Stay Woke and Meditate was an initiative Gallatin senior A’Nisa Amaru developed during her sophomore year. The program offers a weekly meditation session for students of color to seek healing while studying at a predominantly white institution. Amaru hopes students who make their way to the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, located next to Kimmel Center for University Life, will find peace of mind during the sessions. There is one thing they won’t find, though: her.
Despite creating the program, Amaru has not attended any of the meetings since last spring, when she was fired — something she attributes to an administrative oversight.
Amaru claims the former director of MindfulNYU, Reka Prasad, compensated her more than other student workers due to the vital role she played in creating programs like Stay Woke and Meditate. However, when GCASL’s administration changed, Amaru says a budget review occurred and after the new administration found out she was being paid more, she was fired. In fact, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards launched an investigation into the pay discrepancy.
“The former director informed me that I would be a developer and facilitator for this program, and as a result, I should get paid for every literal hour that I worked,” Amaru told WSN.
As a student worker, Amaru went above and beyond in her role. She helped with the social outreach of Stay Woke and Meditate and attended classes to lead meditation sessions. She also informed students on where they could find these resources. Due to Prasad’s instructions, Amaru logged additional hours spent doing these things — something that she says was approved by the office manager.
In addition to Stay Woke and Meditate, she created Mosaic, a safe space for students of color to express their religious identities. She also co-curated an exhibit celebrating black spiritualism titled “I, Too, Am Divine” with students Hunter Major and Harmony Hemmings-Pallay in February.
According to an Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards letter Amaru received, obtained by WSN, NYU totaled the payment for Amaru’s additional hours worked at $5,340.
Since then, Prasad has been replaced by Senior Director of Global and Spiritual Life Yael Shy. During the transition last semester, the department conducted a review of their budget in January, according to Amaru, in which it was noted that she was being paid more than her colleagues.
People know me. My name is on this, and people are expecting me to be there and see me each Monday night.” — Gallatin senior A’Nisa Amaru
Amaru said Shy called her into a meeting to inform her about the discrepancies on her student worker timesheet last March. Amaru was then removed from her position as a student worker, after having worked at the department for more than two years.
“This email is just to confirm that there will be a pause on your employment relationship with Global Spiritual Life until there is a resolution of this issue,” Shy wrote in an April email to Amaru, obtained by WSN.
Amaru noted how her professional relationship with Shy had an impact on the language Shy used in regard to the end of her tenure.
“Even when it came to the terminology present, my director didn’t even want to say termination because she knew that I was connected to this program,” Amaru said. “We had seven more sessions in the year. People know me. My name is on this, and people are expecting me to be there and see me each Monday night.”
Shy declined to comment, instead referring WSN to university spokesperson Shonna Keogan, who disputed Amaru’s claim about her termination.
“Because of federal privacy laws, there are limitations on what we can say in this case,” Keogan wrote in an email to WSN. “It is untrue that the student was terminated because of a payroll issue outside of her control. The integrity of student workers’ timesheets is a matter NYU takes very seriously.”
After being fired, Amaru was told by the senior director that she would also be investigated by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards to see if she violated any academic codes, something confirmed by emails between Amaru and the office which were obtained by WSN.
According to the letter sent by the office, Amaru was not found guilty of theft but was found to have violated NYU Student Conduct Policy and has since been required to write a 4-5 page essay documenting and apologizing for her role in the situation. She was also put on University Disciplinary Probation.
Amaru claims that when she was fired, she was told not to discuss it and, as a result, was not able to officially acknowledge it until the beginning of this semester. In September, she informed the Stay Woke and Meditate community about her departure from the program.
“I am no longer affiliated with the meditation program I created, and most proud to have materialized, Stay Woke and Meditate,” Amaru wrote in an email. “Leaving the Global Spiritual Life community and MindfulNYU has been one of the hardest plights I’ve had to endure, especially since I was encouraged to omit my complete expression during that process.”
Correction, Oct. 28: A previous version of this article named A’Nisa Amaru as A’Nisa Megginson. Amaru has since specified she prefers the former. The article also incorrectly stated that Amaru was required to return her additional compensation to NYU. Lastly, a previous version also incorrectly gave Reka Prasad’s title as the director of GCASL, when her actual title is director of MindfulNYU. The article has been revised to reflect these changes and WSN regrets the errors.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, print edition. Email Alexandria Johnson at [email protected]