Last week we witnessed what we as educators love the most: students using their creativity and analytical thinking skills to act politically and support a cause in which they believe. NYU Divest made their case to the administration for why our university should divest from fossil fuels, and why the university should be part of a transparent decision process. Their call was in line with an overwhelming vote by the faculty senate last year and a recent letter signed by over 200 faculty members. They also asked that our new leadership should respect what our former president John Sexton had promised them in writing, namely to let the students present their case at NYU’s board meeting.
The venue they chose was both original and humorous: they staged their protest in the administration elevator in Bobst, tweeting #RiseWithUs. Instead of engaging the students in a meaningful way on issues of transparency and keeping the promise of a meeting with the board, the administration copied the students’ photo IDs, threatened them with disciplinary action (including immediate suspension) and contacted their parents.
While university disciplinary procedure might allow for immediate suspension in exceptional circumstances, this approach strikes us as heavy-handed and unnecessary. In times of conflict, our students should be treated as young adults, not as kids in need of parental supervision. Yet our point is not so much about NYU procedure, but culture. What the administration has created is an atmosphere of fear among our students where there should be safety and tolerance. We, as faculty at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, take pride in our students’ commitment to addressing issues that are important for our university and the world.
Andrea L Gadberry
Hannah R Gurman
Amanda K Petrusich