Disorientation Guide For The Corporate University (New York University)

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Title

Disorientation Guide For The Corporate University (New York University)

Date

2015

Place

New York, NY

extracted text

Orientation
Guide
FOR THE CORPORATE UNIVERSITY

W E L C O M E

T O

N Y U !

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.
In this guide, we focus on the most destructive things NYU either perpetuates
or is complicit with. We hope these articles will lead to discussion about the
University as an institution: its status as the generator of more student debt
than any other non-profit university in the country; the ruthless exploitation
and labor abuse that produced NYU’s imperial projects in Abu Dhabi and around
the world (“The Global Network University”); the massively expensive and
frivolous NYU 2031 expansion project; its 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 graduate students and adjunct faculty on the ground teaching and those at
the top of Bobst raking in the cash; and the University’s myriad racist, Zionist,
and homophobic policies.

Despite the diversity of its content, this guide has a
few broad themes that unite many of the articles: NYU
behaving like a multi-national corporation and 21st
century colonial power, entrenching white supremacy
and hetero-patriarchy with institutionalized violence,
and enslaving its students with backbreaking debt.
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,” the University is more concerned with
the interests of profit and business than its students. We’ve developed this
guide as a means 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. Most saliently, there is nothing about NYU’s role
as an engine of gentrification and violent displacement of working-class folks,
almost always people of color. 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 or email any of the radical groups. We look forward
to meeting and working with you.

Contents

STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING
Dimensions of the Debt Crisis --------- 6
Against the Administration: Why You
Should Support GSOC ------------------ 8
How To Get More Financial Aid ------- 14
The Struggle Is Too Real at NYU ------- 16
Understanding Student Loans --------- 20
INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA
Race and Student Debt ------------------ 24
Why NYU Hates Poor Queers --------- 26
Abolish THE BOX ------------------------- 34
GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER
The Graveyard Below NYU Abu Dhabi - 42
Meet the Board of Trustees ------------ 48
Birthright and the Destruction of
Palestine ---------------------------------- 54
NYU 2031 --------------------------------- 60
Radical Groups on Campus ------------- 66

We are the most
indebted student
body in the world.

ORGANIZING

DEBT &

STUDENT

6

Dimensions of the Debt Crisis
STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

Let’s get you caught up :

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 $1.2 trillion, while
the average yearly earnings of a young college graduate has
declined $10,000 since 2005. In 35 years, tuition for higher
education has increased by 1,120%. The situation is especially
grim at NYU.

Last year NYU’s graduating class had
more collective debt than any other
non-profit school in the country, with
an average indebtedness of $35,104 about $10,000 more than the national
average.
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 have now or dealing with
the consequences of graduating tens of thousands of dollars
further in debt. This is a national problem, and 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 NYU 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?
We know there is money. We know that NYU made $400 million
last year.1 We know there is an at least $100 million surplus,
which is supposed to be used for dealing with emergencies
and crises. However, the administration has already said that
they’re planning on using this money to help fund expansion
for at least the next 10 years. How can they spend that surplus
as though there isn’t a very real emergency to be dealt with?
The student debt crisis is just that – a crisis. There’s no
reason why the budget surplus shouldn’t be directed towards
addressing it. This money could be spent on a tuition freeze
and increased financial aid rather than frivolous expansion.

----1Mcnamara, Ryan. “NYU’s $400 Profit.” NYU Local. http://nyulocal.com/oncampus/2015/01/26/nyus-400-million-profit/.

7

8

Against the Administration
STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

Why you should support GSOC

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC-UAW) is
NYU’s graduate worker union.
In 2005, NYU took advantage of a poisonous Bush-era legal
precedent to bust the union, claiming that graduate students–
low wage workers who grade your exams, teach your recitations,
and participate in important research projects– weren’t
actually workers, and so weren’t entitled to any workplace
rights. But last year, ten years of graduate worker organizing
forced the NYU administration to recognize the union again.
Last spring GSOC won an historic contract, increasing wages
and benefits for some of the lowest-paid workers at NYU.
But before they won that contract, the University’s greediness
forced GSOC to prepare for a strike. Organizers of various
undergraduate organizations came together to mobilize
undergraduate support for the union. We were successful–
undergraduates collected over 600 signatures on a letter of
support, organized demonstrations in Bobst and other NYU
facilities, and even stormed Provost David McLaughlin’s office
after he sent out an email criticizing the union– a disgusting,
dishonest, and potentially illegal stunt (a lawsuit is pending!).
GSOC Deserves our Support. Here’s Why:
It seems pretty clear to many of us that NYU’s priorities
don’t quite align with ours. The University repeatedly fails
to adequately provide for us as undergraduate students. NYU

promises that its students enter the workforce prepared for
secure, middle class employment. We come to the university
thinking that it’s the place where the magic happens, where we
become upwardly mobile. And NYU sells that idea aggressively
through what we’ve come to call the “Dream School Narrative,”
a marketing image that positions NYU as an urban beacon of
hipness and inquiry and celebrity, well worth the cost. (Our
president gives hugs!) But once we’re enrolled, once we’re in
debt, once we’re forking over thousands of dollars, they don’t
have to sell us anything anymore. And they quickly fail to
deliver on the things they’ve promised.
There are plenty of ways NYU mistreats us. I’ll just throw out
a few.

