Every day, thousands of NYU students make the trek from their dorms to their classes. And every day, many are stopped and harassed by the various people on the street asking for support, signatures and almost always money for a variety of causes. Regardless of the nobility of these causes, the techniques employed to squeeze dollars out of unsuspecting pedestrians make people uncomfortable.
Whenever one of these canvassers approaches someone, they begin a large pitch about their organization or — even worse — their band.They disarm their victim with an over-friendly demeanor and a practiced speech about their organization — oftentimes, something worth caring about. Once the victim is engaged in the conversation, the canvasser strikes with a sudden mention of money. There is now an immense pressure to fork over whatever money you can to the canvasser until they go away and the guilt trip they sent you on subsides.
While obviously the people giving out their “free” mixtapes only to take them back if they don’t receive a donation are just hassling and conning people for money, people who speak on behalf of a larger cause are still problematic. Does canvassing for organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign justify how these canvassers interact with students walking by? The honest answer is no. Forcing people into unwanted conversations and badgering them for money is not the way to spread awareness and support — even for something good. Many of these canvassers border on harassing and coercing people into talking with them, and that is not okay.
NYU students who can barely afford the cost of living should not be forced into giving money to anyone. And even when student display a genuine intention to help, they are often met with frustration and dismissal after not coming up with adequate funds, which is not a positive way for canvassers to represent their programs. Those who prefer not to talk to strangers on the street should not have to. There are other ways to gather support and donations for an organization besides forcing random people on the street into uncomfortable situations and perhaps those avenues should be explored with more depth. At the end of the day, it is difficult to say that the ends of street canvassing justify the means employed by canvassers.
Email Thomas Price at [email protected]