Disorientation Guide 2016 (New York University)


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Disorientation Guide 2016 (New York University)




New York, NY

extracted text

The guide you’re holding was made by a group of NYU
student activists of varying political perspectives. Our
purpose here is to introduce incoming students to their
new school in a way that cuts against the University’s
Welcome Week programs. We hope to provide you with an
understanding of what NYU is, what it does, and where to
go if you want to change it.
This guide offers a glimpse of some of the buried histories
and casualties of NYU’s policies and actions. We hope
these articles will lead to a discussion about the University
as an institution: its status as the generator of massive
student debt; the ruthless exploitation, labor abuses, and
displacement that undergird its unending expansion in

the Village and around the world (“The Global Network
University”); our Board of Trustees, comprised almost
entirely of businesspeople, lawyers, and real estate
moguls at the expense of students or faculty; the startling
gap between the salary and working conditions of the
graduate students and adjunct faculty that teach your
classes and those at the top of Bobst who rake in the
cash; and how NYU policy reinforces existing racial and
sexual hierarchies. Despite the diversity of its content,
the guide has a few broad themes: NYU functioning as
a multinational corporation that operates at a distance
from those affected by its decisions, the unsustainable
and ballooning debt crisis that NYU board members profit
from, and the on-campus movements working to confront
these intersecting trends.
We seek to defamiliarize NYU by exposing the power
structures that regulate and define student life and
“legitimate” political discourse. We wish to break the
hackneyed cliches that the University feeds incoming
students during Welcome Week; to show you that despite
a rhetoric of “liberal education,” “personal development,”
and “academic freedom,” NYU is more concerned with
the interests of profit and business than its students.
We’ve developed this guide to challenge the prevailing
view of the University as a haven of liberal, educational
goodness. Due to restrictions of time and space, many
things have been left out. This guide is not a summative
statement on NYU student politics. We just hope to get
the conversation started.
If you’re interested in what you read, please get in touch.
Hit us up at nyudisorient@gmail.com, find us online at
nyudisorient.wordpress.com, or find any of the radical
clubs at Club Fest. We look forward to meeting and
working with you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
c o n t e n t s
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~



Meet the Board of Trustees


NYU, Gentrification, and
the Cost of Prestige


Birthright and the
Destruction of Palestine


Neo-Colonial Adventures in
the Global Network
Campus Sex, Campus Rape



Dimensions of the Debt


Race and Student Debt
How to Appeal for More
Financial Aid
Understanding Student



Resisting Mass
Incarceration and


Graduate Workers and


Fossil Fuel Divestment for
Climate Justice


Who to see? Where to go?


Under the
corporate model,
profit motive
drives incessant
expansion with
no mercy for the
destroyed or
people exploited.
have reached
an important
milestone: the
sun never sets
on the NYU



Meet the Board of Trustees
What is the Board of Trustees?
Whom does it Serve?

The Board of Trustees is NYU’s governing body. It’s
responsible for determining NYU’s purpose, reviewing
existing programs, and selecting NYU’s president. The
extent to which the Board of Trustees controls the

University is striking. As NYU itself notes: “the President
and Chancellor are appointed by and serves at the pleasure
of the Board.”[1] What this means is that all matters of
University governance ultimately end with the desires of
the Board of Trustees. The way our school is run, and hence
student life, is subject to their whims. Students, faculty,
and alumni have no say in who serves on the Board. In
fact, the only people who have any say are Board members
themselves.[2] Thus, the Board is free to protect its own
interests and to further its own projects at the expense of
students, faculty, and workers with no consequences or
oversight. As this guide seeks to illustrate, this is exactly
what the Board does.

What are the Interests of NYU’s Board of
The NYU Board of Trustees’ chief interest is furthering and
protecting the interests of individual members. So who
are the members and what are their interests? Since the
NYU Board of Trustees is around seventy people strongit resembles the governing body of a major corporation
more than that of a university--we cannot detail every
single member’s background and interests here. Just
know that nearly all of these men and women have
backgrounds in speculative real estate, Wall Street, and/
or international business, perhaps explaining why NYU
may be more accurately described as an international real
estate development firm with an expensive and promising
educational wing, than as a university. There is a total
disconnect between Board members and anyone you will
ever come into contact with as a student. Until last year’s
meeting with NYU Divest from Fossil Fuels, the Board had
somehow never met with students in its 68 year history.
Even if the Board cared about student and faculty interests



and concerns, they wouldn’t even know what they are.
The governing body of our school is composed of men
and women who are looking to profit, often in incredibly
exploitative and racist ways. What’s more, they have the
power and legal know-how to do this. They are intimately
connected to and ultimately responsible for the injustices
discussed in this guide and ones beyond its scope. For many
of members of the Board, their presence alone is a flagrant
conflict of interest. Here are a few examples:

William R. Berkley
Berkeley is the Chairman of the Board. He has been on the
Board since 1995. He is the 29th best-compensated CEO in

the world according to Forbes magazine. Millions of dollars
in Berkley’s fortune come from his involvement with First
Marblehead Corporation, where he served on the Board
of Directors from 1995-2007. First Marblehead is a private
student loan firm. In 2007, the interest rate on a Marblehead
loan was 11 %, while the rate on a federal loan was 6.8 %.[3]
It’s evident that First Marblehead has a vested interest
in universities raising their tuition to unpayable levels,
and that Berkley profited off this while on the NYU board
of trustees. He literally made millions by impoverishing
students and plunging them into extreme debt. He is now
one of powerful people in the NYU administrative hierarchy.

Khaldoon Al-Mubarak
Aside from being the Chairman of the Executive Affairs
Authority, Al-Mubarak is also the CEO of Mubadala and
the chairman of Manchester City Football Club. This
Mubadala corporation was one of the main firms responsible
for the construction of NYU Abu Dhabi, and was one of



the companies exempt from NYU’s commitment to labor
conditions that are safe and livable. Pretty fucking fishy
that a Board member’s corporation was contracted to build
NYU Abu Dhabi and then that his company was exempt
from NYU’s commitment to labor protections. The decision
to add Al-Mubarak to NYU’s board coincides exactly with
the University’s announcement that it would open a portal
campus in Abu Dhabi.[4]

Catherine Reynolds
Another lover of indebted students, Catherine Reynolds
splits her time between being an NYU trustee and the
Chairman of EduCap, a private not-for-profit student loan
firm. Despite its non-profit status, EduCap has issued loans
at interest rates substantially higher than those of for-profit


lending companies. So there may be no “profit,” but there is
enough money lying around EduCap for Reynolds to buy a
private airplane and donate 38 million to the Smithsonian?

Daniel Tisch
Daniel Tisch is heir to the enormous Tisch family fortune
(Forbes estimates this to be around 1.2 billion dollars).
This fortune was made primarily from the Lorillard
Tobacco Company. Lorillard is the parent company of
Newport Cigarettes, whose claim to fame is aggressively



marketing menthol cigarettes to black Americans. Much of
the Tisch family’s money was made from getting as many
Black Americans addicted to the most harmful form of
cigarette tobacco. Their overwhelming presence at NYU is
a consistent reminder of the violent racism that our school
was built on, and on which it continues to operate.
“University Officers,” NYU Faculty Handbook, 2016, Web.
[3] Ryan McNamara, “Future Head of NYU Board of Trustees Made Millions of
Student Loans,” NYU Local, Sep. 8, 2014, Web.
[4] Danielle Tcholakian, “NYU Students Want Info on Trustee’s Role in
Controversial Abu Dhabi Campus,” DNAinfo, May 8, 2015, Web.




NYU, Gentrification, and the
Cost of Prestige
Bulldozing the Village

While NYU speaks proudly and confidently of its nearly
200-year tenure in downtown Manhattan’s Greenwich
Village, it is not a neutral actor within New York City’s urban
landscape. NYU’s program of ruthless expansion has and will
continue to displace longtime, working-class residents.
As an incoming NYU student in 2016, you are entering a
metropolis at a crossroads. An affordable housing crisis is
plaguing the city—a crisis that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
made a central component of his campaign and mayoralty.
Pledging to solve the crisis, de Blasio has codified his plans
through the wildly ambitious and hotly contested 2014
housing agenda titled Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten
Year Plan. [1]
The lack of affordable housing and rising rents has led to a
process known as gentrification, a word that seems to be on
the lips of most New Yorkers these days. The term, coined
by British sociologist Ruth Glass in 1964, is defined as “the
process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx


of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas
that often displaces poorer residents.” [2] Synonymous with
gentrification is the process of cultural transformation,
wherein the character of a neighborhood is altered in favor
of its newer, more educated, and wealthier inhabitants. This
change in character is often contingent on and enforced by
an increased police presence and arrest rate in the area—one
of the more disturbing components of the process.
Gentrification in New York can be attributed to a variety of
factors including the city’s sheer desirability and the general
trend of wealthy folks migrating and “returning” to cities in
the past decade. [3] With these factors in mind, it is crucial
to understand how NYU accelerates and profits from the
process of gentrification, particularly within the surrounding
neighborhoods of the East Village and the Lower East Side.



