It recently came to light that a former professor is suing NYU for $16 million over claims of discrimination. Upon further investigation of the incident, an NYU representative insisted that the allegation was made with “malicious” intent and thus should be ignored. However, the history of recent lawsuits on discrimination at NYU tells another story. In 2014, a Jewish professor sued NYU over claims of religious, age and gender discrimination; and in 2011, NYU was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — and lost — after an employee was subject to horrific racial slurs from the managerial staff. It seems difficult to believe the claim that NYU is living up to its vision of being a diverse, inclusive university for global citizens in the face of such events.
However, the effects of this culture of discrimination are not limited to litigations against NYU. As an international student, I have personally witnessed student-on-student microaggressions based in this type of discrimination. Whether it be an in-class comment about the accent of foreign students or little jokes from stereotypes, these statements that sometimes aren’t intended to cause any harm can sometimes hurt as much as harsh and overt discriminative assault. The fact that this sort of subtle prejudice can occur towards staff is what allows these sort of offenses to occur between students. It also shows that NYU doesn’t try hard enough to make a culturally sensitive learning and working environment for the members of its community.
NYU boasts that it is a diverse melting pot for students in New York City. International students often arrive with certain expectations. Most assume that New York, and consequently NYU, will be more open-minded and accepting of their cultural differences than the average individual. But experiences like these seem to paint a very different picture.
In the age of the global village, students — especially those at a university like NYU — expect to gain more cultural sensitivity and awareness. This awareness does not come naturally just from living and working with a pool of people from different countries. It takes patience to understand a different culture and the divisions should not be brushed off abruptly. This process gets only further muddled when discrimination is allowed to exist within the university, and especially when attempts to identify it are dismissed by administrators as malicious. Our university should be a place that not only allows students to recognize the positive differences in other cultures, but rewards those who point out those who abuse the system. This would only further the global nature of our university, and make NYU a more welcoming and diverse community for all who study and work here.
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Email Phoebe Kuo at [email protected]