“I, Too, Am NYU” organizers brought their campaign to campus at an open forum titled “Racial Solidarity: A Vision of Coalition” on April 14.
The campaign was inspired by an independent project started by a Harvard student that documents the experiences of students of color called “I, Too, Am Harvard.” This project has since spread to other campuses, including Oxford and Duke.
The NYU project, in collaboration with NYU’s Center for Multicultural and Educational Programs but is entirely student-run, encourages students of color to take pictures holding whiteboards with discriminatory messages they have encountered. Unlike Harvard’s initiative, which only included black students, the project at NYU has sought to include students of other backgrounds such as Latino, Asian-Pacific American, Native American and international students.
Gallatin senior and “I, Too, Am NYU” organizer Mark Putterman said the campaign team decided to adapt the campaign for NYU students of color because at NYU these students still deal with bias and hostility from others, despite the perception of diversity.
“This for us was an opportunity to make sure those experiences were being heard as they need to be and to aid in the pursuit of a more diverse and better informed campus climate,” Putterman said.
After a brief discussion about some of the responses to the project on the Facebook page NYU Secrets, the group came to the conclusion that many of their peers are not comfortable or prepared to talk about race, often thinking that it is an issue of the past that no longer affects students of color.
Participants at the event discussed many ideas to improve racial solidarity, including the creation of a panel consisting of student leaders of color, faculty and administration. The panel would use student performances, such as skits and songs, to engage in a dialogue about race. Audience members also suggested having students sign a code of conduct about their comments online.
Some of the organizers’ ideas included the creation of a Students of Color Council to advise departments and offices within the university to promote inclusivity.
Another student addressed the importance of ensuring that there are consequences for students and professors who say hurtful words to students of color in the classroom.
Poly freshman Austin Ryan said this event confounded his assumptions about creating interracial alliances.
“I suppose that as someone who is not a person of color, I always assumed that there is solidarity between racial groups at NYU,” Ryan said. “It was really cool to hear everyone kind of brainstorm and bounce ideas [off each other] about how to formalize solidarity between groups of color.”
Tisch sophomore Mars Marson said there were other groups, including students with disabilities, that could have been mentioned and included in the conversation.
“The objective of the project is to recognize the voices of students of color, and then they were equating this with diversity,” Marson said. “I feel like one of the identities that wasn’t mentioned today was people with differing abilities.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 15 print edition. Anjana Sreedhar is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]
*A previous version of this article did not denote that the campaign was completely student-run. The article has been amended to reflect this.