A prominent example of NYU’s effect on the real estate
and culture of its vicinity is the utter transformation of
the portion of the East Village known as Alphabet City,
bordered by Avenue A to the west and Avenue D to the east,
14th Street to the north and Houston Street to the south.
Colloquially referred to as “Loisaida” by its predominantly
lower-income Latinx/Nuyorican residents of the 1970s, the
area has seen a rapid increase in real estate prices over three
decades, as well as a change in its demographics and street
An undeniable cause and catalyst of this urban sea change
was the influx of NYU students to the area in the 1990s and
early 2000s as NYU transformed from a mainly commuter
school into a massive, prestigious university. With the
influx of wealthier students, developers began residentially
converting many of Alphabet City’s warehouse buildings
and refurbishing its tenements and subquality apartment
buildings in the hopes of attracting relatively affluent NYU
students—and, in turn, converting the formerly workingclass neighborhood into a whiter, wealthier middle-class
one. [4]
NYU students, typically eager to move to off-campus
apartments in their junior and senior years, are often firsttime lease signers and are therefore naive to the ins-andouts of the rental market. This, along with the East Village’s
transformation over the last 40 years, allowed landlords to
prey on the ignorance of young renters and increase prices
for new tenants by 20% each school year (which is legal, as
most of the East Village’s buildings fall under the city’s rent
regulation laws). [5]
Prices of East Village co-ops and condo units quadrupled
between 1996 and 2000, and between 2000 and 2012, East
Village rents increased 42%, with the median household

income spiking from $37,000 to $62,000 a year. [6] Jack
Bick of Charaton Realty, along with other local real estate
brokers, openly attribute these price increases and the surge
in desirability of the neighborhood to young professionals
and the influx of New York University students to the area. [7]
Further demographic research shows that between 2000
and 2012, Alphabet City lost over 1,000 Hispanic and black
residents while gaining about 4,000 new white residents and
2,000 new Asian residents. [8] It is estimated that whites now
make up 67% of the once primarily Latin neighborhood’s
population. [9] This process of displacement is the underside
to NYU’s rise in college rankings and prestige; a history
often buried in the official histories and stories NYU tells
about itself.
When discussing the way in which NYU has altered the
surrounding neighborhood’s racial and socioeconomic
character, it is crucial to acknowledge the complex backdrop
of civic racism and mass incarceration upon which the
university’s expansion has occurred.
Beginning in 1994, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his NYPD
Commissioner William Bratton put the “Broken Windows”
theory into practice, in which laws against small, nonviolent quality-of-life crimes such as graffiti, public
intoxication, and subway fare dodging were more strictly
enforced. [10] In the NYPD’s attempt to “get tough on crime”
in the supposedly “unmanageable city,” misdemeanor
arrests increased 70% in New York City during the 90s, while
more serious felony arrests—resulting in incarceration—
increased an astounding 50% to 70%. [11]
While NYU is not necessarily to blame for the aggressive



and classist policies of its home city’s police department, it
is undeniable that, when observing NYU’s expansion into
Union Square in the 90s and subsequent growth (in property,
prestige, tuition, and admission rates) in the 2000s, the
university has a vested interest in the Village’s reputation
as a “safe” and well-policed area. This attitude seeps into
the university’s real estate acquisitions, wherein more and
more of the area surrounding NYU’s Washington Square
hub is purchased by the university, all in the interest of
protecting its supposedly vulnerable student population
from the dangers of New York City, with a moat of University
property and Campus Police patrolled-streets. We must
remember that our education and transformation into “elite
citizen(s)” (a term taken directly from the “About” page of
NYU’s College of Arts and Sciences)[12] takes place against
a background of the criminalization and displacement of a
whole other urban population. “In and of the city,” indeed.
Aside from hard numerical statistics, it is inarguable
that NYU has radically and somewhat carelessly altered
the physical layout, scale, and feel of its surrounding
neighborhoods—a less discussed but extremely important
aspect of gentrification.
There are countless instances in which NYU has
transgressed the physical and cultural history of Greenwich
Village and the Lower East Side. What follows is an
(extremely) abridged list of these activities:


Together with the Mayor’s Committee on Slum
Clearance, polarizing New York City planning icon
(and part-time NYU professor) Robert Moses acquired
and destroyed vast swathes of factories and tenements
south of Washington Square Park in the 1950s,




displacing thousands of working class residents in the
process.[13] With the newly gained land, he designated
the area into three “superblocks” and constructed the
sleek, three-building University Village Complex. Two
of the three buildings were eventually gifted to NYU
and used for faculty housing.[14]


In 2010, the University announced a plan to build a
38-story, 270,000 square foot tower intended for use
as both faculty housing and as a hotel for NYU visitors
in the University Village complex.[15] Aside from
horrifying longtime Village residents and Community
Board members, the tower would be the tallest
building in Greenwich Village, requiring immense
and widely unpopular zoning changes to facilitate the
neighborhood’s transformation into a Midtown


In 2005, NYU acquired St. Ann’s, a historic Roman
Catholic parish on East 12th Street between Third
and Fourth Avenues, and announced plans to develop
a 26-story dormitory building on the site. [16] Amid
pleas by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic
Preservation not to demolish the structure, the
university made the condescending concession of
allowing the church’s façade—entirely hollowed out—
to stand in the foreground of the towering dormitory,
Founder’s Hall. [17]


NYU 2031, a far-reaching, multi-billion dollar expansion
plan centered on the South Village, will make the
neighborhood unrecognizable, while turning it into a
construction zone for the next two decades. The plan,
as the CAS Economics Department points out, will be
financed by a “combination of higher tuition rates,
a larger student body, lower teacher-student ratios,

fewer tenure-eligible faculty, reductions in real faculty
salaries over time, and smaller benefits.” [18]
While NYU administrators may speak of the school’s
“locational endowment,” [19] it is of the utmost importance
to acknowledge the ongoing hostility between the university
and its surrounding community. With a record of flooding
the once-working class area with affluent and transient
students, purchasing large swathes of Greenwich Village
real estate for use by pupils and faculty only, consistently
attempting to defy zoning ordinances to build taller
buildings, and indirectly profiting from larger systems of
oppression such as mass incarceration and racist policing,
NYU has established itself as a powerful gentrifying force.
If you are interested in anti-gentrification movements there are
some listed in the back.
Bill DeBlasio. The City of New York, Office of the Mayor. Housing New York:
A Five-Borough, Ten Year Plan. New York: Print.
[2] “Gentrification” Definition.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web.
10 Aug. 2016.
[3] Richard Florida, “How and Why American Cities Are Coming Back.”
CityLab. 17 May 2012. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
[4] Nadine Brozan “The New A B C D’s of Alphabet City.” The New York Times.
The New York Times, 24 Dec. 2000. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
[5] Maggie Garb “If You’re Thinking of Living In/The East Village; From Mean
Streets to Cutting-Edge.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Dec.
2000. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Rebecca Fishbein “East Village & LES Now Mostly Just Douchey Drunks,
Study Confirms.” Gothamist. N.p., 6 June 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
[9] Ibid.



[11] David R. Francis, “What Reduced Crime in New York City.” The National
Bureau of Economic Research. Web.
[12] “About CAS, College of Arts and Science | NYU.” About CAS, College of
Arts and Science | NYU. Web. 26 Aug. 2016.
[13] Meghan White. “Shedding Light On the Church That Was Razed By NYU.”
Bedford Bowery. 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
[14] Ibid.
[15] FAS Department of Economics public statement on NYU 2031. Viewable at
[16] Charlie Eisenhood “The John Sexton Interview - NYU Local.” NYU Local.
N.p., 09 Feb. 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.




Birthright and the
Destruction of Palestine
Welcome to Israel!

