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: The case for renaming the Paulson Center

The building’s namesake, investor John Paulson, has a problematic history that NYU has yet to reckon with.
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Kevin Wu
Paulson Center, located at 181 Mercer Street. (Kevin Wu for WSN)

The Paulson Center has faced no shortage of criticisms, from concerns over its contributions to gentrification and construction delays to worries over water leaks in its residential college. In the end, a lot of students like that the $1.2 billion building includes a variety of amenities, including a dining hall, practice spaces, classrooms and also a residence hall. John Paulson, an alum of the Stern School of Business and a hedge fund manager worth billions, donated $100 million to the project, securing his spot in the elite group of donors with NYU buildings named after them. 

Beneath its shiny glass exterior, however, is a sobering reality: the center bears the name of a man whose behavior runs counter to the moral principles and social duty that academia aspires to uphold. The Paulson Center is one of many examples of universities catering to wealthy donors in an effort to secure financial stability, even when those donors go against what these academic institutions stand for. 

The Paulson Center is not NYU’s only such building, but its prominence on campus and recent establishment make it a great opportunity for the university to change its ways. NYU can change what it means to be the namesake of one of its buildings, and it can start by finding an alternative to John Paulson for one of its newest additions to campus.

The fact that Paulson has been closely associated with former President Donald Trump and actively shaped his economic policy is concerning, not the least because of the many legal battles Trump has recently been involved in. Trump’s aggressive immigration policies, record of xenophobia and racism, and history of sexual misconduct should make him someone the university wants to stay far away from. Paulson’s allegiance to these ideas goes against NYU’s mission of building an inclusive university community.

Paulson’s wealth, much of which came from betting against subprime housing loans ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, being used to fund the university also raises moral questions. By accepting money made as a result of the hardships of millions, NYU is sending the message that it doesn’t care where its funding comes from, so long as it profits as much as possible.

In 2017, when Paulson was on NYU’s Board of Trustees, the Student Labor Action Movement criticized his relationship to Trump during a demonstration, highlighting the student body’s objection to his involvement in university affairs. If students didn’t even want Paulson as a trustee, naming NYU’s largest construction project in years after him seems like blatant disregard for the student body. 

Calling for the Paulson Center to be renamed might be seen by some as an attack on free speech, but the truth is that the ability to demand change and raise moral questions is at the root of free expression. Naming a building after someone suggests support for the person’s beliefs and actions, NYU should consider who it chooses to receive that honor much more closely. 

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].

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About the Contributors
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.
Kevin Wu, Digital Director
Kaiyu (Kevin) Wu is a senior double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and Journalism. He directs everything digital at WSN. You can directly reach him digitally at [email protected].

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