Take Bobst out of the library

Max Schachere

As racial tensions continue to boil in universities across the country, more and more college students are bringing light to the fact that that the namesakes of beloved buildings on campus have troubling pasts. At Princeton, protesters aim to convince the university to rename the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Students argue that Wilson, one of the United State’s most racist presidents, must not be implicitly revered by their university. Similarly, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Yale University to rename residential hall Calhoun College. Named after politician John C. Calhoun, this building memorializes one of the most stringent defenders of slavery in American history. NYU is not exempt from the list of colleges with controversially named buildings. Bobst Library invokes a poisonous legacy, similar to that of Wilson and Calhoun.

Bobst Library, named after Elmer Holmes Bobst, is a core component of NYU’s history. Not only did it inspire the creation of the official NYU mascot, but it is the hub of study for thousands of students each day. Elmer Holmes Bobst, however, was not as innocuous as the building named after him. In 1972, Bobst wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon, in which he said most Jews lack “true love” for the United States and “Jews have troubled the world from the very beginning. If this beloved country of ours ever falls apart, the blame rightly should be attributed to the malicious action of Jews in complete control of our communications.” Furthermore, he attributed the hardships of 200 million Americans to Jews.

Odious speech such as this has no place in a university that is supposed to promote tolerance. By population, NYU enrolls more Jews than any other private institution. The fact that NYU has not removed the Bobst name is outrageous, and sends a clear message to Jews on campus that tolerance is secondary to trustee donations. Just last week, NYU President John Sexton and Provost David McLaughlin issued several statements on diversity and inclusion. At the moment, with Bobst Library under its current title, NYU leadership is failing miserably in their goal to “reassure all [NYU] students that they are valued and belong here.”

This issue is actually quite simple: it will not be resolved until NYU strips all references to Elmer Holmes Bobst. In the meantime, students must take action through a wholescale boycott of Bobst Library. Unless you attend a class in the library or need a book, there really is no reason to go there. There are several other places that are as good if not better than Bobst in which to study. I encourage everyone, regardless of religion, to eschew Bobst, thus compelling a name change. It is an easy and effective way to promote civil rights throughout campus – a phrase not often heard recently.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Max Schachere at [email protected]

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8 COMMENTS

  1. this has got to be a joke. I am a jew – for the most part we are white, upper middle class and especially if we’re at nyu, we enjoy a high level of privelege. the last thing we need to be bitching about is the name of the library. this is peak pussification of america. political correctness taken to extremes like this throttles free speech – anytime something is named after someone you don’t like, you shout “racism” or “discrimination” or “this isn’t a safe space”. If you’re really that offended by the name of the building, think how much more offended the dude who these “offensive” buildings were named after and think how they would feel that their dorm/library/building is a home to the people they hated.

  2. You’re ridiculous for thinking students should boycott the library around finals. Especially for those of us who are commuters and can’t go home between classes – we need a quiet place to study (kimmel is not quiet) where there are outlets to charge our laptops and textbooks available (not lugging around my huge heavy science textbooks) and desks.

    But have fun studying in the park in December when it’s freezing cold, you have no desk, and it gets dark at 4:30pm so you can’t even see and people are yelling all around you..

  3. “Unless you attend a class in the library or need a book, there really is no reason to go there.” Yes, why would you ever “need a book” in pursuit of your undergraduate degree? If you are going to boycott the library, you might as well boycott your education altogether.

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