Welcome to NYU! The next few weeks are going to be filled
with many exciting opportunities to join several kinds of
groups: academic, entertainment, activist, and volunteer.
You’ll receive many flyers, some you wanted and others that
were handed to you amidst the chaos of Welcome Week.
One table you’ll most definitely encounter, not only this
week, but throughout your time at NYU, will be decorated
with signs advertising “Free Trips to Israel,” or asking you to
“Join Taglit-Birthright.” While exclusive to Jewish students
and marked as an all-expenses-paid vacation that allows
students to connect with their heritage, this “vacation” is
pure propaganda.
In an effort to remain a purely “cultural trip,” TaglitBirthright will present itself with a sanitized image of a
depoliticized Israel devoid of conflict, something we all
know to be quite untrue. The trip will never present you
with the cities in the West Bank or Gaza living under brutal
military occupation and siege. It will not explain to you
that the millions of refugees created by Israel are not able
to claim this “birthright,” despite the generations of their
family members who lived or live in Israel-Palestine. TaglitBirthright will conveniently leave out the fact that the

West Bank has been under military occupation since 1967,
something that is not disputed by any nation in the world.
Well, except for Israel, that is. The tables around campus
won’t include information about Israel’s siege on the Gaza
strip, where Israel controls the airspace and waterways, as
well as the movement of anything that enters or leaves, be it
food, construction materials or people. These human rights
abuses have even affected some of your fellow students who
have attempted to study at NYU through the Pathways to
Peace program. Unfortunately, many have either missed the
program entirely, been unable to even interview for it, or
have had to join late because Israel restricted their travel.
Additionally, some of your fellow students have been denied
entry to Israel-Palestine at the hands of Israeli security,
which controls all borders.
As NYU students you should be critical of the Birthright
advertisements you will repeatedly encounter on campus.
For those of you who are American, understand that our
government sends nearly four billion dollars a year to the
Israeli army (the IDF), which maintains domination over
Palestinians by denying them basic human rights and
overseeing the destruction of Palestinian cities, towns and
villages. Israel has a defense budget of 16 billion dollars and
is the only nation in the Middle East that possesses nuclear
capabilities. But again, you will not see these facts on the
Taglit-Birthright tables. Understand that not all Jewish
people support Israel and that criticizing Israeli policies is
not in itself anti-Semitic. There are several organizations,
such as Jewish Voices for Peace, that oppose Israel’s human
rights violations. The trip, however, will make no mention of
such groups.
Nor will you hear of the plight of Israeli citizens who are
themselves Palestinian. Comprising nearly twenty percent
of the Israeli population, they are legally and systematically



discriminated against simply because they are not Jewish.
The Citizenship and Entry Law enacted in 2003, for instance,
denies citizenship to Palestinians who reside in the West
Bank or Gaza, and who marry Israelis. Compare this with the
fact that any Jewish person in the world can claim Israeli
Palestinians living in occupied territory are at least as
threatened by Israeli settlement and demolition as their
non-Jewish Israeli-citizen counterparts. According to Israeli
human rights organization B’Tselem, the past decade has
seen the demolition of at least 1,113 Palestinian homes
in the West Bank, leaving 5,199 people, including at least
2,602 minors, homeless as a result. [1] Despite consistent

intentional pressure and being in constant violation of
Article 54 of the Geneva Convention (which prohibits the
destruction of “objects indispensable to the survival of the
civilian population”) [2], Israel has only increased its program
of mass destruction and displacement in recent months;
more Palestinian homes were demolished in the first half of
2016 than in all of 2015. [3]

A Jewish NYU student who has never been
to Israel, regardless of their nationality, can
board a flight from JFK to Ben Gurion Airport in
Tel Aviv without a visa, pass through security,
and arrive at a hostel in Tel Aviv in less than



a day. A Palestinian who was born in Israel
and subsequently exiled cannot return to
Israel without first acquiring the citizenship
of another country—an extremely difficult
process—and even then may not be let in.
If a Jewish person wants to move to Israel,
they face very few barriers. In fact, the Israeli
government will actively aid them in their
efforts. Yet it is impossible for any Palestinian
to permanently return to their home or their
family’s home in Israel proper.
These facts have not been pointed out to guilt or depress
you if you’ve ever thought Birthright looked interesting,
but did not understand its purpose. They are to show you
that this seemingly harmless, all-expenses-paid vacation
is actually a tool funded by the Israeli government to
legitimize and obscure the displacement of Palestinians,
and the removal of the “demographic threat” that they are
deemed to pose. As an NYU student, you will encounter
these ads more frequently than others. After all, our very
own Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman co-founded
Taglit-Birthright with the hope of facilitating greater Jewish
settlement of Israel-Palestine.
There are ways to visit Israel-Palestine that give
accurate accounts of life there that are not funded by the
government. In addition, you can also check out some of
the activist organizations on campus, such as Students for
Justice in Palestine (SJP). A group of students from diverse
backgrounds (including Palestinian and Jewish), SJP believes
in equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis. We meet weekly
in the Kimmel Center, and hold events throughout the year.
Look out for us at Club Fest or on the OrgSync website!


Birthright is a propaganda trip designed to obscure the
destruction of Palestinian homes, lives, history, and culture,
with images of smiling kids having the vacation of their
lives. There are ways to responsibly and justly travel to
and learn about the region; Birthright is not one of them.
To go on one of their “vacations” is to be complicit in the
occupation, destruction, and colonization of Palestine.
That NYU sponsors an official Birthright trip, and bears the
names of the founders of Taglit-Birthright in its institutional
structure, and operates a portal campus in Tel-Aviv is
testament to its own complicity in this violence.
“Israel demolished more Palestinian homes in West Bank in first half of 2016
than in all of 2016,” B’Tselem, Jul. 27, 2016, Web.
[2] “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and
relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol
I)” International Committee of the Red Cross, Jun. 8, 1977, Web.
[3] “Israel…”



Neo-Colonial Adventures in
the Global Network
Indentured in the Desert

In May 2015, in a cavernous, state-of-the-art building,
NYU Abu Dhabi’s inaugural graduating class celebrated.
The ceremony was joyous, featuring more pomp, regalia,
and applause than the typical university commencement.
Speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of NYU’s degreegranting portal campus in the oil-rich absolute monarchy.
A slick promotional video featured students praising NYU
Abu Dhabi for “exporting hope and exporting future…
and stand[ing] for investing in people and investing in
a generation,” and breathless, tearful lamentations that
their four years in an educational paradise with the Future
Leaders Of The World were over.
Of course, the elephant in the room went unmentioned.
Just a month before, the international investigation firm
Nardello and Co. had published an NYU-commissioned
report detailing widespread labor abuses during the
construction of NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus. The report
confirmed labor violations previously reported in The New
York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Human Rights
Watch, VICE, and other outlets.

The 72-page report details several abuses: NYU’s failure to
reimburse recruitment fees for any of the 30,000 migrant
workers who built NYU Abu Dhabi; the deportation
of 250 striking workers in 2013; and, worst of all, an
institutionalized policy allowing exemptions to certain
subcontractors from all of NYU’s (already sub-par) labor
protections. These exceptions resulted in over 10,000
workers facing conditions which amounted to little more
than indentured servitude: poverty wages that required
migrant laborers to work for upwards of a year to repay
devious recruiters who coerced them with promises
of much higher wages, employers seizing and holding
passports (a practice universally condemned by human
rights organizations), 12-hour workdays in 110 degree
heat; and overcrowded residences in work camps without
transportation to leave, apart from going to work at
NYU Abu Dhabi. These are men who left penury in their
respective home countries in search of something better and
were instead met with repression and exploitation.
Consider the living conditions of 27 workers employed as
painters at NYU Abu Dhabi:

All 27 men were living in a two-room
apartment in Abu Dhabi city. Insects were
crawling around the kitchen, and there were
exposed electrical wires wrapped around
a showerhead. Some of the men slept on
makeshift beds on the floor underneath bunk
beds, and there was a hole punched in the fire
escape door, which was locked. [1]
Or consider how Abu Dhabi police abused alleged strikers
and labor organizers:



"It was the first time in my adult life that I
cried, because I was so scared," said Matur
Rehman, an NYU Abu Dhabi worker deported
back to Bangladesh. "One police officer was
shouting, ‘Are you a strike leader? Are you a
strike leader?’ And the other one beat me with
his shoe and slapped me on the neck. I was
crying and begging him to stop."
Another striker recalled being slapped on
the face at the prison because he didn’t look
straight ahead during an iris scan used to
ensure he never returns to the UAE.
About 40 men had no change of clothes for
at least nine days while they were held in
Dubai central prison. They were not allowed to
exercise, mix with other prisoners or use the
prison mosque. [2]
It is not surprising that police arrested and jailed the
workers; striking is illegal in Abu Dhabi. So is identifying as
gay. Israeli citizens are banned from entering the country.
Unionizing is illegal and there is no minimum wage. One
can be imprisoned for “insulting” the government. The
Emirates are run by a monarchy without even the pretense
of democracy. While former President John Sexton may
label these policies “a cultural context that is very different
from our own…in my mind…a good thing,” there are blatant
injustices endemic to the “cultural context.” [3]




