Opinion: NYU Student Tuition Strike: Stronger Together
An open letter to the NYU community from Jake Colosa, NYU Young Democratic Socialists of America co-chair, on behalf of NYU YDSA.
April 30, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted more than a year, and it hasn’t been easy. After being sent home suddenly, many of us spent a year alone, struggling to keep up with our coursework as the world seemed to collapse around us. These are difficult times, and hardships are expected. But instead of alleviating our pain, the NYU administration aggravated it.
We’ve asked for help and support from our school, and all we’ve gotten are half-measures and performative actions. We watched as Tisch students were serenaded with “Losing My Religion” when they were really losing their time and tuition dollars. Students in dorms were sent home abruptly without their belongings, only to receive them months later, often in pieces. When we asked for tuition refunds, particularly for students in hands-on fields, NYU refused, even after multiple attempted lawsuits. We asked for classes to be pass/fail for the duration of the pandemic, and the administration reluctantly agreed, but only for the duration of the spring semester, and only for certain students. The viral videos of NYU’s pathetic quarantine meals last September sparked media attention, and that was the only time NYU responded substantively to complaints. Despite the loss of facility access and decline in teaching quality during the pandemic, our exorbitant tuition did not decrease. In fact, it was increased. And NYU has no plans of letting up. Despite being located in one of the most expensive cities in the world, with as many as 41% of students being food insecure, NYU will continue to raise tuition by at least 2% each year for at least the next decade.
Students and workers at NYU have not sat idly by while our administration failed us. Last March, we formed the NYU Covid Coalition to advocate for ourselves. Our coalition of undergraduate students, graduate students, instructors and campus workers was able to win significant concessions from NYU. These included guaranteed personal protective equipment for essential workers like the NYU Public Safety sergeants at the height of the pandemic’s first wave, compensation for evicted paraprofessionals, ensuring that all $25 million of CARES Act funding went to student relief, and refunds for some small fees for undergraduates in certain programs. Despite these wins, NYU refused many of our demands, such as a tuition refund or freeze, fair compensation for workers, universal healthcare for everyone on campus, and fair grading policies during remote instruction. GSOC’s bargaining unit has taken up the fight for many of these demands in their contract campaign, and they too have met an inflexible administration that fails to act in the interests of its students and workers.
It’s past time for the administration to take a break from planning the development of their next glass box (aka the 2031 Expansion plan) and start focusing on the students. These issues didn’t start with the pandemic, nor will they end with it. We pay far too much for a school that gives its students far too little. Despite being one of the most wealthy private landowners in New York City with billions of dollars in endowment, NYU continues to underpay and overwork our graduate TAs, undergrad TAs and our student workers. The administration has done nothing about the long wait times students face while trying to access mental health services. Instead, they choose to enrich fossil fuel companies against the student body’s wishes.
In recognizing the failures of the administration to address the glaring inequities it perpetuates, the NYU community says, “No more.” Next fall: we won’t pay.
We resolve to go on a tuition strike until our demands are met. NYU students, a better university is possible if we are willing to stand together and demand it. Will you join us?
Should the university continue to remain silent in the face of the pressing demands detailed above, NYU students across all schools are prepared to withhold tuition payments for the upcoming fall semester and to not donate to the University at any point in the future. As a first step toward satisfying our demands, we request a meeting with the president, deans and key administrators across NYU.
The NYU student body, our professors, TAs and the workers NYU employs with exploitative regulation-skirting contracts, all deserve better. See you at Gould Plaza at 11:15 a.m. for our announcement rally!
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Email Jake Colosa at [email protected]