New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Student-Led Task Force Calls for Black Housing on Campus

As Black Lives Matter protests occur across the country, some Black students say racism is pervasive at NYU, especially in university housing. A group of Black students want to change that.
Chelsea Li
Palladium Hall is a popular choice for on-campus housing among upperclassmen. (Staff photo by Chelsea Li)

Editor’s Note, Aug. 24: Anonymity has been granted to one of the students who originally created the petition upon request, after publication.

Soon after they met, Gallatin senior Brenah Johnson and her first-year roommate — who are both Black — noticed that their experience was different from that of their Black peers.

“We had each other as support, but our other Black friends did not,” Johnson said. “Our first instances of racism were second hand, hearing from our friends who had to change dorms because their first roommates were anti-Black.” During their time at NYU, both students came to believe that the university does not adequately provide for its Black students.

“There is nothing to protect us,” the CAS student said. “Literally no systems in place. What do you do when your professor is racist and wants to take it out on your grades? Microaggressions in classroom discussions?” 

Johnson worked in housing as a Residential Assistant and noticed that the housing system did not meet the demands of Black students. 

“As a former RA, we spoke a lot of language around being diverse and forming communities, but we never talked about its application and how different students may want to be included in different ways,” Johnson said. “Housing felt like the first place to make a tangible start.”

These experiences prompted the students to start the task force called Black Violets, a group calling for measures to protect Black students on campus. The group has gained traction through various petitions advocating for more Black professors in the Department of Politics and first-year exploration floors dedicated to Black housing, among others.

The petition for Black housing has gained attention in the Student Government Assembly. Steinhardt sophomore Shamon Lawrence — the incoming Alternate Senator-at-Large for Black Students and Students Experiencing Food Insecurity in SGA — is passionate about the initiative. 

“I found out about Black Violets and the work they were doing through their petition and I wanted to be on the forefront of asking for these important structural changes,” Lawrence said.

Since then, Lawrence and Black Violets have been in contact with Jesse Maloney, the President of Inter-Residential Housing Committee, and first-year exploration floors dedicated to Black students are on track to becoming a reality in fall of 2021. 

In an email to WSN, university spokesperson John Beckman addressed the petition. 

“We appreciate the petition authors’ position,” Beckman wrote. “Res Life staff have reached out to the authors of the petition to discuss how we might move forward with their goals. Given the COVID-related challenges to the student housing system for 2020-2021, these conversations would be aiming towards 2021-2022.”

Students who organized Black Violets believe that NYU could be doing more at a much faster pace. 

“We will be leaving NYU, this is both of our last years,” Johnson said. “We just don’t want anyone else to feel the way many of us had to. With everything really being changed from the bottom up due to COVID, I believe that NYU admin should make this a priority if they really care about Black lives and students.”  

They also criticized NYU’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the national conversation regarding race. 

“With all that is going on this summer and NYU itself having their own instances of racism, they continue to send out these blanket statements about scholarships and Juneteenth and changing their banner black for Black Lives Matter,” the CAS student said. “But they still do not make the university equitable or make the structural changes we as Black students have been asking for.” 

Despite this, they remain optimistic for the future.

“We are hoping this will have a ripple effect, potentially towards campuses abroad where racism is even more pervasive,” the CAS student said. “If NYU prides itself as an inclusive global network, they cannot shy away from issues of racism. This along with the way the national conversation is moving, I think NYU really has no choice but to tackle these issues head on.” 

Email Mina Mohammadi at [email protected]

About the Contributors
Mina Mohammadi, Deputy News Editor
Mina Mohammadi is a Liberal Studies first-year intending to major in Journalism and Data Science. She is from Westchester County, but calls Iran home. When she's not writing, you can find her at Muji inhaling essential oils or playing ping pong in Third North’s basement. Follow her on Instagram @minamohammadim because she doesn’t vibe with Twitter.
Chelsea Li, Deputy Under the Arch Multimedia Editor
Chelsea is a junior in MCC and minoring in CS and BEMT. Though she's happy to be back home in California this semester, she misses the city dearly. When she is not in class you can find her constantly searching for a new series to watch even though she knows she'll eventually come back to Grey's Anatomy, dancing in her backyard, or making spring rolls. Find her on Instagram @chelseaa_li.
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  • J

    JamesSep 6, 2020 at 11:45 pm

    Are these going to be the next group of students asking for Student loan forgiveness because they could not find a job or company that provided segregated workspace? It’s disappointing how bad a job NYU does in educating students.