NYU Abu Dhabi is built on top of a metaphoric graveyard.
The university’s website touts its construction in the passive
voice, giving the impression that the glistening facilities
sprouted from the ground. Official histories and promotional
materials have nothing to say of the migrant workers who
sweated, died, lived in indentured servitude, were beaten
and arrested by police, and eventually deported.
NYU’s alliance with The United Arab Emirates reveals
how uninterested NYU is in ethical treatment of workers,
people, or academic freedom. Who could have foreseen a
conflict between NYU’s ostensibly liberal, educational values
and a ruthless, autocratic state that criminalizes worker
protections? Is anyone really surprised at the massive abuse
NYU has participated in and profited from, or that an NYU
professor has been barred from entering Abu Dhabi? [4]
Above all else, NYU is concerned with expansion and its
concomitant business, profit, and executive bonuses. NYU
administrators are more eager to sell its brand and a veneer
of progressiveness to oligarchic, reactionary states than any
other university in the world: truly the best Global Network
University in the business.
In an email following the release of Nardello and Co.’s
report, former president John Sexton promised limited
restitution measures, including the creation of a research
project into the exploitative labor recruitment system NYU
relied on to build its campus and to provide back pay to the
at least 10,000 workers excluded from NYU’s $217 minimum
monthly rate. The deported strikers are unmentioned and
the administration has not provided any updates as to the
progress of its restitution measures over a year later.
These promises are wholly inadequate. The administration

has time and again demonstrated its lack of concern for
anyone harmed by its never-ending expansion. A promise
of minor restitution measures to be executed by the same
group of people who looked the other way while at least
10,000 workers were ruthlessly exploited and abused is far
from compelling. A good start would be to follow Professor
Andrew Ross’s advice: “If liberal cultural and educational
institutions are to operate with any integrity in that
environment, they must insist on a change of the rules:
abolish the recruitment debt system, pay a living wage, allow
workers to change employers at will and legalize the right to
collective bargaining.” [5]
NYU’s labor abuses in the Gulf point to some of the more
pernicious aspects of the greater ideology underpinning
the university’s Global Network project. Though Sexton—
the project’s chief architect and strongest advocate—
may claim that NYU’s global ambitions play no role in
“perpetuating or compounding old patterns of dominance
and subordination,” [6] it is vital to note, as the Abu Dhabi
scandal makes clear, that NYU is not a neutral actor on the
international scene. As various critical scholars have pointed
out, the rhetoric of education and enlightenment has often
accompanied Western excursions into the greater world,
playing a vital role in the establishment of a complex and
extensive set of unequal power relations.
Such relations are particularly evident in the University’s
operations within the global South. Campus brochures
portray our study-abroad sites in Accra, Buenos Aires and
Tel-Aviv as beacons of liberalism within their respective
regions, devoid of the political and economic instability
that plagues other non-Western climes. Yet the tree-lined
streets that house our Academic Centers in the upper-



class neighborhoods of Labone, Recoleta or the Old North
mask the segregative, calculated cycle of global and local
inequality that ghettoizes the invisibilized masses of the
urban poor in these cities. As students, we are inundated by
talk of global citizenry and the importance of international
education in the crafting of a more socially just order. But
we have to ask: to whom do the educational benefits of our
“unparalleled cultural and intellectual experiences” accrue?
Besides the issue of international power and inequality,
the profit motive undergirding NYU’s global project has to
be addressed. The university charges us the same tuition
overseas as it does on the Square, despite the fact that the
real cost of studying abroad is substantially lower, due to
differences in living expenses (in almost every case) and
the lower wage bill abroad (since almost all lecturers are
adjuncts with meager salaries and work security). The
Global Network University can also be read as a strategy
that siphons off students abroad as a means of increasing
total enrollment on the Square and in the university at large.
For every freshman sent abroad with the Liberal Studies
program, the university is able to admit another student on
the Square, bringing in an additional $49k or so in tuition.
Add to all of this the aggressive marketing that accompanies
these programs, and we have yet another instance of NYU’s
profit-driven, corporate governance, invested as it is in
a status quo of racialized global inequality and unabated
If you go to NYU Abu Dhabi, you will see an educational
paradise of personal development, incubating the Future
Leaders Of The World. You will see the buildings glittering
in sunlight, world-class professors and students, and a
cornerstone of a cultural utopia soon to be joined by the

Louvre and Guggenheim. But NYU did not build NYU Abu
Dhabi, the coerced and indentured workers did. They built
the campus locked in overwhelming debt, working 12-hour
shifts in temperatures over 100 degrees, with their passports
locked away, and often living in dangerous conditions. You
will not see their names engraved on donor lists, in front
of esteemed professorships, or on the doors of beautiful
seminar rooms. You will not hear them at graduation.

“Migrant Workers’ Rights on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates
2015 Progress Report.” Human Rights Watch, Feb. 10, 2015, Web.
[2] Molly Crabapple, “Slaves of Happiness Island,” VICE, Aug, 4 2014, Web.
[3] John Sexton, “NYU Commute To Get Better If You’re In Abu Dhabi,” NPR,
Aug. 16, 2009, Web.
[4] Stephanie Saul, “N.Y.U Professor Is Barred by United Arab Emirates.” The
New York Times, Mar. 16 2015. Web.
[5] Andrew Ross, “High Culture and Hard Labor,” The New York Times, Mar. 28,
2014. Web.
[6] John Sexton, “Global Network University Reflection” New York University,
Dec. 21, 2010, Web.



Campus Sex, Campus Rape

With the new school year come new students who are
unaware of the risk they present to the university. Bringing
thousands of young people into a space together, many
who will be taking care of themselves for the first time,
undoubtedly forces NYU to consider the safety and security
of their student body. However, for the corporate university,
and in the neoliberal age of “risk management,” this support
does not come from a place of love and care, but instead
from a fear of the university being accused of violating laws
and/or social order—both of which make the university
vulnerable to fines, lawsuits, and a poor public image. In
the eyes of the corporate university, the student is not a
person to be cared for, but instead a risk to be managed and
a body to be policed into compliance. In the very institution
that claims to be space to learn, explore, take risks, and
develop understanding, the exact opposite happens. Larger
administrative units are built and disciplinary apparatuses
balloon as the university seeks to protect itself from the
“risk” students present to it.
How did we become “risks” to NYU? One well-known piece
of legislation that opens up universities to liability for

failing its students is Title IX. Title IX is an amendment
to the Higher Education Act (HEA) passed in 1972. It is an
anti-discrimination law designed to eliminate sex/gender
discrimination in education and hold schools accountable
for failing to do so. It states that “Title IX states that “No
person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be
excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or
be subjected to discrimination under any education program
or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX
has forced schools to confront gender discrimination in its
athletic programs and has come to govern sexual assault
and rape cases at universities. Because sexual assault is a
gendered form of violence, school’s have an obligation to
work towards a rape and harassment-free community.
Remaining compliant with Title IX becomes the task
at hand for many administrators, and a major goal of
campus security. While offering an important set of tools
to feminists activists, Title IX has become detrimental
because of how administrations manage and think about
reports. For administrators tasked with ensuring a school’s
compliance, sexual possibility is a site marked by risk. It
must be managed and the campus must be secured from
“outsiders” who, in administrative imaginations, increase
the chance of Title IX violations and making it noncompliant. Title IX and imaginations of sexual danger are
often cited as reasons for expanding universities’ private
police forces and excluding certain people (see “Resisting
Mass Incarceration and Criminalization” and “NYU,
Gentrification, and the Cost of Prestige” in this guide). For
administrators, Title IX becomes authorization to police,
surveill, and exclude certain populations that appear “out of
place” on the campus—to manage “risk”— rather than a tool
to protect and promote the sexual well-being of its students.
Perhaps this is why what victims need and what universities
understand their obligations to be are not the same. The
university is concerned with finding if the assault likely



happened, and, if so, if the university is liable for the assault
happening. Victims often just want support while recovering
and to be free from the threat of harm.
To remain in compliance, the university seeks to deter
reporting. It makes reporting a nightmare. It does everything
it can to find reports to be false. It retaliates against those
who report and threaten the university’s compliance. In the
eyes of the administration, there was not a problem until
the report was filed. If the student was not already harmed
enough by the event that prompted them to report, the
corporate university will see that they’re severely violated.
If you were not sufficiently harassed, the administration
will be sure to harass you. When considering whether or
not to report an assault and/or Title IX violation to the
administration, know that you will be punished by NYU for
threatening its status of compliance. You will be doubted
and interrogated again and again. Your character will be
questioned. After all, NYU gave you online trainings, a
private security force, a safe ride service, orientations,
definitions of consent, lectures, and excluded threatening
“outsiders” from campus. You will be subjected to violence
because it was your fault.
Often, the campus administration works in hand with
campus activists to advocate “better” policies around rape.
Some argue for more severe punishments for rapists, others
line the bathroom stalls with definitions of “rape” and
“consent,” and collectively the students and administration
create the dichotomy of civil, consensual sexual activity on
one side and rape on the other. University campuses see
rape as exceptional and attempt to “isolate its unacceptable
features, and remove its cancer from the otherwise healthy
body of sexuality.[1]

