With NYU having prevailed in a lawsuit that contested its expansion and Cooper Union just this week settling a lawsuit brought by opponents of its new tuition scheme, you’d think things would’ve quieted at the neighboring academic institutions. But yesterday students and faculty of both, along with those of New School, marched to NYU’s doomed Greenwich Village gymnasium to make clear that they weren’t giving up the fight.
“The Coles Sports Center is scheduled for closure in mid-November. We’re going to try our best to prevent that,” said Mark Crispin Miller, NYU media professor and member of NYU Faculty Against The Sexton Plan (NYUFASP), yesterday in Washington Square Park. Miller was referring to a June appeals court ruling in favor of NYU, which squashed FASP’s allegations that the school’s long disputed Greenwich Village expansion illegally infringed on public parkland.
The rally was organized by Whose NYU (a self-described “coalition of students and workers organizations fighting to raise wages, lower debt, and bring community accountability”) and was primarily aimed at addressing “the ruinous practices of [the school’s] financial boards,” according to Miller.
“[The Sexton Plan] was academically without rationale, a real estate deal pure and simple,” said Miller, adding that FASP’s focus now extends to the implication that NYU’s “reckless development” has on the national rising tide of student debt. According to a Whose NYU press statement, the intention of the rally was to bring these issues to the attention of Sexton successor Andrew Hamilton, in the hopes he’ll take rectifying action.
Robert Ascherman, a member of NYU’s Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), echoed Miller’s sentiment, noting SLAM’s student debt campaign demanding NYU “prioritize the needs of its students” over an expansion plan that stands more to benefit the coffers of NYU’s board of trustee members. “This is the first step in pressuring NYU not to expand and rather redirect this money to where it should be going,” said Ascherman to Bedford + Bowery, a news site operated by NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
In response to the rally, NYU spokesperson John Beckman issued the following statement: “The simple reality is that N.Y.U. is successfully improving financial aid, reducing student debt, recruiting talented students and faculty, expanding research, prudently and successfully managing our budget and finances, and carefully planning for the university’s future. The portrait FASP attempts to paint is at odds with the facts, and is neither true nor fair.”
In turn, the FASP has called on NYU’s Board to publicly answer the following financial queries:
- What buildings does NYU own, rent or control throughout New York City, the US and abroad? Of those NYU owns, what did they cost, and how much has NYU spent on renovations?
- How much does the Board pay NYU’s administration altogether, and how much has that sum increased since 2002?
- How many administrators are there, and what are their respective titles and responsibilities?
- How much does NYU spend on advertising, PR, lobbying, legal fees, management consultants and recruitment practices abroad, and how much has the total sum increased since 2002?
- We believe the Board is obligated to provide this information, because of NYU’s non-profit status, and as a consumer service to our students and their families, who have given NYU so much, with no idea where all that money goes.
Among the groups to endorse yesterday’s rally was the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), which announced yesterday that, with the help of the New York State Attorney General, it had finalized a settlement from Cooper Union’s Board. The agreement, according to a statement from CSCU, “will enable Cooper Union to find a practical path back to its full scholarship model; give alumni, students, faculty, and staff a powerful role in Cooper’s governance; institute strict oversight of the school’s progress toward its goals; spur a serious effort to balance its budget; and reform its governance.”
In keeping with the disruptive strategy that has served both CSCU and SLAM successfully in the past, Ascherman assured the crowd that NYU would be experiencing “direct confrontation” from students this semester. “We’re going to be making it harder for the university to operate,” said Ascherman, who anticipates “physical obstruction” come November’s planned demolition. “We are going to disrupt this university until we get what we want. We will not stop fighting for justice.”