Talks on diversity receive mixed feedback from students

ohn Sexton gave an opening speech for the University-wide conversation on issues of race and diversity on campus in the Coles Sports and Recreation Center on November 18, 2015.

After President Sexton and other NYU administrators hosted an extensive talk on diversity last week, many students are pleased to see the university is taking the issue seriously, while some fear the administration has not gone far enough to address concerns.

The talk followed campaigns launched by NYU students, including Blackout NYU, to show solidarity with other U.S. colleges addressing diversity concerns.

Following the event, President Sexton sent an email to the NYU community addressing the talk and his plans for the problems.

“We will start by immediately increasing staffing and doubling program funding for the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs to expand and enhance our programming efforts around issues of diversity and inclusion, and by taking concrete steps in the near term to move forward with one of the proposals raised repeatedly yesterday — a serious diversity training program,” Sexton said.


In addition, CAS Dean Gabrielle Starr also sent out an email last Friday commending students on their efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive NYU.

CAS senior and president of the Black Student Union Arielle Andrews said she was pleased with the turnout of the event and hoped it allowed the administration to see how important diversity and inclusion are to students.

“I think this is the start of real action,” Andrews said. “The administration is under a microscope right now, and they can’t afford to skirt the issue.”

However, not all students found Sexton’s response satisfactory. CAS junior and Chair on the Muslim Student Association board Hina Afridi said Sexton’s email made her wonder whether he was afraid his lack of activism might affect his public reputation.

“After reading Sexton’s email, I do find myself a bit dubious of how we’ll be moving forward from this,” Afridi said. “To simply add a committee on diversity and inclusion isn’t enough. It does make me question whether this forum was held as a platform for students to express their concerns on the lack of accommodations that are made for them on this campus or just to show that they actually responded to what’s going on.”

Afridi also discussed the importance of acceptance and inclusion for the Muslim community after the recent events in Paris.

“Islamophobia is increasing with every attack that happens,” Afridi said. “When tensions like these are arising, dialogue between the students is imperative. And, I think that the president of the university should be addressing Islamophobia in order to facilitate this conversation.”

NYU alumnus and former president of the Cuban American Student Association Carlos Estevez  said while the university attracts students from almost every state and an impressive range of countries, having one interesting person from an assortment of places doesn’t make a university diverse.

“Diversity was not one of the school’s strong suits when I was a student and sadly the statistics have not changed much,” Estevez said. “It would be far more productive for the university to admit that diversity needs to be addressed, as opposed to boasting their global student body and superior statistics when compared to other schools.”

Additional reporting by Justine Morris.

A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 23 print edition. Email Lexi and Christine at [email protected]



  1. Hina Afridi did not bother attending the Diversity event but sent someone in her place to read. She claimed Dante’s Inferno should not be read in liberal arts classes because it is offensive to Muslims and that it was offensive for her professor to discuss a theory re: the origins of Islam with another student. The idea that colleges can’t have free exchange of ideas and books should be banned because it is offensive to Islam is ridiculous. What’s next, asking the Biology dept. to ban discussions of Evolution because it goes against religion?

    The problem is some students don’t come to college to actually learn, but to purchase a degree and hear their beliefs parroted. Save your parents money and stay home if you can’t handle it.

  2. I think the points Hina Afridi made were extremely important. There is a rise in Islamophobia since the Paris attacks. Even though Muslims students denounce ISIS as a religious state, Sexton continues to call them an Islamic State in his emails. The politically correct term for this group is Daesh. If the President were to have a legitimate concern for the minority groups on campus, shouldn’t his actions show more care towards those groups?

  3. @Eliana
    Funny how that’s the only thing you picked out of her statement. She also mentioned that a Professor who openly speculated that the religion of Islam was based on a hallucination in a CULTURAL FOUNDATIONS class, no less.
    But please, go ahead and call that a “free exchange of ideas” instead of blatant ignorance in a college-level classroom.

    We expect this university to hold our professors to a higher standard and cultural and religious competency is not just a “convenience” but a requirement.

  4. As an alumni also in college access I would go as far to say increase your professors of color SIGNIFICANTLY. Not just CMEP programs. I also believe 7% of blacks and Hispanics is disgusting. Diversity in student body looks like equal percentages 20% all around. NYU shouls resemble the city that allows it to exiat. Lastly, intergroup dialog classes should be a requirement for all students for one semester at least. No longer an elective. If staff need training so do students.

  5. @eliana
    Not being present at a meeting does not show commitment. The meeting was livestreamed– she probably watched the entire thing. In fact having someone say what you wanted to get across when you could not be there, does show commitment. So do not really get what point you were making.

    What she said was the inferno depicted the prophet and his cousin in a disgusting manner. Point me to what books are read at NYU that depict any Christian figures in the same manner? Just because it’s Islam it’s okay? Just because people do go overboard on such complaints does not denigrate the complaint–the depiction itself is still horrendous. The complaint is that reading such a book is just pointlessly derogatory to the religion. I’m sure there would have been no complaint if the book was prefaced with some sort of disclaimer about such a bullshit depiction, and a general description of it’s backwardness– instead Muslims are supposed to read the book without a question of why their prophets are depicted as such (as far as I know there’s apparently no reason– Dante just wanted to imply Islam was not the right path)?

    Finally, the point of contention was not that an alternative view on Islam was taken. The point was that the view on unsubstantiated– and was just heresay. Teaching students heresay is not the job of a professor nor should classes have students questioning their religion for no other reason than the professor wanted to relay his ignorant opinion on the topic.

  6. @Sana – The Professor’s comment is actually exactly what I was referring to. I see no problem with discussing the origins of religion in a Cultural Studies class (hallucination, drugs, mental illness, or simply lying are all valid theories for why someone would claim to see a magical angel in a cave – you have no evidence to prove otherwise). In case you are ignorant, there are over 6 Billion people on this planet who do not share your religious beliefs. Speculating on the origins of Islam (or Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism) is perfectly acceptable in a history class.

    @Anon – Dante’s Inferno also depicts many Christian figures in Hell, including the Pope! Yet no one is complaining of Christophobia, are they? Perhaps you should actually read the literature you are criticizing, you might learn something. It was written over 700 years ago and ancient literature generally doesn’t come with a disclaimer warning against bullshit (the Quran certainly doesn’t). Also no one said Muslim students are not allowed to question what they are reading…pointless Strawman arguments are so tiresome.

    It seems like some of you didn’t come to college to actually learn and are offended by people exchanging ideas that differ from what you believe. In this case, save your parents $60k/year, and sit at home and mindlessly recite your religious texts – problem solved.

  7. Also, comparing having to a read a book that disagrees with your religion or a Professor offering a theory on the origins of a religion is NOT in any way comparable to a hate crime. Certainly there’s no tolerance for hateful speech or discrimination but the examples given so far are ridiculous. Would you criticize a Biology professor for teaching about natural selection and pointing out the Earth is billions of years old?


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