For the past two semesters the International Youth and Students for Social Equality at NYU has applied and been rejected from gaining all-university club status. Our experience has exposed the anti-democratic character of the Kafkaesque club approval process. Instead of facilitating the political and cultural life of NYU students, it works to limit discussion and diversity on campus.
The procedure, which rejects roughly 90 percent of applicants, was used to block the IYSSE — the only group fighting for a socialist anti-war movement on campus, independent from the Democratic Party — from holding events at NYU during the 2016 election and the start of Donald Trump’s presidency.
After a yearlong struggle, the IYSSE was just accepted into the New Club in Development program for the fall of 2017, and the next stage in the club approval process. While welcome, this does not change the basic democratic issues at stake. By any objective assessment, IYSSE exceeded all requirements in last year’s applications. Our Fall 2016 application included 222 signatures, more than the 200 required. Our spring 2017 submission exceeded the requirements again, with over 400 signatures, as well as a separate petition with an additional 200 signatures from students, faculty and administrators.
We were told by the Student Activities Board that we lacked sustainability in our mission statement and our membership and outreach. As proof to the contrary, I was elected Graduate School of Arts and Science student senator in the spring election on the platform of the IYSSE.
Another claim by the SAB was that there is a lack of resources available for student organizations. As a result, the SAB’s Development Committee is told how many new clubs it can form — this year it is five regular clubs and one publication club. Yet, as the IYSSE uncovered last year, NYU has seemingly endless resources in its $3 billion annual budget for its collaboration with the military and corporate-dominated expansion plans.
The reform of the club application process is crucial for encouraging political debate and the exchange of ideas at a time when opposing viewpoints are being suppressed. It’s not only Trump, with his calls for punishment of National Football League players taking a knee during the anthem and his Justice Department’s pursuit of information encompassing over a million visitors to an anti-Trump website, who is seeking to stifle ideas deemed dangerous. This summer the World Socialist Web Site, which the IYSSE is affiliated with, exposed that Google, working closely with the Democratic Party, is suppressing left-wing and anti-war websites.
At stake are basic democratic rights. At NYU, the IYSSE demands a change to the club approval process, so as to guarantee to students their right to affiliate with the political clubs on campus of their choosing.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Isaac Oseas at [email protected]
A version of this appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 10 print edition.