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

OSC to ‘improve the quality’ of assignments imposed on students arrested in Gould Plaza after faculty complaints

The decision to reevaluate the writing exercises came after hundreds of faculty members called them “a mockery of our vocation” and “an insult” to students’ intelligence in a letter last week.
Manasa Gudavalli
(Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

NYU said the Office of Student Conduct will begin looking at ways “to improve the quality” of reflection papers imposed on students arrested at the Gaza Solidarity Encampment in Gould Plaza later in the fall, after hundreds of faculty complained about the practice in a letter to university leadership.

In the May 15 letter, over 350 faculty members called on President Linda Mills, interim provost Georgina Dopico and director of student conduct Mathew Shepard to “immediately stop using these materials,” calling them “a mockery of our vocation” as teachers and “an insult to the intelligence of our students.” If students don’t complete the assignments by May 29 — which ask that they describe the “incident” for which they were called into the OSC and “learn about and understand” their values and actions — they will receive a censure on their transcript, or a “formal reprimand for violation of university policy.”

NYU spokesperson John Beckman said the assignments are a common practice in higher education institutions. He said the point of the exercises is “to reflect upon” how a student’s actions might impact other members of the NYU community.

“However, that is not to say that the specific assignments couldn’t be improved,” Beckman wrote. “In fact, in conjunction with NYU faculty experts whom we hope to convene, the staff in the Office of Student Conduct will begin taking a look at what might be done to improve the quality of the prompts for the reflection papers as well as the other educational assignments.”

The letter, authored by NYU Law professor Liam Murphy, claimed the writing exercises contradict the university’s “ethical and intellectual standards” and are “morally odious and completely out of place.” Murphy sent the letter to Mills, Dopico and Shepard last Thursday, and received an email from Mills and Dopico the following evening saying they would reevaluate the exercises in the fall. The letter has since garnered hundreds of signatures from faculty across NYU’s schools.

“I was pleased that the response came from many different kinds of people — very senior faculty, who nobody thought would be the first to go manning the picket lines, to very junior faculty, tenured people, clinical people,” Murphy said in an interview with WSN. “All sectors of the faculty community seem to have responded.”

Murphy’s letter comes after Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine sent out a press release criticizing the assignments last Monday. The statement also challenged NYU’s use of Advocate, a higher education software created by “behavioral intervention management” company Symplicity, citing that the company had pleaded guilty to criminal hacking charges in 2014. Beckman said that these associations were “deceptive propaganda” and that only OSC staff determine specific sanctions for students.

NYU allegedly began disciplinary hearings for students earlier this month and requested that a Manhattan court drop criminal charges for all protesters involved. Since the first encampment at Gould Plaza, on-campus groups including FSJP and the NYU Palestine Solidarity Coalition have continued to demand that NYU pardon students facing disciplinary action for their involvement in pro-Palestinian protests, as well as divest from companies with ties to Israel, shut down its study away site in Tel Aviv and remove police from campus. 

Contact Dharma Niles at [email protected].

View comments (1)
About the Contributors
Dharma Niles
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.
Manasa Gudavalli
Manasa Gudavalli, Editor-in-Chief
Manasa Gudavalli is a super senior studying a super strange combination of psychology, mathematics, journalism, and chemistry. When they are not editing the Washington Square News, they are probably reading Freud, watching college football, or developing film photos. You can find them on Instagram @manasa.gudavalli and

Comments (1)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • I

    IzMay 23, 2024 at 10:44 pm

    Great article! Personally, I think the requirements were generic and not specific to the situation (considering students chanted “intifada”). The violators should be required sensitivity training to learn what that is and how it is considered antisemitic.