Editorial: 6 Asian students were attacked on campus. Why did NYU take weeks to respond?

NYU’s response to attacks on Asian students on its campus has been extremely dismissive. The university must urgently address the safety concerns of Asian students.


Sirui Wu

As anti-Asian crimes continue to threaten the well-being of NYU community members, the university should handle reports more swiftly and seriously. (Photo by Sirui Wu)

In February, seven students were assaulted on NYU’s campus. At least four of them were likely assaulted by the same man. Of the four students he attacked initially, three were Asian. Why didn’t NYU respond sooner?

AJ Sun was one of these students, and when he attempted to make a report of this assault, NYU Campus Safety dismissed his concerns. In fact, NYU failed to report the series of assaults to the student body promptly, instead waiting until after the backlash that followed Sun’s Instagram posts.

“Any Asian student walking on campus is still in danger of random, sporadic and yet detrimental hate-infused attacks, and NYU has not taken any action to even warn its Asian students about the danger in the surrounding neighborhood,” Sun wrote in a Feb. 16 Instagram post about the incident. “NYU please protect your Asian students, as I don’t wish another Asian student to receive the same kind of harm I have received on campus once again.”

The news of NYU’s mishandling of these assaults follows the recent tragic killings of two Asian women in New York City, Michelle Go and Christina Yuna Lee, and the Feb. 22 death of GuiYing Ma after an attack in November. It also comes as a suspect was arrested on March 2 in connection with a similar string of anti-Asian assaults.

In light of recent racist attacks, Asian Americans across the city are demanding more comprehensive protective measures. While there are conflicting views on how to further protect Asian Americans from vicious hate crimes, one thing is clear: Change must be made. 

But NYU was silent for weeks after the assaults were reported. They didn’t even notify the university community about the assaults — which began on Feb. 2 — until Feb. 17.

On March 2, NYU’s campus safety chief Fountain Walker finally addressed the racist motives of the assailant; the Feb. 17 message only acknowledged that racism might be a possibility.

“And given the fact that three of the four incidents involved Asian students, we are proceeding on the assumption that anti-Asian bigotry must be playing a role,” Walker wrote in a March 2 email to the NYU community that also outlined additional security measures.

While taking measures like the ones Walker presented is certainly a step in the right direction, the slow and initially dismissive response of the university is unacceptable. Asian students felt unsafe for weeks before further measures were taken. Furthermore, NYU’s response puts too much faith in the same Department of Campus Safety that ignored initial reports or took or took them lightly.

How will students know for sure that these officers are taking things more seriously? How do we quantify “higher alert?” How do we know this review of campus notification policies will be effective in delivering timely notifications of assaults?

When a graffiti swastika was discovered on campus late last month, NYU’s response was immediate and commendable. University spokesperson John Beckman promptly published an appropriately scathing statement, and administrators submitted a letter to WSN’s editor offering a plethora of programs and resources to students affected by antisemitism.

What the university has provided to Asian students in the wake of the recent assaults, on the other hand, has been confined to a few paragraphs in Walker’s emails and has consisted of little more than platitudes about rejecting bias and standing in solidarity.

Instead of these vague measures, Campus Safety officers need to be retrained. They must go through anti-racism education and respond to reports of racist attacks with the appropriate urgency. NYU must be transparent at every step, and recognize racism when it occurs — not wait for weeks while Asian students feel unsafe walking around campus.

NYU’s abysmal handling of this situation reflects a serious disregard for its Asian students. In the future, NYU must act more swiftly to provide a more tangible response for Asian students who feel endangered on their own college campus.

Opinions expressed in the house editorial reflect the views of the Editorial Board, which is composed of the Opinion Editors, the Deputy Opinion Editors and the Editor-in-Chief. The house editorial does not necessarily represent the opinions of WSN or its staff.

Contact the Editorial Board at [email protected].