NYU President Andrew Hamilton and university spokesperson John Beckman recently opposed the Student Labor Action Movement’s campaign to add a student representative to the Board of Trustees because they feel it would be a conflict of interest.
SLAM shared a letter with WSN that the club received from Hamilton on Tuesday, Oct. 10, explaining why the university does not support SLAM’s goals.
“NYU and its like-minded peers do not envisage the individual trustees that make up their boards as representatives of particular campus constituencies,” Hamilton said in the letter. “Rather, the board seeks to have all its members be holistic in their outlook. And that is fundamentally at odds with the outcome you are pursuing.”
Hamilton went on to state that the university is and will continue to be fully committed to hearing student’s concerns.
“While I do not foresee student representation on the board, rest assured that the board is fully committed to listening to student input and understanding their issues and concerns, and the trustees will be significantly expanding the opportunities for this to take place,” the letter said.
SLAM agrees with Hamilton’s desire for a board that considers interests holistically, but feels that adding student to the board is necessary in achieving this goal.
“The fact that we might be in the room as a student body,” Gallatin senior and SLAM member Hannah Fullerton said. “With the interests of not being the most indebted class in the nation, of having lower tuition, of having these concerns… the idea that this is somehow at odds with the holistic goal of the board is incomprehensible.”
Since receiving the letter, SLAM has not backed down. On Saturday, members of SLAM held a protest in the Kimmel Center for University Life, at which they advertised posters exposing several trustees’ alleged conflicts of interests.
In a statement to WSN, Beckman echoed Hamilton’s message.
“At NYU, the reason [for denying student representation] is straightforward — the board believes its members should be holistic in their outlook, and a Board member who is a representative of specific campus stakeholder group would be at odds with that tradition and outlook,” Beckman said.
Beckman went on to critique SLAM for denouncing trustees.
“Ad hominem attacks on board members — people who support the university with their commitment, their time, and their generosity — do not in any way advance SLAM’s arguments,” Beckman said.
SLAM members critique Hamilton’s claim that a student representative on the Board of Trustees would be a conflict of interest, claiming that several trustees’ economic ties to other organizations suggest their own conflicts of interests. Posters at their rally accused trustees of profiting from predatory student loans, profiting from debt crises and having economic ties to fossil fuel crises. SLAM also claims that only one member of the board — Hamilton — has a background in education.
Despite the board’s firm opposition to their demands, the members of SLAM remain defiant. Fullerton said the club has no choice but to continue to stand up to NYU administration.
“It takes escalation like this and pulling the curtain away to show and expose what’s actually happening behind the scenes at NYU,” Fullerton said. “It’s what it’s always taken for us to make progress on this campus.”
Email Alex Domb at [email protected]