Two months ago, I stepped into Radio City Music Hall along with thousands of other first-years for the Presidential Welcome. As we all shuffled into the amphitheater and watched a succession of events, ranging from a speech by NYU President Andrew Hamilton to a musical about NYU’s Center for Student Wellness, my ears were filled with the same phrase: “The Class of 2023 is the best, the brightest, as well as the most diverse.”
As a first-year student, I’ve realized how prevalent the use of statistics is in NYU’s advertisements. Whether they be statistics on our student body’s diversity, its 16% acceptance rate or how many global campuses it has, NYU seems conspicuously aware of its numbers. However, as impressive as the statistics are, I’ve realized that NYU tends to hide a lot of its other numbers as well.
As accepting as we’d like to think we are, white supremacy and discrimination are still rampant throughout a student body as “bright and diverse” as NYU’s. Cases involve students being made to feel like outsiders on campus simply because of their identity or religion.
Incidents like these are not outliers in a supposedly progressive school like NYU — discriminatory accounts (both reported and unreported) have been occurring for years at our separate NYU schools, and especially in residence halls. But the administration often says nothing. The closest response an NYU school had to accountability was in February of this year. The Silver School of Social Work acknowledged complicity in their response to graduate student Shahem Mclaurin, whose account of a classmate telling him they wouldn’t feel comfortable with a “black presence” went viral.
In 2018, WSN reported multiple accounts of racial insensitivity and Islamophobia present within the Stern School of Business and the Tisch School of the Arts. Although outlined plans of action were created by these schools’ administrations, discussions of acknowledgment and reformation only happened because of student groups actively pushing for change.
As much as our school likes to pride itself on subjective statistics on diversity and progressiveness, NYU lacks accountability and fails to protect the students who are already here. One would think that NYU would hold itself accountable and acknowledge its faults — and sometimes, it does. But if the university wants to continue advertising its diversity and rankings through pie charts and percentages, it must also acknowledge the students behind those numbers, and stop ignoring their concerns. NYU compares itself to other prestigious universities, and as long as other institutions of higher education don’t address their own systemic problems, NYU won’t either.
What is the point in NYU quantifying its first-generation students if more privileged students still look down on those with less resources? What is the point in promoting a socially “woke” school if the underrepresented remain marginalized?
But microaggressions and discrimination are still heavily rooted within even the most progressive spaces — and NYU’s handling of inclusivity has at times been passable. But one thing that we, as a student body, must push for is NYU’s acknowledgement that statistics aren’t everything, and that cases of discrimination are not always outliers. There is a systemic problem at hand, and we must push for the resolution.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 print edition. Email Kenzo Kimura at [email protected]