This dichotomy is flawed. It casts rape as wholly apart from
the otherwise healthy campus sex life. But rape is not rare;
it is a regular occurrence. On college campuses nationally, 1
in 5 cis women will be raped or face attempted rape within
their four years on campus. The rapist is not the stranger in
the alley, but more often than not, the rapist is someone the
victim knows.
Knowing this, we must reconsider how we think about
sex and rape. Michel Foucault describes sex as “an
especially dense transfer point for relations of power.”[2]
In understanding sex in this way, it’s easier to see rape not
solely as forced penetration, but as one wielding immense
power over another. The process of coercion and the
structural position of silence are just as much a part of rape
as the moment of assault. Our patriarchal structures see
that there’s “nothing to ‘consent’ to that isn’t on the terms
of male power.”[3] This reality makes sex difficult to navigate
because rape, as a tool of the patriarchy, becomes implicated
in all forms of sex.
We’re also forgetting that few of us, especially when we
enter college, possess the sort of “sexual-wisdom” through
which we can know what we want, don’t want, or even what
we’re saying yes to. Jennifer Doyle describes this well in
her book Campus Sex, Campus Security: “Students seek out
this understanding of sexual practice, they seek it out in
community, from each other. But they have no idea, really,
what they are doing—they are, after all, learning.”[4]
We find ourselves driven by desire—straddling a thin line
between fear and excitement. Sex puts us in vulnerable
positions, it makes us feel exposed, and opens us up to risks.
But it’s that same gray area which makes sex great and/or
harmful, pleasurable and/or tragic. Do we want sex without
risk? Without vulnerability? There does not seem to be



space for this gray area of sex in the current “no no no no
no” vs. “yes yes yes yes yes” framing of consent. Obviously,
the shift from needing to hear “no” to needing to hear “yes”
is an improvement, but what exactly is one saying “yes” to?
Within current framings of the discussion around campus
sex, consent, and rape, there is neither room nor vocabulary
for this gray area.
We are part of communities where we constantly fail each
other. We know that sex is messy and that rape will happen.
Yet, the rapist—our fellow student—states that he asked
for consent. He did his online trainings and learned how to
stay out of trouble. He did everything he could to see that
the campus remain compliant. He is less concerned about
the well-being of the accuser than his image, his future. The
administration, engaged in the fantasy that it can legislate
rape away with the correct rulebook—that the “risk”
presented by the student body’s sexuality can be correctly
managed—agrees. The rapist disregards the community, and
luckily for him, the administration does too.
Vulnerability overcomes the campus. Instead of encouraging
men to “explore the contours of their own sexual happiness
and the workings of their bodies,” men are taught how to
not be rapists, or rather, how to stay out of trouble; how to
avoid potentially making the university non-compliant.[5]
Women are taught to live in fear, that each “risk” they take—
each attempt to be open, trusting, curious, vulnerable—is
their own mistake. With an “I told you so” rhetoric, the
administration deters reports, retaliates against those
who do report, encourages them to keep quiet. In the end,
the campus has quashed “whatever glimmer of possibility
one might have felt around desire, openness, and the
possibilities of sexual generosity.”[5]

C.E. “Undoing Sex: Against Sexual Optimism,” LIES: A Journal of Materialist
Feminism (2012): 15-43, 36.
[2] Foucault, Michel. The History Sexuality: Volume 1: An Introduction,
Pantheon Books: New York (1978).103.
[3] C.E., 36.
[4] Jennifer Doyle, Campus Sex, Campus Security, Semiotext(e), 2015, Print,
Intervention Ser., (Book 19), 36.
[5] Doyle, 65.
[6] Doyle, 52.




Dimensions of the Debt

Finding solutions to the student debt crisis has to become
the number one priority for American universities. The total
national student loan debt now exceeds $1.3 trillion. [1] The
average graduate of the class of 2015 was $35,000 in debt. [2]
The situation is especially grim at NYU. Last year’s
graduating class was one of the most indebted in the
country. [3] Every year tuition goes up faster than inflation
and every year more and more students are faced with
the decision of leaving NYU with the debt they currently
owe, dealing with the consequences of graduating tens of
thousands of dollars further in debt, or working in danger
industries, like sex work, to finance their education. [4]
Though this is a national problem, NYU holds a unique
position in relation to it. Because of its large size, location,
and the powerful people associated with it, NYU stands as
a model for schools across the country. The question is:
what kind of trend will it set? Will we continue down the
path of the corporate university, where education is treated
like a commodity reserved for those who can afford it? Or
will we make the hard changes necessary to put the needs



of students, our families, faculty, and other workers at the
center of our education system?
After taking office earlier this year, President Hamilton
instituted a set of reforms aimed at mitigating the
worsening crisis. His first move was to reduce a planned
increase in the cost-of-attendance to 2.0%. And in March,
after several years of on-campus organizing by the Student
Labor Action Movement (SLAM), he agreed to grant studentworkers a $15 living wage. Though such concessions are
undoubtedly a step in the right direction—especially
following the intransigence of John Sexton’s imperial
presidency—we would be mistaken in placing too much faith
in our new president as a beacon of progressivism.
Hamilton’s reforms do little to address the root cause of the
crisis. Rising tuition is simply not the unmanageable beast
that administrators paint it to be. In fact, a high tuition
bill is one of the main strategies used by schools across the
country to convince students and parents of the quality of
the education that they offer. As consumers, we are roped
into conflating cost with value.
The increased revenue generated by annual tuition increases
(the University, a nominally non-profit institution, made
$400 million in 2014)[5] goes in two directions. On the one
hand, the administration uses it to fund some of NYU’s
signature moves: unrelenting expansion into the Village
and the greater world, aggressive recruitment of celebrity
professors, shiny new dorms and facilities. And then, of
course, you have the millions of dollars spent on the salaries
and expenses of high-level admins. The same Hamilton
that “wished he could do more” about ballooning tuition
lives in an apartment on Washington Square West that the

University spent at least $1.1 million on renovating prior to
his arrival. [6] [7] [8]
Though some of these tactics may appear to have our
interests at heart, the circular logic underlying the
administration’s policies shows why this type of thinking
is misguided. Within the corporate model that NYU
employs, students are—at the end of the day—consumers,
whose dollars and debt burdens are used to finance the
university’s expansionist ambitions. But as enrollment
increases, so too does demand for space, leading to even
more expansion. From the 2031 expansion plan, to the
construction of satellite campuses across the world, this is
an unsustainable approach that incentivizes indebtedness
and instrumentalizes students’ alleged needs and desires.

Administrators claim that student debt is
shrinking at the same time that the financial
aid budget has drastically increased. [9]
Countering these claims is a 2015 ProPublica
investigation revealing that, while NYU saw a
91 percent increase in revenue from student
fees and tuition over the past decade, student
debt is more or less at the same level as it was
10 years ago. [10]
We don’t need studies or investigations to tell us that NYU’s
financial aid is woefully inadequate; the Princeton Review
confirmed overwhelming campus consensus when it rated
NYU’s financial aid program a 63, the lowest of any major
university in the United States. [11]
One has to ask, as the Stern School of Business has recently
done: is this the right way to spend such large sums of



money? [12] The hundreds of millions of dollars that are at
stake here should be going towards tuition freezes, financial
aid reserves and student benefits—all measures that would
alleviate the crisis at hand. That the University chooses
instead to channel these funds into the expansionist cycle of
displacement and debt production shows where its priorities
“Student Loan Servicing,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, September
2015, Web.
[2] Jeffrey Sparshott, “Congratulations, Class of 2015. You’re the Most Indebted
Ever (For Now),” Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2015, Web.
[3] Annie Waldman and Sisi Wei, “Colleges Flush With Cash Saddle Poorest
Students With Debt,” ProPublica, Sep. 12, 2015, Web.
[4] Annika Hamerschlag, “Work-Study, Manhattan Style: Thousands of NYU
Students Turn to Sex Work to Make Ends Meet,” Village Voice, May 17, 2016,
[5] Ryan McNamara, “NYU’s $400 Million Profit,” NYU Local, Jan. 26, 2015,
[6] Andrew Hamilton, “Update on Affordability and Diversity at NYU” New
York University, Feb. 18, 2015, Web.
[7] Stephanie Saul, “N.Y.U.’s President’s Penthouse Gets a Face-Lift Worth $1.1
Million (or More),” NY Times, Dec. 22, 2015, Web.
[8] Geoff Shullenberger, “Crowdsourcing Austerity,” Jacobin, Aug. 20, 2015, Web.
[9] John Beckman, “ProPublica Inquiry,” e-mail released to public. Viewable at
[10] Annie Waldman and Sisi Wei, “Colleges...”
[11] “New York University,” Princeton Review, 2016, Web.
[12] NYU Stern School of Business, “Resolution on NYU 2031,” 2012, Web.


