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

Opinion: Renaming the Steinhardt school is long overdue

It’s about time the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development changed its name.
Manasa Gudavalli
(Illustration by Manasa Gudavalli)

Michael Steinhardt, the namesake for the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, was found with $70 million worth of antiquities after a four-year investigation in 2021, many of which were stolen from 11 Middle Eastern countries during the Lebanese Civil War — he resigned from the university’s board of trustees just months later. This discovery followed allegations of sexual harassment made against him from several women associated with Jewish organizations, claiming he made “sexual requests” when they were seeking donations from him. Since then, students and faculty have been campaigning for NYU to rename the school and sever its final connection to the billionaire philanthropist, but to no avail

Steinhardt’s insatiable pursuit of personal gain at the expense of global heritage is exemplified by his contempt for both the legality of his activities and the cultural significance of the stolen antiquities. In these dealings, he also cooperated with 12 smuggling networks, paying $150,000 in 2020 for a golden bowl which was taken from Nimrud, where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had been dealing in antique gold and other valuable metal objects. Steinhardt’s illegal activities exacerbated imperialism and caused irreversible harm by taking advantage of wartime turmoil to grow the size of his collection.

The hedge fund billionaire’s past sexual harassment accusations clouds his charitable activities. The New York Times’ 2019 report included several charges of inappropriate behavior and derogatory statements. NYU’s apparent choice to keep Steinhardt’s name in the college following his conduct conveys a troubling, even if inaccurate, message of cooperation and disregard for abuse victims. 

It is immoral to argue that Steinhardt’s financial contributions justify the school’s continued use of his name. A $10 million dollar donation does not redeem Steinhardt’s predatory and culturally destructive actions. The fact that NYU accepted tainted funds damages the university’s reputation and undermines its goal of promoting an open and courteous learning environment. 

NYU’s board of trustees has been pressed for prompt action by faculty members and student organizations in the past. In 2021, a group of more than 20 faculty members from the department removed the name Steinhardt from their email signatures, websites and other forms of public communication in protest of his name’s usage — and the university did not respond with a clear form of action. Around the same time, the school’s undergraduate and graduate student governments campaigned for the department’s renaming. It is NYU’s responsibility to pay closer attention to faculty demands.

The inquiry into Steinhardt’s behavior ought to have spurred a prompt response. The university’s legitimacy and integrity are threatened by the board of trustees’ affiliation with him. If the NYU community also recognizes that there needs to be a change, then NYU needs to step up to make that change. 

An NYU spokesperson did not respond to a request to comment.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Molly Koch at [email protected].

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Molly Koch
Molly Koch, Opinion Editor
Molly Koch is a junior in Gallatin concentrating in journalism as an art form. They’re fascinated by classical literature and its influence on the power of the written word. When they are not writing, you can find them reading their way through their endless TBR, running along the Hudson or Facetiming their dog.
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 (0)

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 *