1

Student debt
NYU’s undergraduate student body is the most indebted
student body in the country (and so in the world). In 2010,
NYU students averaged $30,000 of debt a head; now it’s
closer to $45,000. NYU is consistently identified as the
most expensive institution of higher education in the
country. And NYU raises its tuition each year– which isn’t
uncommon! – but NYU raises it at a rate that far outpaces
inflation. But NYU’s finances are secure. They made $400
million dollars last year.
Campus is overcrowded; this much is clear. And the
University’s response to this problem is to admit still more
students, extract still more exorbitant tuition dollars, all
with the goal of financing a multi-million dollar expansion.

That’s not good for us. That’s not good for anybody.

2

Unpaid work
I work at Bobst, where I make less than a living wage. I
share a desk with a full-time clerical worker who also
doesn’t make a living wage. And her income is constantly
threatened because of NYU’s habit of putting Work Study

9

10

student-workers – who the University doesn’t have to pay
at all; that money comes from the government – into jobs
that had previously been done by full-timers, as a way to
save money. Student workers are underpaid, and are used
to drive down wages for non-student workers.

STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

That’s not good for anybody.
And yet NYU made 400 million dollars last year. So where’s the
money going?
I think many of us are already familiar with some of the places
that money goes. But I’ll list a few places, all well-documented
in news outlets like The New York Times.

1

Exorbitant salaries for high-level administrators

2

Sweetheart “golden parachutes”

John Sexton makes 1.5 million dollars a year. And once
he retires in 2016-- after they give him a hefty exit bonus,
something in the ballpark of another million dollars-- he’ll
make a pension of 800,000 dollars annually. Plus he gets to
keep all the penthouses NYU bought for him, including a
property on Washington Square South.

in which professors like Jack Lew are literally given a
million dollars to leave NYU for a better paid position
elsewhere.

3

Loans to star admin or faculty
NYU is in the habit of giving out these loans– hundreds of
thousands of dollars at a time – to fund home purchases,
and then forgiving that debt.

In fact, John Sexton got himself into hot water last year when
it came out that he gave his son a free place to live in an
apartment owned by NYU. This is the middle of this student
housing shortage that shafted literally hundreds of full-time
NYU students, weeks before the start of a new semester.

11

12

This dude isn’t even a student. He described himself in the
newspapers as a “33-year-old aspiring actor,” an hilarious way
to say unemployed.

STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

All of this money mishandling actually got the attention of
Congress last year. A congressional investigation was launched
into NYU’s gross overcompensation of its admin, threatening
the University’s non-profit status.
But if we focus too hard on this egregious corruption, we
might miss the real problem underneath it all. NYU has ceased
to operate like an educational institution, and has started to
operate like a multi-national corporation.
The administration is powerful, smart, and not going anywhere
without a fight. To challenge them we have to be just as smart
and just as rooted, or we’ll never tip that balance of power.
How many times have individual students stood up and said,
hey, this is bullshit, I can’t afford this. I’ve been lied to and
my future security compromised. A bunch of times. And what
happens? They drop out, or they’re forced out by the cost of this
place. Lucy Parks spoke for a lot of these people last semester
when they wrote an open letter to John Sexton, explaining that
their debt burden was too much for them to stay in school, but
wishing him luck spending his multi-million dollar fortune
before he dies. (It’s on Huff Post.)
But what are the results? Not much. A lot of broke dropouts, a lot
of dissatisfied professors, and a bunch of rich administrators,
completely safe in their position at the top of the food chain.
But what about an organized mass of graduate workers,
standing together and demanding that University pay
attention to their needs? And saying, we want to teach and
grade and research, and do all that we came here to do, but we
won’t do it like this. So we’re not coming to work.
This is what GSOC threatened to do last year when the

University refused to bargain fairly. They threatened to strike.
GSOC’s main demands were simple: adequate health care, fair
wages, childcare.
Basic stuff. Hardly the total overhaul of the university we need,
but something, right?
And this is the great thing about unions-- your union doesn’t
disappear once that contract is signed. You get to come back
and negotiate new contracts again and again and again. And
each time you’re in a position to ask for more.
You get to demand a different university, a university that looks
out for you, a university that you help to build every time you
go to work, or to class, or sit down across a bargaining table.
That’s why, as undergraduates, we have got to stand with our
graduate worker union. Because building that kind of power,
union power, is the only way we’ll ever succeed in transforming
this place.
GSOC-UAW sees all the problems of the corporate university.
It envisions something better. And it’s positioned to fight very
actively for that better, more democratic university we all
deserve.

