse of assaulting a police officer(as of yet I cannot confirm this, but I did see police jump on someone near the barricade. Hundreds of additional police were brought up including mounted police and police arrest vans, but the situation de-escalated afterwards)

    I cannot express how necessary you all are to ensuring these students do not get expelled. Unlike any of the other 26 or so occupations I have heard about in the last 3 weeks, this is the only one where the university is refusing to negotiate at all. They broke the graduate student union 3 years ago. Dont let them break the student movement at their school. Please do what you can to spread the word about this and contact the administration demanding negotiations and amnesty for the students.

    Another update from the Facebook group “Support the NYU Occupation!”

    At this point, 11:41 AM Friday, February 20, I have just received word that all negotiators on the inside of Kimmel have been suspended. Additionally, they are not being permitted to return to the group or to communicate in order to gain consensus or give information.

    DO NOT let the administration corner them! We need your support outside of Kimmel. Spread the word, don’t let this happen!