Student gov’t champions divestment and grad student pay

The Student Government Assembly passed resolutions proposed by Sunrise Movement NYU and a member of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee during its meeting on March 2.

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Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Abby Wilson, Deputy News Editor

The Student Government Assembly passed four resolutions addressing NYU’s divestment from the fossil fuel industry, the Graduate Student Organizing Committee’s demands for back payment, and the affordability of educational resources at its fifth meeting of the semester on March 2. The assembly also discussed recent security incidents on campus in which NYU students were attacked near university buildings.

A resolution for divestment from fossil fuels

A member of Sunrise Movement NYU, the university’s chapter of the national climate justice organization, proposed the Resolution for Divestment from Fossil Fuels before the student government. The resolution — endorsed by organizations including Sunrise NYC and Zero Hour — calls upon the NYU administration to divest from the fossil fuel industry’s 200 largest publicly traded companies. After a brief discussion, the resolution was passed.

“We are working with Sunrise because they have been ignored by admin,” Mira Silveira, the vice-chair of SGA’s Student Senators Council, wrote on Zoom. “Our involvement with SSC and Sunrise has been able to get conversations going within [the Administrative Management Council], student affairs, and the hope is to get students in conversation with the University Senate as a result of passing this.”

The resolution was introduced by Paige Anderson, a GLS sophomore and a coordinator for Sunrise NYU. She said the organization has had a difficult time being acknowledged by the administration. The chapter held a kickoff rally on Oct. 15 last year to renew its Divest NYU campaign.

According to Anderson, the organization has submitted the divestment resolution and a petition, signed by more than 1,400 students and faculty, to the Board of Trustees several times, but has never received a response.

“We’re just trying to get the university to divest as fast as possible because the climate crisis is such a huge issue,” Anderson said. “Now, since the university is moving away from using as many fossil fuels to power our buildings and things like that, it seems like a good time to get that out there.” 

In an email to the university community last month, President Andrew Hamilton refuted the claim that the university has direct investment in fossil fuel companies. Hamilton said that approximately 2% of NYU’s endowment is from indirect investments in fossil fuels, down from 7% in 2016.

An open letter on grad worker back pay

GSOC–UAW Local 2110, NYU’s graduate student workers union, submitted an Open Letter on Grad Worker Back Pay to the SGA, calling upon university administration to recognize outstanding payments to graduate students. The resolution was passed unanimously.

Christopher Van Demark, a GSOC member and senator for the Graduate School of Arts & Science, urged the student government to pass the union’s resolution.

“We were able to get a lot of really incredible wins, and the fact that NYU admin has seemingly reneged on a lot of its promises that it made to us in terms of staff pay and being able to make ends meet while we were striking last semester, last year, is really disappointing,” Van Demark said. “Please do vote in favor of this. It’s very important and it means a lot to us.”

We will stand together to protect our rights, and ensure that NYU honors its commitments to the employees on whose labor it depends.”

— Open Letter on Grad Worker Back Pay

During the spring 2021 semester, GSOC organized a strike and picket line and agreed on a contract with the administration. The committee’s open letter, addressed to NYU provost Katherine Fleming, said NYU promised to pay graduate student workers what they are owed, but thousands of students still have not been paid.

“One of the historic gains in our collective bargaining agreement with NYU — won after many months of negotiations and a three-week strike — is the payment of retroactive wages and vacation pay for hourly workers, along with service bonuses for salaried semester-based employees,” the letter read. “But nine months after our contract was ratified in May 2021, thousands of graduate employees still have not received the money they are owed.”

An update on campus safety incidents

Evelyn Tsai, the School of Professional Studies alternate senator, addressed the SGA on behalf of SPS undergraduate senator Tien Nguyen about recent incidents concerning student safety on campus. Tsai shared updates on the next steps being taken by the administration and the SGA to increase safety on and around campus.

“We collectively identified key items to help students and members of the community feel supported as they navigate the university and the city,” Tsai said. “We’re preparing communication that shares all the resources related to safety and the role of each of those resources.”

Last month, at least seven NYU students were assaulted on campus, as WSN previously reported. A man was arrested on March 2 after seven Asian women were assaulted within two hours in the Midtown, Nolita, East Village and Gramercy neighborhoods of Manhattan on Feb. 27. NYU Campus Safety has since announced increased security measures, including security cameras and lighting installed on university building scaffolding. President Hamilton also answered questions about the incidents in a town hall meeting on March 3.

A letter about educational resource affordability

The SGA passed a Letter of Support for the Adoption of Open Educational Resources in courses at NYU, which would lower the costs of educational resources for NYU students by offering textbooks and other materials that are free to use and redistribute. The letter was primarily written by Ryan Carney, SGA’s director of finance. It passed unanimously.

Anthony Cruz and Katarina Demos — the Steinhardt undergraduate student government president and senator, respectively — presented the Resolution on Changes to the Internal Election & Selection Procedures Handbook on behalf of the student government’s elections commission and the Organization and Governance Committee.

The resolution proposed small changes to the SGA’s internal procedures, such as how members are elected. Both the SSC and the general assembly were given the opportunity to vote on the resolution, and it was passed in both votes.

Faiyaz Jaffer, an associate chaplain for Global Spiritual Life, delivered a presentation about Ramadan and the resources accessible to NYU students during the holiday.

The next SGA general assembly will take place on March 31.

Contact Abby Wilson at [email protected]