  • R

    Richard WicksAug 28, 2020 at 12:41 am

    George Wallace must be laughing in the afterlife and I guess Martin Luther King died over nothing.

  • B

    Brian K.Aug 25, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Not the answer in my mind. Only contributes to the issue. We are trying to move beyond segregation. I did not agree to send my student to NYU to segregate. I grew up and attend schools of a predominant race and I suffered the same stereotypes of others because of the bubble I lived in. Took years to reprogram and drop the sterotypes but existing with all races. I understand your point but do not agree.

  • J

    Joseph BloughAug 25, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    So segregation is back in style but this time with the Wokandans and SJWs? Cool, cool, cool. Good to know. The KKK must be so happy to hear this.

  • H

    HughAug 24, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    The KKK in response: This is great idea!

  • M

    Madeline MardiganAug 24, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    So Jim Crowe laws were a good thing? Ok. But they can’t ask for government money for their education, dorm or anything if they participate in this. These people don’t want equality. They are racists and in denial. Black people are the ones violently attacking people. Hate hoaxes are a hate crime and it should be prosecuted as such.

    • A

      AlFeb 13, 2021 at 10:26 pm

      You claim to be against racism, then immediately follow it with a racist statement. Nice.

  • M

    Melissa LowenfeldAug 24, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    As a Jew I’ve run into anti-semitism (at left wing protests I’ve seen some anti-semitic signage– specifically star of david made up of corporate logos) and as a woman I’ve run into sexism. I don’t hide under a rock and ask that I be placed into a building with all JEWISH WOMEN. WHY? Because when I get out into the world, into a workplace, to a PTA meeting, the store, a bar, you know…THE WORLD… I will be surrounded by people that don’t look like me. And I won’t always like what they say. And they won’t always like what I say. The solution is to chip away and biases, have dialogues with people. The higher the walls are, the more you impede the exchange of ideas and cultures. Case in point: Racism is way less pronounced in big cities where there is more diversity and way more pronounced in rural areas where there is less diversity.

    This is an ill conceived project and I hope that a coalition of smart, forward thinking African-American thinkers (I’m looking at you Coleman HUghes, John McWhorter, etc) can begin to push back on this toxic anti-racism cult. Let’s not go backwards. Only forwards. The world, as crazy as it may seem at times, is improving. And the key to that improvement is understanding, friendship and camaraderie.

    • J

      JackAug 24, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      Melissa :clap: Lowenfield :clap: speaks :clap: TRUTH
      In all seriousness– I fully agree. Let’s keep moving forward. Segregation and hiding in a safe space isn’t accomplishing this goal.

  • D

    DrewAug 24, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    I don’t mean to state the obvious, but racially-segregated housing– regardless of whether it’s voluntary or somehow well-intentioned– has absolutely no place in any 21st-century university.

  • R

    RonAug 17, 2020 at 10:19 am

    “because their first roommates were anti-black”
    Yeah – no.
    That didn’t happen. Just because a roommate is not black doesn’t make them anti-black.

    “What do you do when your professor is racist and wants to take it out on your grades?”
    Ok – really? There’s profs who reduce grades because of racism? That’s not true.

    • A

      AlFeb 13, 2021 at 10:22 pm

      And how do you know that it didn’t happen? Do you have any proof?

  • J

    JamesJul 26, 2020 at 4:08 am

    So students are asking for segregated housing? Are there housing for Asians, Latinos, etc? Seems Asian students have to put up with other students who are anti Asian, and yes some of this are black students. But this seems to be the rarity. If students need segregated housing then how will they deal with a world that is crying for more desegregation?