NYU administration and Student Labor Action Movement are discussing greater representation and involvement for its student body. President Andrew Hamilton and two other administrators met with five organizing members of SLAM on Thursday afternoon to discuss student involvement in university decision-making.
This meeting occurred in light of the University Senate’s upcoming vote on a resolution to put two students on the board of trustees. In February, it already won the majority of the Student Senators Council — the first step in student-led decisions at the university — and this meeting followed a town hall last week with Hamilton, where SLAM members advocated for representation.
In addition to Hamilton, the meeting today also consisted of President for University Relations and Public Affairs Lynne Brown and Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Marc Wais.
CAS senior and SLAM member Drew Weber thought the dialogue was more productive than those of meetings in the past, and Weber said he was able to effectively explain SLAM and its mission to the administrators.
“We were able to provide President Hamilton with greater information on our campaign and the motivating principles behind it,” Weber said. “The dialogue felt fairly productive and the President proved slightly more open to the proposal than in the past.”
Gallatin freshman and SLAM member Stephanie Rountree said that SLAM’s goals are simple: to hold the board of trustees accountable and to increase student input in NYU’s decision making process — which to them, includes students on the board of trustees.
“Our points were the same as they’ve been: we feel that students deserve a voice on the highest decision-making body at our school to ensure transparency about such decisions,” Rountree said. “We spoke about the structure of NYU’s board, the use of student channels for affecting change and how they going through those routes doesn’t guarantee that our voices will be heard, but the main concern was what Hamilton referred to as the holistic approach used to govern NYU.”
To change university policies, the SSC must first pass a resolution to be voted on by the University Senate, and the Senate includes 37 student senators of the 137 seats. All decisions passed by the University Senate then reach the board of trustees, which has the authority to approve or overturn the resolutions.
Weber said Hamilton assured SLAM that the University Senate would get the SSC resolution on the University Senate’s agenda.
“Going forward, we will continue to push this resolution and educate the NYU community about the current state of the Board,” Weber said.
CAS sophomore and SLAM member Husniye Cogur said that she was disappointed that Hamilton would not help SLAM members meet with the board of trustees. However, Cogur said she was pleased that the passed SSC resolution would be put on the University Senate’s formal agenda.
“That was a vital next step in pushing this bill all the way through university government, which would make a monumental statement to the board,” Cogur said. “Regardless, the fight does not end there. We are more than prepared to escalate with more actions and vocal protests to push our campaign forward.”
Still, some SLAM members, such as Rountree, were disappointed and felt that some of the arguments administrators made were not valid. Administrators said the board’s decision-making process would be disrupted by students and that approximately 80 percent of private universities don’t have students on the board of trustees.
“While Hamilton said he supported increased collaboration between students and the board of trustees and would put our resolution on the University Senate’s official agenda, he repeatedly emphasized that as is, the board of trustees governs through a holistic approach that he feels could not be replicated as easily with students members,” Rountree said. “We find this to be a rather flimsy argument, as students on the board would only add to the number of unique perspectives on the board, especially in terms of those with a background in education, which Hamilton himself said he would like to see more of.”
In the past, Hamilton has argued that because students are directly affected by the decisions made by the board of trustees, students would be unable to effectively partake in those decisions. But Rountree disagrees, and she believes that NYU should lead other universities on this issue instead of following how decisions have always been made.
“Being a trailblazer is built into NYU’s DNA,” Rountree said. “Instead of relying on these other institutions to step forward, NYU should be the one setting the trend.”
Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected]