SLAM letter calls for fair wages, aid

Marita Vlachou, Deputy News Editor

Members of the Student Labor Action Movement demanded that NYU make financial aid and a $15 minimum wage for all NYU workers and student workers its top priorities in a letter they delivered to NYU President John Sexton’s office on Nov. 25.

The letter was signed by other groups on campus including NYU Divest, NYU Incarceration to Education Coalition, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, NYU Queer Union, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine and the International Socialist Organization-NYU Branch.

Sexton was not present to receive the letter. An office assistant took the letter on behalf of the president.

Steinhardt freshman and SLAM member Kate Yeager said the university is hard to communicate with.

“Unfortunately, the administration is a little bit difficult to get in touch [with], clearly evident by us not being able to directly deliver the letter to John Sexton or his secretary,” Yeager said.

CAS Senior and SLAM member John White said he is hopeful that the administration will respond to the letter and address the demands of his group.

“I think [our demands] will be met because they have to be,” White said. “I think the student debt problems and the labor problems are too severe to not be addressed.”

NYU spokesman John Beckman said NYU is working to provide fair wages to all of its workers.

“NYU has always sought to treat its employees fairly, honorably, and with dignity,” Beckman said in an email. “The majority of those in the graduate student union already earn over $15/hr; for those Masters students who make less than that, we have proposed an immediate, retroactive increase to $13/hr, an increase to $15/hr within two years and an increase to $18/hr by the end of the contract.”

CAS junior and SLAM member Anne Falcon said the administration has failed to listen to the voices of student activists.

“The fact that they are not listening to us and what we’re asking for, it shows a lot about how the administration treats its students, because we are actually a relatively big student group and a bunch of student groups are representative of the contingent that’s here,” Falcon said.

Beckman said that SLAM has failed to recognize the university’s efforts to increase financial aid in the last 10 years, including an increase in the financial aid budget of 134 percent, an increase in the average grant from 34 percent to 55 percent of tuition, a downward trend of debt upon graduation for NYU students and the start of a $1 billion campaign devoted to raising more scholarship aid.

SLAM members said they were successful by taking direct actions in the past, including the occupation of the Gould Welcome Center to demand that NYU end its partnership with the apparel manufacturer JanSport, and they will continue to strive to meet their goals.

“We have much more planned and as our group continues to grow so too will our capacity to engage in greater disruption,” the letter reads.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 26 print edition. Email Marita Vlachou at [email protected].