Race and Student Debt
Let’s get you caught up

The student debt crisis affects most of us, but some
communities are much harder hit than others. This is a
result of deeply entrenched systems of white supremacy and
anti-black racism, as well as a continuation of the income
inequality that is so deeply felt in our society.
We must fight against student debt in a way that challenges
these systems and prioritizes those who have been most
affected. We also acknowledge that anti-black racism is not
the only type of racism and that these statistics are woefully
lacking when it comes to analyzing the effect of student
debt on other people of color, but unfortunately there has
been very little research done on this. However, the research
that has been gathered suggests that student debt hits black
students and graduates significantly harder than any other

Some facts:


In the last 14 years around 50% of black students
graduated college with student debt over $25,000 as
opposed to 35% of white students.[1]


Four out of five black students take out loans to go to




Black students have an average debt burden of $28,692,
as opposed to the average burden of $24,742 held by
white students.[3]


69% of black students who don’t finish school cite
the burden of high student loan debt as the reason,
compared with 43% of their white peers.[4]


Just 17% of black college graduates described
themselves as thriving financially, compare to 29% of all


The poverty rate for Black Americans is 25%, more than
double that of white Americans.[6]

NYU participates in and exacerbates these inequalities with
its production of student debt.
Andrew Dugan and Scott Vanderbilt, “Black College Grads More Likely
to Graduate With Debt,” Gallup, Sept. 14, 2014. http://www.gallup.com/
[2] Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, “Minorities and poor college students are
shouldering the most student debt,” The Washington Post, May 19, 2015, https://
[3] Anne Johnson, Tobin Van Ostern, and Abraham White. “The Student Debt
Crisis.” Report for Center of American Progress. Oct. 25, 2012, p.21 https://www.
[4] Jana Kasperkevic, “Half of black college students graduate with more
than $25,000 in student loan debt, The Guardian, Oct, 7, 2014, https://www.
[5] Dugan and Vanderbilt, “Black College Grads…”
[6] U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2014 and 2015 Annual Social
and Economic Supplements. http://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/


How to Appeal for More
Financial Aid
So you’re at NYU and you need more money.
Where do you turn?

Though not actively advertised by the University, there does
exist an appeal process. If you experience an emergency or
change of circumstances that adversely affects your ability
to remain at school, we strongly encourage you to apply.
The process is remarkably easy, essentially consisting of a
comment box in which you write as little or as much as you
want. You tell your story and list your needs. According to
the University website: “appeal results are typically based
on financial need and academic performance. The amount
of appeal funds available varies each year, and individual
NYU schools work closely with the Office of Financial Aid
throughout the process to make the appeal
determination.” [1]
The form is usually released towards the beginning of the
fall and spring semesters, a few weeks before it’s due. You
should check this page periodically:



And another thing they didn’t tell you. Though it may be
too late if you’re already enrolled, incoming international
students can now apply for financial aid. Current
international students are also eligible to participate in the
appeal process.

“Frequently Asked Questions,” NYU Office of Financial Aid, 2016, Web.


Understanding Student

For most loans, you will be expected to begin making
monthly payments 6 months after graduation. The size of
your payments will vary depending on the interest rates of
your loans, the amount you borrowed, and other factors. For
example, if you took out $35,104 (the average debt of NYU
class of 2013)[1] in Direct Unsubsidized Federal Loans at
the interest rate of 4.66% your average monthly payments
would be $366.53 per month. $366 per month seems like a
lot, doesn’t it?
This is likely much more than you will spend on food,
utilities, transportation or any other expenses besides
housing. It would take you about 10 years to pay of this debt
if you made every payment, and you would end up paying
about $44,000. Why do you end up paying back $44,000
when you only borrowed $35,000? Because the other $9,000



is from accrued interest. There is a great tool for calculating
your average monthly payments at http://www.finaid.
org/calculators/loanpayments.pht-ml. Many loans have
an option to make a smaller minimum monthly payment
(which will increase the time it takes to pay off the loan,
thus the total interest paid, and thus the total cost of the
loan), as well as options to make larger payments (which will
have the reverse effect).
If you are having trouble paying off your loans you can
apply to your loan servicer for deferment or forbearance.
During deferment, you do not have to make payments on
your debt and interest will not continue to accrue on federal
subsidized loans but will accrue under federal unsubsidized
loans. Common reasons for deferment include continuing
your education, and military, Peace Corps or Americorps
service. During forbearance, you do not have to make
payments on your debt but interest will continue to accrue
regardless of the type of loan. The most common reason
for forbearance is unemployment or economic hardship.
If you put your loans into deferment or forbearance, more
interest will accrue and it will take you even longer to pay
off the loans. It is important to note that both deferment
and forbearance require an application process, neither are
guaranteed. Both deferment and forbearance are temporary
statuses, you will eventually have to start making payments
If your loans are not in deferment or forbearance and you
miss a payment, your loan becomes delinquent. Usually, if
you do not make payments for 270 days your loan goes into
default. In default it will be sent to a collection agency that
will constantly harass you (via phone calls and other means)
until you pay off your debt. Defaulting on your loan has
serious consequences on your credit and can significantly
affect your ability to get another loan (like a mortgage),

get an apartment, sign up for cable and internet and do
anything else that requires a credit check.
It is generally recommended not to borrow more money
in loans then you expect to make in your first year of
employment. However, given the soaring costs of tuition and
the lack of well paid jobs for graduates, following this rule
can be tough. This system of education-if-you-can-afford
leaves many of us in the horrible predicament of deciding
which is worse for our futures: not having a college degree
or not being able to pay back our debt?
Jeffrey Sparshott, “Congratulations, Class of 2015. You’re the Most Indebted
Ever (For Now),” Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2015, Web.






Resisting Mass Incarceration
and Criminalization at NYU
Abolish THE BOX

Mass incarceration is a situation created by the classist,
racist, ableist, sexist punishment system of the United
States of America, a country that locks up more people per
capita than any other nation. Last year, The Incarceration
to Education Coalition (IEC) sat down with NYU President
Andrew Hamilton and explained to him and other NYU
administrators how our school is complicit in this criminal
injustice system. As members of IEC, we write to welcome
you to NYU and invite you to join us in the movement for
human rights and educational justice. Here, we will also
share the highlights of our campaign and debunk some of
the myths surrounding criminal records screening in college
IEC started the Abolish THE BOX campaign at NYU in 2013.
THE BOX refers to a page on the Common Application that
requires applicants to answer the following questions:



Have you ever been found responsible for
a disciplinary violation at any educational
institution you have attended from the 9th grade
(or the international equivalent) forward, whether
related to academic misconduct or behavioral
misconduct, that resulted in a disciplinary action?
These actions could include, but are not limited
to: probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or
expulsion from the institution.


Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted
of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime? Note
that you are not required to answer "yes" to
this question, or provide an explanation, if the
criminal adjudication or convistion that has been
expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed,
erased, impounded, or otherwise ordered by a
court to be kept confidential.


NYU added THE BOX to its undergraduate application in
2005, while the Common Application added it in 2006—the
same year that NYU started purchasing its services. For
the past ten years, every undergrad applicant to NYU has
been confronted by THE BOX. Because people of color, poor
people and other marginalized groups are targeted by mass
incarceration and police brutality in the United States,
screening applicants for criminal history perpetuates an
abusive and unjust system. It continues to violently exclude
people who are actively demonstrating their eagerness to
re-enter society.

NYU has recently announced a reform, where they will
ignore the Common Application’s questions on criminal
history and instead ask applicants to answer specific
questions on violent crime:

Within the last seven years after the age of 14,
have you ever been convicted at trial, or pled
guilty to, a criminal offense involving violence,
physical force or the threat of physical force,
a sexual offense, possession of a weapon,
kidnapping, arson or any offense which
caused physical harm to another person? You
should answer "no" if your conviction has been
sealed, expunged, or overturned or if you were
arrested but not convicted.


