In response to recent disciplinary threats levied against activists from the Student Labor Action Movement and NYU Divest, a cohort of professors released a letter on April 13 criticizing NYU’s administration.
The letter is being updated as more faculty members decide to sign. As of 11:30 a.m. Monday morning, the letter had received 105 signatories.
“Peaceful occupation of university space is an exercise of that right [to free speech and assembly] and respecting that right is vital to preserve academic freedom and open dialogue in a university setting,” the letter read. “[NYU] has a clear responsibility to nurture and protect academic freedom, inclusive of student voices even, or especially when, they are critical of administrative policies.”
Professors who signed the letter teach at various NYU schools, including the College of Arts and Science, Tisch School of the Arts, Tandon School of Engineering, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and Stern School of Business.
The letter criticized NYU’s decision to contact parents to threaten those who receive financial aid or live in university housing with especially harsh punishments.
“In effect, the administration is communicating that not all student voices are respected equally, and that those most vulnerable will face the harshest sanctions,” the letter read. “These actions set a dangerous precedent. We fear that the long-term impact will chill the campus culture of free speech and deter student activism at a time when nationally, many diverse populations are raising their voices against unjust policies.”
NYU spokesman John Beckman said that students were disciplined not due to the content of the protests but due to their occupation of a building past its closing time.
“In line with NYU’s long-standing policies, disrupting university operations — and that includes forcing the university to staff a building that routinely closes at 11:00 p.m. — is not the same thing as dissent, and it does subject students to disciplinary proceedings,” Beckman said in an email to WSN on Thursday.
Professors concluded the letter by impelling NYU to not threaten students involved in any similar future occupation.
“We demand that you guarantee that no student involved in the occupation of Kimmel [Center for University Life] loses their housing or financial aid and that this will not be a tactic used in response to future student actions on campus,” the letter read. “In doing so, you will be displaying an unequivocal commitment to academic freedom and free speech within the NYU community.”
Email Alex Domb at [email protected].