Applicant’s Angry Twitter Stream Spurs Policy Review

Jessica Martinez, Social Media Editor

NYU received received massive national backlash last month when a potential applicant posted a screenshot on Twitter of a discussion they had about waiving application fees with Tisch Director of Graduate Admissions Dan Sandford. Now, NYU is clarifying the policy that got it into hot water.

The prospective applicant, Brown University senior Joshua Jackson, generated thousands of retweets within hours in response to their string of tweets in mid-December. NYU alumni and strangers alike were sharing their thoughts with the hashtag #ShameonNYU, a few even offering to pay the fee for him.

NYU spokesman John Beckman said the university does allow fee waivers for students applying to the graduate program at the Tisch School of the Arts. However, Beckman said this policy was not as clear or transparent as it could have been

“Tisch School wants a diverse class, and having a stated policy that doesn’t allow the application fee to be waived for those with financial need is at odds with that important goal and our values,” Beckman said.

Jackson tweeted they were planning to apply to the Tisch Arts Politics MA program. After emailing Sandford to ask about a fee waiver for the application, Jackson posted a screenshot showing Sandford’s reply.

“We don’t really have those, Joshua, no,” Sandford said. “Sorry!”

Jackson then asked about other alternatives for low-income students.

“Please do not take this the wrong way but if $65 is a hardship for you how will you be able to pay the tuition of $60,000?” Sandford said. “Of course we do provide scholarships but the most we usually offer is $15,000-$20,000. Maybe you should give yourself a year off looking at ways to fund your graduate education.”

Beckman said Tisch Dean Allyson Green and President Andrew Hamilton have made it clear to faculty and administrators that fees can be waived for those with need and the language on the university’s website now reflects that. Following the incident, NYU issued an apology to Jackson.

Graduate admissions are handled differently from undergraduate admissions. They are seen on a school-to-school — or even a program-to-program — basis, Beckman said. In addition, Beckman said most programs already had a fee waiver process in place but the administration’s sense is relatively few graduate programs didn’t. Hamilton has since sent a note to deans to ensure a process is in place to provide fee waivers, or to create one.

CAS freshman Gregory Woltman said he thinks there is a newfound spotlight on such fees.

“I think an application fee dissuades students from applying to schools they’d like to go to, or at least want to try out,” Woltman said. “I don’t think it’s the most sound idea. I have a friend I’m encouraging to apply, and her first question was, ‘What’s the application fee?’ That just struck a chord with me.”

Tisch sophomore Hunter Whaley said regardless of the national attention the university received because of the incident, what happened has not made him think negatively of NYU as a whole.

“I would just chalk it up to negligence and incompetence,” Whaley said. “It seems they did the right thing after the fact. If that kind of incompetence was indicative of the entire faculty, maybe I’d think differently.”

Washington Square News reached out to Jackson but they did not return a request for comment at the time of publication.

Email Jessica Martinez at [email protected].

Correction: A previous version of this article used incorrect pronouns when referring to Joshua Jackson.