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: NYU needs to remove the wall at Gould Plaza

The installation of wooden boarding in front of the plaza, which was set up hours after the first Gaza Solidarity Encampment on campus was swept by police, shines a spotlight on NYU’s weak commitments to activism and meeting student demands.
Krish Dev
(Krish Dev for WSN)

NYU claims to be a “campus without walls,” despite actively building barriers — both on campus and between students. Gould Plaza, a shared community space in front of the Stern School of Business, is now walled off by hastily-constructed green plywood boards. This wall was installed hours after a pro-Palestinian encampment at the plaza, where the university called on the New York City Police Department to sweep the area, leading to the arrests of 133 protesters, including students and faculty. 

The university’s actions serve to stifle free speech, and legitimize existing concerns regarding NYU’s investments in companies with ties to Israel. If the administration refuses to allow students to protest what UN experts have referred to as “the risk of genocide in Gaza,” a lack of cooperation and understanding of student and faculty needs are inevitable.

University administration called in authorities due to concerns of student safety and disruption, claims that the NYU Palestine Solidarity Coalition heavily contested in a statement on the group’s Instagram account last week. Another encampment was since set up outside the Paulson Center, having been ongoing for a week so far.

“For months now, we have been asking for conversations about what protest, dissent and freedom of expression look like on campus, and we have been advocating for the reaffirmation of those policies,” Ryan Carney, chair of the Student Government Assembly, said in a statement to WSN. “Instead of having those conversations, we have a green wall surrounding Gould Plaza, showing us where NYU stands on these issues.”

The wall around Gould Plaza is a reminder of NYU’s authority over students to physically dictate terms of engagement and expression. Mya Sato, vice-chair of the Presidents Council, criticized NYU’s apparent disregard for community concerns. 

“For all these university administrative staff and decision-makers, who have years of experience over us, shouldn’t they all be best situated to understand the need for student demonstrations?” Sato said.  

While NYU may champion the right to free speech in theory, or laud student activism in its advertising, its decision to block off entry to the plaza demonstrates where its priorities truly lie. Placing security concerns — that have been disputed by several organizations and departmental chairs — over the voices of its students, the university reveals that it does not engage in serious or honest dialogue. In fact, NYU’s embrace of a “campus without walls” reveals itself as nothing more than empty rhetoric, masking a deeper discomfort to engage student frustrations about our university’s global reach. 

Simply asking whether the administration was right in constructing the wall delegitimizes students’ concerns by refocusing campus discourse. Negotiations with student organizers ring hollow in the face of barriers that stifle student expression in the first place and backtrack on NYU’s rhetoric, which claim to support student activism. If NYU wants to bring students together, they need to start breaking down the barriers on campus, starting with the wall at Gould Plaza.

With a majority of full-time Gallatin faculty in favor of a no-confidence vote of President Linda Mills’ leadership, NYU must quickly address the contradictions inherent in its approach to student expression. If activists, student coalitions and faculty are all calling for the university to change its current attitude regarding student expression, then the administration must listen. For the university to demonstrate a genuine commitment to student activism and preserve a campus without walls, it must dismantle the walls that stifle the voices who are demanding accountability and transparency.

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 Sebastian Cardena at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Krish Dev
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with friends, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.

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