With students coming forth and sharing stories of discomfort and discrimination at NYU’s Stern School of Business, we believe it is time for a change in thinking. Rather than reacting defensively to other students’ accusations, it is important to hear them out, recognize that there is a problem and do something about it. Faculty and staff certainly have a role to play in this, as they are responsible for setting an example for students and providing channels for those who don’t know where to go or feel uncomfortable voicing their complaints. However, if the culture at Stern is going to change, student perpetrators and bystanders must also listen to those victimized by their actions, and in turn, adopt their recommendations for improvement.
The widespread instances of discrimination were finally publicly recognized at the April 19 town hall when racism at Stern was brought to President Andrew Hamilton’s attention. It’s important to note that students had reported these incidents to Stern administrators for years, seeing limited response from the university in terms of punishing discriminatory behavior. Black and Muslim students are not only targeted by their peers, but upsettingly, experience insensitivity and bigotry from faculty as well.
In the past, NYU has acted in a reactionary fashion to tensions on campus. In 2015, it took increased pressure concerning the unwelcoming atmosphere of NYU for the university to respond by hosting Listening Sessions as an attempt to create dialogue. Similarly, it was only after public comments about Islamophobia at Hamilton’s town hall, as well as coverage of racist and Islamophobic instances in the past, that Stern took action. After these instances came to light, Stern leadership write a letter to the NYU Student Senators Council about the incidents and proposals to address these issues. However, much of their plan consists of actions taken in this past week, displaying the reactionary nature of NYU. One of such actions is optional workshops for faculty to improve inclusivity — however, these workshops should be mandatory.
While the administration and faculty at Stern must create and enforce rules of conduct that hold students who discriminate against others accountable, the fault rests equally on the specific students who have not only allowed, but participated in cultivating a community of discomfort and discrimination. Administrative efforts will only go so far if the students are not receptive. The testimonials from students of color show an unnerving culture of racism, Islamophobia and discrimination among the students at Stern — students shuffling away from their peers who wear hijabs, or insinuating that all Muslims are terrorists — that aims to dehumanize and alienate members of the community.
NYU prides itself on its accepting and progressive climate, yet we’ve continued to allow apparent micro and macro aggressions within our buildings. With students having to face great injustice and discrimination outside of campus, we should at least be able to provide a safe space to return to. It is our duty as teachers, classmates and administrators to take care of our community and ensure that nobody at NYU is made to feel like an outsider.
A version of this appeared in the Monday, April 30 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]