Have you ever been found guilty of a
disciplinary violation at your previous high
school, college or university for any act
involving violence, physical force or the threat
of physical force, a sexual offense, possession
of a weapon, kidnapping, arson or any offense
which caused physical harm to another


What prompted this change? Student-led direct action! In
December 2015, after nearly 2 years of inaction by the NYU
administration, IEC members and allies staged a sit-in at the



NYU Welcome Center. We demanded that NYU Abolish THE
BOX and make a public statement urging the Common App
to do the same. In response, the NYU administration sent a
letter to the Common App, asking them to simply conduct
more research.
This request stalled action, disregarded evidence and
failed to end discrimination at NYU. In March 2016, IEC
and over 100 allies staged a 33-hour occupation of the
Kimmel Student Center. This action won meetings with
President Hamilton and the Common App leadership; plus,
the Abolish THE BOX campaign gained national visibility
through coverage by Fox News, VICE and many other media
outlets. Later that spring, the US Department of Education
warned institutions of higher learning that THE BOX may
have a negative and discriminatory impact on people of
color and, therefore, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act. This is the student organizing context in which NYU
changed THE BOX in Summer 2016.
Any attempts to reform THE BOX only re-entrench its
violence. The “violent/non-violent” distinction NYU makes
is a problematic binary. We need to take into account
how situations of poverty, desperation, and unaddressed
mental health issues produce real acts of violence that
should not be blamed solely on an individual’s character.
We must challenge the assumption that people who have
committed violent crimes are biologically wired to be
violent and criminal. IEC members have lived with these
stereotypes and know them to be false. By calling out violent
crimes specifically on the application, NYU is perpetuating
the stigma we hold against people who have engaged in




NYU’s new policy requires that
applicants check THE BOX even if
their convictions happened at the
age of 15 or 16. Data has clearly
shown that racial and socioeconomic
discrimination is rampant in youth
policing and sentencing. This policy
therefore continues the school-toprison pipeline by disproportionately
barring young black and brown
people from higher education.
Relying on the violent and racist
criminal punishment system will
not make us safer. By doing so,
we continue to exclude and enact
violence on poor communities and
communities of color. We need to be
putting our resources into healing
and improving our communities, not
in surveillance and exclusion.
Over the past three years, IEC has
spoken with student government,
high-level admins, and university presidents to find out
why NYU continues to use THE BOX. No one has given
any compelling evidence to support THE BOX’s presence.
Is more research regarding THE BOX and its efficacy
NO. Usually, supporters of THE BOX claim that it helps
determine “risk.” This response raises the question: What
exactly is “risk”?

Does “risk” mean that formerly incarcerated individuals are
likely to commit crimes on campus?
NO. Empirical evidence actually confirms that the majority
of crimes committed on campuses are committed by
people without documented criminal records.[1] While
66% of colleges ask about criminal records and disciplinary
infractions, the prevailing research indicates that they are
no safer than colleges that do not ask for this information. [2
Does “risk” mean that women are in more danger of sexual
violence and campus rape if there are formerly incarcerated
students on campus?
NO. The available data shows that campuses that
discriminate against formerly incarcerated students
are no safer (for anyone) than campuses that reject this
discriminatory practice. Any commitment to ending
violence in our society must reject it in all its forms. We
stand in solidarity with activists fighting for Title IX
protections on campuses across the country, and at the
same time we recognize that co-opting anti-rape activism
to maintain white supremacy and the criminalization of
people of color does not protect, comfort, or heal those of
us who have survived sexual assault. [3] Simply put, there
is no correlation between THE BOX and campus safety or
academic performance. Here, “risk” is used to create fear
and stigmatize applicants with criminal histories; it is
not used as a realistic assessment of an applicant’s future
In fact, education dramatically reduces recidivism (the rate
at which people return to jail/prison), thereby increasing
public safety. Of the 700,000 people released from prison
each year, 43.3% return to prison within three years of
release; this rate drops dramatically with access to higher
education: 13.7% of individuals who earn an Associate’s



degree, 5.6% of individuals who earn a Baccalaureate
and nearly 0% of those who earn a Master’s degree will
recidivate. [4]
The lives of poor people of color have always been
monitored and judged guilty in the United States. Today,
we see this both with the militarized police forces that
monitor Black residential neighborhoods and with NYU
conducting institutionalized violence. Because the violence
and surveillance embodied in THE BOX is administrative,
NYU can more easily justify its racism. Abolishing THE BOX
is, therefore, a targeted way to fight violence against poor
people of color. The Movement for Black Lives has come to
the same conclusion and includes Abolishing THE BOX on
their official list of demands. [5]
Ultimately, THE BOX is only a small fragment of a much
larger kyriarchy (it’s a great word, look it up!). Once it is
removed, IEC will continue our work to dismantle the social,
economic, and political barriers that dehumanize formerly
and currently incarcerated people.
Runyan, C. W., Pierce, M. W., Shankar, V., & Bangdiwala, S. I. (2013). Can
student-perpetrated college crime be predicted based on precollege misconduct?.
Injury prevention. Published Online First: 23 February 2013. doi:10.1136/
[2] Weissman, M., Rosenthal, A., Warth, P., Wolf, E. and Messina-Yauchzy,
M. (2010). The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions
Reconsidered. New York: Center for Community Alternatives.
[3] The Incarceration to Education Coalition. “Abolish the Box: Moving Beyond
Criminality in Addressing Sexual Violence.” Crunk Feminist Collective, 2 Oct.
2014. Web.
[4] Education Changing Lives,” Education from the Inside-Out, April 1, 2013,
[5] “End The War On Black People,” The Movement For Black Lives, Web.


Graduate Workers and
Making Connections

You will hear Welcome Week mantras repeated over and
over as you enter the NYU community. We repeat these
clichés partly out of habit but also because there is truth
to them. As a teaching assistant and graduate instructor I
would like to echo them one more time: If you are anything
like your peers, you are bright, hard-working, inquisitive,
and engaged. We are glad to share this campus—and our
classrooms—with you.
As an incoming student an elite university, you are in
a position to think carefully about the institution and
community that you are entering. Who are they for? Who
do they exclude? And how you might change them for the
better? Other articles in this guide will help you think about
how NYU is both a product of larger forces in global higher
education as well as a special case leading some of these
trends. Here, I will focus on how graduate workers fit into
the NYU community and suggest that they share common
experiences, interests, and concerns with undergraduate



students. This makes us allies in our struggle to make a
better NYU, New York City, and world.

Who is your TA?
NYU graduate workers are a diverse bunch that come from
all over the world to study and work at the university. In
addition to doing research and preparing for careers in and
outside of academia, one of our most important roles at NYU
is undergraduate teaching—both as TAs and instructors.
Teaching is labor-intensive work, requiring significant time
preparing course materials, running recitation sections,
grading, and serving as mentors for undergraduate students.
Teaching at NYU could not take place in its current format
without the work of graduate students.
Graduate student workers are part of a larger transformation
in teaching, especially at elite universities like NYU. The
American Association of University Professors has found
that more than 50 percent of all university teaching
appointments in the U.S. are part time positions, held by
adjunct and graduate student employees. So while NYU has
a brilliant tenured faculty, many of your courses be taught
by (equally brilliant and committed) graduate workers and
adjuncts who have none of the job security and are paid
significantly less than tenured colleagues.
The money NYU saves on teaching costs is being reinvested
in a $6 billion expansion plan and high-level executive
pay, reproducing the vast inequality of the corporate sector
(whose leaders are well-represented on NYU’s Board of
Trustees) in the so-called non-profit university setting. All
of this occurs against a background of indebtedness and
financial insecurity for NYU’s poorest students. So while
NYU has a brilliant tenured faculty, many of your courses
will be taught by (equally brilliant and committed) graduate




workers and adjuncts who have none of the job security and
are paid significantly less than our tenured colleagues.
Your recitation TA will be managing a full schedule of their
own coursework or carrying out original research, all while
trying to afford the cost of living in New York City. Their job
placement from semester to semester will be precarious—
subject to departmental needs and enrollment. This makes
it difficult for them to make longer term financial decisions
such as how to afford New York City rent or support a
family as a graduate student. Graduate teachers and
their undergraduate students have financial insecurity in

