Last night, five professors were awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award for their achievement in promoting the ideals of MLK’s teachings. The five professors who received awards included Tisch professor Yemane Demissie, Steinhardt professor Shabnam Javdani, CAS professor Elizabeth OuYang, Silver professor Marcella Hall, and Law professor Bryan Stevenson.
Students were given the opportunity to nominate any professor with a written statement. The committee of Student Diversity Programs and Services only considered the written statements of students to determine the award recipients.
The event opened up with speeches from Patricia Carey, associate dean for Student Services at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and provost David McLaughlin.
McLaughlin called the recipients a testament to the diversity of the university.
Following the opening speeches, students introduced the recipients they nominated.
The professors that were awarded focus on different approaches to social justice and political activities, each providing leadership and inspiration.
“I feel like Dr. King was a person, a flawed human being, learning and growing and trying to make each day better than the one before while balancing day to day life and huge political obstacles and expectations,” Runell Hall said. “I try to remember that, and if I am lucky, once in awhile embody some of what he and so many of the civil rights activists were also grappling with.”
OuYang said she teaches from the perspective of a civil rights lawyer and takes specific approaches on this matter.
“I teach a comparative pre-law constitutional course that compares and contrast the historical and present day struggles that African, Latinos and Asian-Americans face in the courts,” OuYang said. “I combine Dr. King’s multifaceted approach to ‘right the wrongs’ by challenging and empowering my students to participate in grassroots advocacy that help to reform unjust institutionalized practices.”
These professors not only carry on the legacy of King through their classes, but also through additional commitments outside of NYU. For example, OuYang has spent much time advocating against military hazing. Her advocacy against the matter played a part in anti-hazing legislation signed by President Barack Obama.
In addition to this award, the professors have been granted $2500 in order to continue conducting research that examines ways to better understand social justice.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 6 print edition. Sharmeen Khan is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]