I write as a faculty member, a faculty Senator, and a concerned member of the University community. I wish to respond to several issues raised in the NYU 2031 article written by Amy Zhang.
Ms. Zhang has clearly received her information from one source only, the Administration. She seems not to be aware of, or at least not to have bothered speaking to those who have mounted a vigorous and reasoned opposition to President Sexton’s plan. Indeed, she dismisses oppositionists with a sneer — basically, the usually NIMBY suspects — which is exactly the tone taken by the Administration in face of overwhelming popular resistance to the neighborhood destruction proposed by NYU. Yes, the City Council, elected by City voters, supported the plan with a 44-1 vote; this was in complete neglect of the vast neighborhood mobilization against the plans, which have taken very little account of community needs, desires, and input. The war against the Village community should not be ignored; it is where NYU is located and these are the neighbors with whom we live and share space and upon whom we depend for the unique and diverse character of our area.
But, beyond the community opposition, what Zhang most egregiously ignores is the vast internal opposition — within NYU itself — to the proposed expansion. Over the Spring 2012 semester and into this past summer, 37 departments, divisions, and schools voted nearly unanimously to oppose the plan. This includes the entire Economics Department (with three Nobel prize winners) and the Stern School of Business, among many other large and small departments. Nearly all FAS departments residing in the Square have registered their deep skepticism and opposition to the plan. Some oppose it because it is fiscally irresponsible and shifts costs increasingly onto students (have students noticed that their health insurance costs just leapt up 33%? Or that NYU ranks 6th in the nation for student indebtedness at graduation – which doesn’t even count the number who must drop out because of mounting debt and who never graduate at all); some oppose it because it will destroy the neighborhood upon which NYU draws for its character and its uniqueness; some oppose it because the Administration by-passed all representative bodies of the faculty to hand-pick their own yes-people, who could then provide them cover for legitimacy, thus undercutting the democratic substance of shared faculty and student governance; and some oppose it out of sheer disbelief at the size of the project and like of transparency in the process. There were other reasons, and most oppose it out of a combination of these reasons. In a word, most of the opposition arises out of huge concern for NYU, the institution, and out of even more concern for undergraduate students, whose sacrifices to come to NYU are enormous. In other words, we should not be dismissed with a sneer, but rather taken very seriously, as people within the system, who care deeply about our school and our students.
I and many other faculty Senators invite students to begin a dialogue with us about all of the issues the NYU 2031 plan raises. Educating yourselves and educating us about yourselves can only help in furthering a constructive conversation, so that next time WSN weighs in on the topic, there is a more comprehensive view of the issues, rather than the one-sided version currently in play.
A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 4 print edition. Rebecca Karl is an associate professor of east asian studies and history. Email her at email@example.com.
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