[UPDATE] SLAM protests student debt as university unveils Momentum Campaign

Nicole Brown, News Editor

Nicole Brown for WSN

UPDATE Monday, Oct. 21 9:22 p.m.: In response to SLAM’s demands, NYU spokesman John Beckman explained that there are many priorities that go into the university’s budget allocations, including retention, addition and compensation of faculty, financial aid, research, new technologies and student services.

“Right now, we are making fundraising for scholarship aid our main philanthropic priority, because we know it’s what our students and families need,” Beckman said.

He added that he thinks the protesters do not completely understand the Momentum Campaign, which has already raised over $200 million.

“The Momentum Campaign is principally about securing large gifts, part of which will build the endowment for scholarship money — allowing us to offer more scholarship aid in perpetuity – and part of which will be expendable for current students and students in the near term,” Beckman said. “I cannot say how much of [the money already raised] may have come from graduates who borrowed to attend NYU.  I can say for certain, however, that all those who gave believe in the value of an NYU education, and believe it is a good thing for needy students who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend NYU to have a chance to do so.  And I believe that is what we should be honoring.”

Original article as follows:

The Student Labor Action Movement held a protest Oct. 19 during NYU President John Sexton’s State of the University speech at Alumni Day, announcing its demands to put a 10-year freeze on tuition increases and to raise the average financial aid grant by 25 percent.

The students stood in the entrance of Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, chanting “Education is a human right” as alumni entered to hear Sexton’s speech. They also acted out a skit about the Momentum Campaign, of which their criticism is that the university is asking indebted alumni to donate to the campaign.

“Some of the older alumni might be in a different situation, but when I talk to some of the friends that I know that graduated recently, they don’t really have the resources to be able to donate a whole lot of money to NYU,” Gallatin junior and SLAM member Daniel Jones said.

Gallatin sophomore and SLAM member Robert Ascherman said the group thinks NYU should use the money they plan to use for NYU 2031 for financial aid instead, citing the approximately $100 million in surplus NYU has each year that the Space Priorities Working Group Interim Report said could be used toward the expansion.

“If the recent pattern of actual annual budget surpluses exceeding planned budget surpluses by approximately $100 million continue, this would mean an additional $1 billion in net revenues over the 2012-2021 period, which could be used to reduce borrowing and/or build up financial reserves,” the report said.

“We know the money’s there, and it’s really just an issue of priorities,” Ascherman said. “$100 million in itself would be 25 percent because right now about $400 million goes to financial aid.”

SLAM member and Gallatin sophomore Lucy Parks said she may have to leave NYU after this year because of financial difficulties, adding that the group believes everyone should be able to go to their dream school.

“The message that is sent by NYU’s deplorable financial aid is that NYU is judging students based upon how much money their parents have in the bank, rather than what each student brings to the school,” Parks said.

Rhi Mauldin, a sophomore in the Silver School of Social Work, saw the protest and said it’s upsetting when students have to drop out partway through their education because of a lack of financial aid.

“I don’t think enough attention is paid to the great lengths that students go to to come here and be here,” Mauldin said.

As of press time, a university spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 21 print edition. Nicole Brown is a news editor. Email her at n[email protected]