Shared Resources: GSOC-UAW Local 2110
But the news isn’t all bad! Graduate workers, along
with faculty, adjunct, and undergraduate allies have been
fighting back against the rampant inequalities perpetuated
by the corporate university. After more than a decade of
organizing and despite the long refusal of NYU recognition,
the Union for Graduate Employees at New York University
(GSOC) won a contract from NYU in 2015 that guaranteed
access to some basic rights, such as subsidized health
insurance, a decent minimum wage, and childcare. However,
it wasn’t until GSOC members overwhelmingly voted to
authorize a strike from teaching and research jobs that
NYU came to the bargaining table willing to grant these
basic rights. Despite the fact that the university was
willing to risk undergraduate education in order to defeat
graduate workers, we received amazing support from our
undergraduate students, who showed up to demonstrate and
organize on behalf of their TAs.
Better working conditions for graduate workers means
better learning conditions for NYU students. And it doesn’t

stop there. Beyond its commitment to improving working
conditions, GSOC is driven by broader principles of social
justice. This means that we support a range of social and
environmental causes, and we love to work with other
campus groups who share these values.
As graduate students and as a unionized workforce, we have
some unique advantages to offer to collective struggles
across NYU. Many of us can offer a few extra minutes for
announcements before our classes begin to groups that are
raising awareness, collecting signatures, and mobilizing
around common goals. GSOC also has a whole committee of
graduate students who can turn up or speak at your events
in solidarity with your struggles. We also lead protests of
our own to which you are heartily invited. In the coming
year it looks like much of our emphasis will be on improving
student healthcare access and supporting the Movement for
Black Lives. Finally, we also conduct research and compile
resources that should be useful for all students. For example,
we recently published a guide to parental leave and benefits

Student Power
The combination of a corporate university and new student
movements makes for an explosive mix. Graduate and
undergraduate activists across the country are forcing
universities to confront institutionalized racism, sexism, and
homophobia, the ways that their endowments support fossil
fuels and mass incarceration, and unconscionable student
debt, among many other issues.
The administration and the media try to belittle activists,
by trotting out tired clichés—calling us youthful idealists
or pampered students. But we know better. Administrators



are finding that they can no longer justify unending tuition
increases, outrageous executive pay, and exploitation of
their most vulnerable students and workers. This puts the
power squarely in your hands. As graduate student workers,
we understand that our struggles are connected with yours
and are looking forward to working with incoming students
to remake the corporate university into a more just and
equal place.


Fossil Fuel Divestment for
Climate Justice
How university executives ignored campus consensus

NYU Divest is a coalition of students, faculty, staff, and alumni
that has worked since 2012 to align the university’s investment
practices with the demands of climate change mitigation and
climate justice.

"If there are lessons to be drawn from this
summer as we start a new academic year, I
believe they would be the following: that we
treat one another with mutual respect and
dignity. That we should listen as carefully to
others as we would like them to listen to us."
Thus spoke our new President Andrew Hamilton in the
August 2016 installation of his now-routine, pastel-washed
newsletters titled “Our NYU” (whose NYU?...the ambiguity
is convenient). From our end, if there is a lesson to be drawn
from the conduct of President Hamilton and other university
executives with our campaign this year, the lesson,



unfortunately, is the following: that university executives
are hard pressed to treat campus activists with dignity and
respect, and that they will ignore the voice of the university
when it suits them.
As of 2015, NYU’s endowment invests $129 million dollars
in the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil, and natural gas),
including $700,000 of direct shares. To this date, in the face
of worsening, often unlivable climate conditions across the
planet, our university has taken no action to remove any of
these investments. By maintaining these investments, “Our
NYU” signals that it values, above other considerations,
the (currently dwindling) profits derived from these
investments. It signals that “Our NYU” is willing to
disregard that the amount of carbon trapped in these firms’
reserves, if burned, would lock our planet into at least two
degrees celsius of warming. It signals that “Our NYU,” as an
investor, does not care that climate change amplifies every
injustice that already afflicts our world, and drives conflict,
civil war, state failure, famine, drought, flooding, wildfires,
coral bleaching, ecosystem collapse, and mass extinction. It
signals that “Our NYU” is comfortable financing the fossil
fuel industry’s propaganda efforts, its attacks on climate
science, its persecution of climate activists, the myriad
front groups that the industry props up, and the political
chokehold that fossil fuel interests still exert over our
representatives in government. It signals that “Our NYU”
is unwilling to admit that it is past time that we end this
carbon-intensive status quo with every peaceful means
available to us, including our investments, in order to keep
our planet minimally habitable.
An absolute incongruence exists between this signal,
transmitted by Hamilton’s version of “Our NYU,” and the
popular voice of our university—its students, faculty, staff,
and alumni. Among those who compose NYU, the consensus

in favor of divestment is great, the reasoning behind it is
accepted, and the urgency to act is strongly felt. 97% of NYU
students report feeling responsible for the condition of the
environment. Over 200 Faculty have signed a letter which
lays out a detailed and comprehensive argument urging
for fossil fuel divestment. Over 2,000 students have signed
our campaign’s petition to sell NYU´s investments in fossil
fuels. In April of 2015, our University Senate, the highest
representative body in our university, composed of student,
administrative, and faculty representatives, passed a fossil
fuel divestment resolution, with over 80% voting in favor
and only 8% in opposition.
Per former President John Sexton’s promise made in 2013,
the 2015 University Senate resolution was expected to
take the question of fossil fuel divestment to a vote by
NYU’s Board of Trustees, a 68-member body which meets
a few times per year, appoints Presidents, makes financial
decisions, and had somehow never met with students in its
A year passed and the vote never came. In an unprecedented
moment of contact between students and Trustees, Divest
members met two members of the Board’s 11-member
Investment Committee, which had unexpectedly been
appointed to deliberate on the issue. Two months of
administrative inaction followed, leading Divest members
to occupy the executive elevator of Bobst Library for 33
hours, demanding a full Board vote, transparency measures
such as meeting minutes, and an opportunity for members
to present to all Board members in person before the vote.
These demands had been discussed as possible by President
Sexton in 2013. Vice President Martin Dorph responded to
our occupation by threatening 18 students with summary
suspension. Before sending a warning email to these 18
students, administrators notified their parents by phone.



Still, a “decision” at the Board’s next meeting in June was
agreed to. A rationale regarding the decision was promised,
and a presentation by Divest members for the Investment
Committee (to which only a few members showed up), was
scheduled. We compiled a 40-page packet with research
on the financial soundness of fossil fuel divestment, on
the obstructionist efforts of the fossil fuel industry and
on climate change’s costly effects on our University, most
famously during Hurricane Sandy. We argued that NYU has
no excuse, financial or procedural, to maintain its $700,000
in direct fossil fuel investments, which financial managers
could sell immediately by phone.
On June 16 of this year, President Hamilton and Board Chair
William Berkeley issued a memorandum on behalf of the
Board, accompanied by a rationale in which they rejected, in
not so much as two pages, any form of fossil fuel divestment
or climate-responsible investment. Nearly nothing is known
about how the decision was made, where it was made, or
who was involved. To those at NYU who had tracked our
campaign’s progress through university bureaucracy, the
reasoning offered by Hamilton and Berkeley was clearly
identical to the excuses we had been hearing from Sexton
since 2012. The brevity and reductiveness of the rationale,
and its failure to address the bulk of the arguments and
research that we had presented over four years, betrayed
not only a failure of executives to “do their homework” and
“carefully listen” to the university community, but also
their power to govern NYU and its capital without even the
semblance of accountability.
We learned that this struggle could not be won through
reasoning, empirical research, a democratic mandate, and
demands for transparency—all liberal trappings that a
university like ours would, in theory, support. We learned,
the hard way, that this struggle was about power, and about

the interests of a few privileged administrators with an
attachment to the status quo.
What remains beyond debate is that Andrew Hamilton and
William Berkeley are not NYU. Without its students paying
tuition; without its staff cleaning, serving and caring; and
without its faculty teaching and producing research; this
institution would be nothing but a collection of tone-deaf,
out-of-touch executives. We are NYU, and we will teach our
executives to listen carefully.




Radical Groups
On campus and beyond

Incarceration to Education Coalition, NYU
contact: incarceration2education@gmail.com
International Socialist Organization, NYU
contact: iso-nyu@nycsocialist.org
NYU Academic Workers for a Democratic Union
contact: shellyronen@gmail.com
NYU Divest
contact: @NYUDIVEST, via website
Queer Union
contact: queer.union.club@nyu.edu
Students for Justice in Palestine, NYU
contact: @NYUSJP, via website


Student Labor Action Movement, NYU
contact: nyuslam@gmail.com

Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network
contact: info@BANgentrification.org
Coalition to Protect LES and Chinatown
contact: peoplefirstnyc@gmail.com
Desis Rising Up and Moving
contact: via website
Millions March NYC
contact: facebook.com/millionsmarchnyc

Bluestockings Bookstore
address: 172 Allen Street, Manhattan
contact: 212-777-6028
The Base
address: 1302 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn
contact: thebasebk@gmail.com
Revolution Books
address: 146 W. 26th St., New York
contact: 212-691-3345

N E W YO R K U N I V E R S I T Y ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ FA L L 2 0 1 6


by students, for students

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