Off-Third: NYU’s 2020 Receipts: $400 Million to Lady Gaga, $2 to Student Health Center and More

NYU has released their 2020 tax returns one year in advance, and we’ve conducted a full review. Here’s what we found.


NYU has released their 2020 tax forms to WSN before filing them. (Staff illustration by Chelsea Li)

Abby Hofstetter, Opinion Editor

Off-Third is WSN’s satire section.

In an unprecedented step toward transparency, NYU has released its 2020 tax returns to WSN before filing them. This comes after WSN published a review of NYU’s 2017 tax returns, previously made available for public viewing.

If NYU had not released its 2020 returns, the document would not have been publicly available until 2022. It is worthwhile to note that the university still has not released its 990 forms from 2018 or 2019; these forms will not be available to the public until 2020 and 2021, respectively, unless NYU decides to release those as well.

For now, the tax returns they’ve released provide one of the only clear views into NYU’s spending habits — especially since the university’s fiscal 2020 budget is not available online yet. We’ve conducted a full review of the form. From $400 million for an NDA signed by Lady Gaga to a $10 million donation from Michael Steinhardt to a $600 million investment in a banana distributor guilty of crimes against humanity, here are the highlights.

Construction and Property

Last April, the university announced that it would be developing a highly selective study away site in Wyoming, and this is reflected in the 990 form — NYU has allocated $1.285 billion to NYoming’s construction, which it says will be ready for students’ arrival in fall 2021. It is unclear why NYoming will cost this much, considering that university spokesperson John Beckman told WSN in April that “due to the extremely low cost of land in Wyoming, [NYU was] able to obtain property roughly 10 times the size of NYU Abu Dhabi without incurring any extra costs to students, beyond the standard annual tuition increase.”

In addition to its new study away site, the tax returns show that NYU will contribute a symbolic $2 to its Student Health Center, which houses both the Counseling and Wellness Services and the Wellness Exchange.

Donations and Investments

$7 million has been demarcated within the tax returns to be split evenly between the seven women who accused billionaire Michael Steinhardt of sexual harassment in March. Steinhardt is both the namesake of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and a member of NYU’s Board of Trustees. An investigation into Steinhardt’s interactions with the NYU community recently discovered that Steinhardt had made several “unacceptable remarks containing offensive language” in the presence of or “in talking to members of the NYU community”; however, an email to the Steinhardt community from Chairman of the Board William Berkley stated that Steinhardt himself had apologized for his actions and the school would not be renamed. When asked whether this money was an attempt at silencing Steinhardt’s accusers, the university declined to comment.

Additionally, the 990 indicates a forthcoming $10 million donation from Steinhardt. This would echo the collective donations that he and his wife, Trustee Judy Steinhardt, made just before the Steinhardt School was named after the billionaire.


A noteworthy and peculiar statement in the tax forms is that NYU has almost $600 million invested in Chiquita Brands International, a Central American banana distributor with a history of multiple crimes against humanity. Why or how the university is funding Chiquita is unclear within the document — it is only clear that large amounts of money are being funneled to the banana distributor.

Additionally, the 990 form notes $400 million to be allocated to performer and former NYU student Lady Gaga’s legal team. Further investigation revealed that Gaga signed a non-disclosure agreement with NYU following her first Grammy wins in 2010. The NDA, which was provided to WSN by Gaga’s lawyers, states that in exchange for $400 million every five years from the university, Gaga won’t publicly divulge her reasons for dropping out of NYU and will state that she left the university to pursue her career. The NDA also has a clause stipulating that NYU is able to use Gaga’s name and likeness for recruitment purposes and list her as an alumna.

Not many current NYU students know much about former President John Sexton, unless they enroll in one of the courses he now teaches on religion. But before being a hugger, a lover of God and a bit profane, Sexton is a sports fan, and this is reflected in the tax returns. $250 million is to be spent on Sexton’s collection of sports memorabilia, which is displayed in his office in the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life. In addition to the $250 million, $45 million has been set aside in a trust fund for Sexton, which is to be used only in the case that a baseball signed by Babe Ruth goes up for auction. The combined funds to be given to Sexton add up to $295 million.

Off-Third is WSN’s satire section. Try not to take us too seriously.

This article is satirical, and all quotes and events are entirely fabricated unless stated otherwise.

Email Abby Hofstetter at [email protected]