Weekend on the Square protests push NYU to be accountable.
This past weekend was NYU’s annual Weekend on the Square, during which prospective students come to get a glimpse into campus life and culture at the school. For student activists at NYU, this was the ideal time to make their demands known because, with so many prospective students and their families on campus judging NYU, the administration would be under a microscope and feel pressured to address their demands. This weekend was an ideal time to protest.
One of the chief complaints about the protests is that they disrupt planned activities for Weekend on the Square, but extra public safety officers were stationed to ease the entrances and exits of the visitors to ensure the weekend activities continued smoothly. Furthermore, the Admissions Ambassadors, the students responsible for giving tours to NYU visitors, said they had no problem with the protests. Some could even be seen chanting along with the students.
NYU’s treatment of student activists is very concerning, especially for a school that prides itself on being a campus that encourages diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, after the activists’ 36-hour occupation of the Kimmel Center for University Life calling for a chance to discuss problems within NYU with trustees and administrators at a public town hall, NYU called the students’ parents to threaten disciplinary action. The parents were told their children were not only facing suspension but expulsion, and those of them with financial aid and housing might lose those resources. Targeting lower-income students who rely on financial aid and housing is concerning enough, but the fact that the students were not informed of the types of disciplinary action they would face is alarming. They were only explicitly told they would face disciplinary probation, and further disciplinary actions that the university planned on handing them were vague.
Protests are labeled as disruptive, but that’s exactly the point. The disruption causes people to pay attention to the issues. If the protesters are just discussing the problem completely out of everyone’s sight, then how will change take place? Disruption demands accountability. John Beckman, the university spokesman, stated, “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 pm — is not the same thing as dissent, and it does subject students to disciplinary proceedings.” However, that is exactly what dissent is. Even if the activists didn’t achieve their goals, they did succeed in getting NYU to at least acknowledge their demands and largely garnered sympathy from other groups. In fact, over 100 professors expressed concern about how they were treated.
At their best, the protests motivate NYU to fix these issues. Prospective students deserve to know what happens behind the glitzy Weekend on the Square facade. They should be painted a multifaceted picturing during their short visit when deciding whether or not to attend NYU. If these students decide to come to NYU after witnessing the protests this weekend, they will do so knowing the university’s problems, and they might even be inspired to join the protesters next year.
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Email Beth Sattur at [email protected].