Don’t look a $100 million gift horse in the mouth

WSN Editorial Board

News broke early Monday morning that NYU had received a $100 million donation from a member of the Board of Trustees and her husband. The Polytechnic School of Engineering has been renamed NYU Tandon School of Engineering in honor of the donation from Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon. Chandrika Tandon has been on NYU’s board since 2010. The donation will go toward academic developments and hiring faculty. Additionally, the donors challenged NYU to raise an additional $50 million for on financial aid. Unfortunately, news of the donation has not been met with appreciation from all corners of the NYU community. When the news was announced on the school’s Facebook page, the vast majority of the comments decried the new name. Some students feel that changing the name of the institution devalues the school’s strong reputation — a petition calling on Sexton to keep the NYU Poly name has over 500 signatures as of the time of writing. Those who are criticizing the name change are failing to see the bigger picture: NYU can do great things with this money, including using the $50 million to give more students an education.

While the commenters’ initial peevishness is somewhat understandable, the fact is that different schools within larger universities change names quite frequently. MIT and Harvard have both renamed buildings in honor of individuals with no impact on the quality of the education. Between the Stern School of Business, Tisch School of the Arts and Wagner School of Public Service, virtually every NYU school has changed its name for a donor as well. As for the ongoing complaints that engineering students feel alienated from other NYU undergraduate schools, this issue has little to do with the name of the school.

Donations are an integral part of a university’s development. NYU, a university that has long been criticized for the paucity of its financial aid, finally has a chance to make a difference with the financial aid challenge which the donors suggested. Without donations and challenges like this, the university is dependent on revenue created by itself, smaller alumni gifts or an increase in tuition. Such money is not nearly enough for large projects and major developments.
The pushback against the name change ultimately comes from engineering students and graduates refusing to accept their position as a school of NYU. They believe that the new name represents some greater meddling by the NYU administration into the goings-on of the college. But given Tandons’ longtime involvement with the university and the good the donation would do, surely the last thing on their minds is harm to the school. Students and alumni need to understand that in the long run, the name-change doesn’t matter. They will still graduate with an elite engineering education, no matter the name. $100 million will go much farther in helping the school than the old name ever could. 

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  1. it’s funny that the editorial board didn’t qoute a single student when forming this piece of garbage even though all their reporters have to for their articles. If they had maybe they’d know

    its not just an issue of whining. its an issue of NYU doesn’t consult students whatsoever in any decision they make or provide any transparency. how many faculty members will get hired, will they get a living wage? what about financial aid? let’s not for get poly TA’s and TA’s got paid by NYU half of what their Manhattan colleagues made until they won a union, which NYU rejected for 10 years and still wont implement the contract in good faith

    Also terrible logic yes MIT and Harvard change the names of buildings but not the name of the university. Poly may have been bought out but its not just some building, its a university with its own unique history.

  2. Obviously this person who wrote this piece of garbage opinion article has never been to NYU Poly nor know of it’s 161 year history in engineering and science. It’s not a case of whining and bitching about the name change, it’s more about not consulting current students and alumni of their opinion about a possible name change. A president (Sreeni) who had no previous ties to Poly other than it being affiliated with NYU allowed Poly to be bought by the highest bidder.

  3. “Given Tandons’ longtime involvement with the university”

    Whoever wrote this just wrote obviously didn’t even know the facts. They had no affiliation with Poly and they know nothing of our culture or our society.

    “The Tandons’ extraordinary act of generosity is remarkable not only because of the size of the gift, but also because it recognizes the importance of a school with which they had no prior affiliation…” – Katepalli R. Sreenivasan


  4. Founded in 1854, the school is the second oldest private engineering and technology school in the United States. It has a rich history and great alumni. As an alumnI, we thank the Tandon’s for their generosity and understand having their name be synonymous with the Engineering school as Stern is with the business school and Tisch with the Arts school is important to them. The issue that many gripe about is losing the rich history of Polytechnic. I’m sure many would have no issue with the school being called NYU Tandon Polytechnic School of Engineering where the Present reaches out to the Past to set a course for a better Future.

    The school has gone through many of name changes throughout the years.
    1854: Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (founding name)
    1889: Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (separated from preparatory program)
    1973: Polytechnic Institute of New York (acquired the faculty and programs of New York University’s School of Engineering and Science)
    1985: Polytechnic University (acquired university status)
    2008: Polytechnic Institute of New York University (affiliated with New York University)
    2014: New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering (merged with New York University)

    The Polytechnic name always was there. The new name eliminates 161 years of history which is a great shame!

  5. The only thing poly students want is for the name to be NYU Tandon Polytechnic school of engineering, is that too much to ask? How long are WSP students going to continue treating poly like 2nd class citizens? Considering our projected ROI actually went DOWN after we merged with NYU, what did we even gain out of this merger other than snooty WSP students who look down upon Poly students? How condescending do you have to be as a group to sit down as the editorial board of a student newspaper and write this atrocity of an article about a group of students who just lost over 160 years of heritage overnight without consultation and not include a single student quote? It’s not a gift horse, its a trojan horse. $100 mil for the “global STEM program” (notice that nowhere in the press release do they solidify their intention to spend that money on the brooklyn campus, only vague promises of spending it on the STEM program) that they confirmed will not be spent on financial aid in exchange for losing our history, heritage and reputation? And that additional $50 mil? That money has yet to be raised at all. No thanks. I will not be donating a single penny as an alumni.

  6. Is this what a major in Liberal Arts gets you? Oh my god this is so sad. Even our engineers could write a better article than this.
    I mean wait, we do.

  7. This piece is written as if it is the students of Polytechnic that do not understand; but i assure you, we understand completely what the benefits and politics are of this donation. The reality is, it is the author of this piece who does not understand.

    What it comes down to is that while all NYU schools were “renamed”, it is tough to say that they had much of a name to begin with. In most cases, the donor’s name was added as a prefix, and has since become the name (i.e. Tisch, Stern, etc.). However, polytechnic ALREADY had a name, and a great name at that with 160 years of history. When the NYU School of Business became the NYU Stern School of Business nothing was lost. It makes me sick that NYU would even consider taking away the polytechnic identity from my alma mater. And not only that, but that they have the audacity to publish on their website that the “Tandon School of Engineering” has been around since 1854. Bullshit. It’s been around for a few days at most, and is a spit in the face of the history that made polytechnic what it is today – brilliant minds, not deep pockets.

  8. 1. Stop calling it a donation. It’s not a donation. It is a purchase of naming rights, no different from a sports arena. It’s a national embarrassment that this type of brand-enhancement purchase still receives the kind of preferential tax treatment intended for actual charity.

    2. Electing not to call it Tandon Polytechnic School of Engineering was really silly on the part of the donor and NYU administration. That could easily have defanged some of the criticism about this move.

    3. “Without donations and challenges like this, the university is dependent on revenue created by itself, smaller alumni gifts or an increase in tuition. Such money is not nearly enough for large projects and major developments.”
    It would be plenty if NYU was content to proceed as an institution of higher learning instead of insisting on a business-like model of constant growth.


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