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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Mills speaks on Israel-Hamas war response, decrease of male students in higher education

NYU president Linda Mills took part in a panel with four other presidents of New York City universities last week, in honor of Women’s History Month.
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Kevin Wu
File Photo: NYU President Linda Mills on Feb. 15, the day the university announced that she had been chosen as its next president. (Kevin Wu for WSN)

NYU president Linda Mills discussed her “action oriented” response to the Israel-Hamas war and concerns about the decreasing number of men enrolling in universities during a March 27 panel event at Hunter College titled “Mapping the Future of Higher Ed.” During the discussion, which was in honor of Women’s History Month, Mills joined the presidents of Columbia University, Fordham University and The New School in a conversation about the challenges they’ve faced within the last year.

Mills spoke about NYU’s immediate response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip, which included evacuating students at the university’s Tel Aviv site to its Abu Dhabi campus. She also mentioned the university’s 10-Point Plan, a set of security and conduct guidelines that was first announced in October.

“People really don’t appreciate the personal toll that this has had on the people who are leading and trying to do the best that we possibly can,” Mills said in the panel. “It’s a topic, needless to say, among all of us, and our worry about, not only what’s going on on our campus, but about what’s going on in our country.” 

Since the start of the war, there have been multiple pro-Palestinian protests on and near campus, with demonstrators having called for NYU to shut down its Tel Aviv site, support a cease-fire in the conflict and divest from Israeli-backed companies. The university has repeatedly rejected calls to close the Tel Aviv site, saying ending its operations there would be a violation of academic freedom. There have also been some pro-Israeli protests and counterprotests near campus, and last semester a group of students sued NYU over its handling of antisemitism.

Panelists also expressed concern about shifting gender demographics in universities when asked about how they convey the importance of higher education “at a time when people are looking to be trained in a job.” Mills noted the decrease of male enrollment in recent years, and referenced an Anti-Defamation League survey that she said found that people with college degrees were less antisemitic than those without them.

“I worry a great deal about the fact that we are now at 60% women in college and 40% men, and that that differential is significant and will influence the direction of this country, how they vote, how they think about issues,” Mills said. “That just reinforces for us the significance of, not only the attack on higher education, but our obligation and our responsibility to not only defend it, but to continue to refine it and to do it better so that we can respond to these times.” 

A 2015 ADL survey where researchers conducted 10,000 interviews across 19 countries found that “among Christians and the non-observant, higher education levels lead to fewer antisemitic attitudes,” and that “the opposite is true among Muslims respondents.” Research on this topic has been mixed, with a review of studies by a professor at Louisiana State University finding that “the better educated are much less antisemitic than the worse educated in the U.S.” and a different study conducted at the University of Arkansas concluding that “education appears to provide no protection against antisemitism.”

Last semester, the university announced that it would establish the Center for the Study of Antisemitism, which is holding its first event later this month. The center will focus on the history of antisemitism and have programs aimed at addressing other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

At the panel, Mills said that she wants “100% of students to study away.” She noted NYU’s national and international abroad options, saying the experience allowed students to “appreciate differences” and “get that civic education we need to be providing them.” Prior to becoming the university’s president, Mills was NYU’s vice chancellor and senior vice provost for global programs and university life, overseeing its abroad sites.

“Really what this time calls for is this sense of bringing our world back together again,” Mills said. “I don’t know exactly what that path is, but I do know that path involves opening a lot of our hearts, and our minds and our ability to talk to each other, which is what an education provides us with.”

A university spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Contact Dharma Niles at [email protected]

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About the Contributors
Dharma Niles, Deputy News Editor
Dharma Niles is a first-year student currently studying journalism and politics at CAS, and has yet to choose between the six different minors she'd also like to pursue. You can generally find her playing NYT games, skittering around the city with a Celsius in hand or on Instagram @dharmaniles.
Kevin Wu, Digital Director
Kaiyu (Kevin) Wu is a senior double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and Journalism. He directs everything digital at WSN. You can directly reach him digitally at [email protected].

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