13

14

STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

How To Get More Financial
Aid

So you’re at NYU and you need more money. Nothing new. But
can this impossible be possible? Can you, in fact, acquire more
money from NYU?
Well folks, I’m going to tell you a secret that shouldn’t be a
secret: You may not get much money (the financial aid office
claims that the max that you can get is $4,000), but seeing as
there will be a time where we have to pay back our loans, every
little bit counts.
NYU has an appeal process. Sound familiar? No, most likely
not. The appeal process at NYU is more or less a mystery. The
office of financial aid didn’t even want us to spread that there
is an appeal process and when it goes up. Kind of fishy, huh?
Here’s the deal: Essentially the appeal process is an online
application that consists of an endless comment box where
you can put as little or as much as you want. You tell your
story and list your needs. But they claim that more detail isn’t
necessarily better, it’s all subjective. If there’s something more
to your story, like your parent lost their job, the financial aid
office can point you to the professional judgment form on
A-Z section of NYU’s website where you can put down if your
parent’s currently unemployed, death or divorce of parent.
With this, they change your FAFSA data.

Then, the office of financial aid and the academic office make
their decision, judging case-by-case based who needs aid and
who’s doing well academically. So basically, a small group of
people gets together and reads a bunch of stories, then decides
whether or not you’re worthy of more money. Hmm…
And now the big question: Where do I find this form and when
is it due? Well, they only post the form on the financial aid
website (http://www.nyu.edu/admissions/financial-aid-andscholarships.html) a few weeks before it’s due. Last Fall, it was
due November 17. Check the website periodically for the due
date.
Oh yeah, another thing they didn’t tell you. Incoming
international students can now apply for financial aid, and
current international students can participate in the appeal
process (still, they only will get up to $4,000 maximum, so
they say) and students must complete the CSS profile.

15

16

The Struggle Is Too Real at
NYU
STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

The Psychic Toll of Debt

While attending NYU, I heard countless students (almost
always students from wealthier backgrounds) tell anyone
bemoaning their debt, poor financial aid, or the exorbitant
cost of the school that they should have chosen a cheaper
university. On the surface this makes sense. Everyone knows
that NYU is expensive and has terrible financial aid, so why
would you go there if you couldn’t afford it?
However, that’s an incredibly misguided sentiment that puts the
burden of affordability on the student rather than the school.
At a school like NYU, where the money for better financial aid
is there and is simply spent on real estate development and
administrative bloat rather than on the students, it’s especially
harmful. Plus, it ignores myriad reasons why someone would
want to go to NYU so badly that it might be worth risking the
debt: world-renowned programs in areas of study like business
and theater, excellent facilities, the status in job interviews
and even casual conversations gained by being able to say
“I went to NYU,” and the opportunity to study in Greenwich
Village. For many people, those things are enough incentive
to make them willing to deal with debt and poor financial aid even though they shouldn’t have to. On top of that, many high
school students simply aren’t taught about student debt, and
thus have trouble navigating finances in college. At the same
time, there are also many people for whom NYU would be a
perfect fit who choose not to attend simply because of the cost

-- and they shouldn’t have to either.
What NYU is really doing with its high tuition and low financial
aid is making value judgments about who deserves to attend.
On several occasions NYU admins have responded publicly
to questions about financial aid by simply saying that those
who can’t afford it shouldn’t attend. They have shown that
they are more interested in building a school full of rich kids
than a school full of people who are all passionate to learn and
contribute regardless of their financial status. No one’s value
should be based on how much money they or their family
possess, yet that’s exactly what NYU’s financial aid policies do.
Many students who face the highest debt burdens also face
the challenge of supporting themselves while in school. This
is especially difficult at elite institutions like NYU, where
there are also many students whose parents can support
them entirely and thus don’t have to work. These aren’t the
times of our parents when someone could work themselves
through school paying for both living expenses and tuition students who are self-supporting are lucky if they can keep
a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. Many of
them can’t, which is why student hunger and homelessness
have skyrocketed alongside the cost of tuition.
Supporting oneself while in college comes with a set of
challenges that often aren’t understood by professors,
the institution, or more fortunate classmates. To be selfsupporting while living in New York and going to NYU usually
means working at least 30 hours a week - and that’s if you
manage to find a decent-paying job. Adding that to a full
class schedule means very little time to complete schoolwork,
which detracts from the educational experience and also puts
working students at an academic disadvantage compared to
their wealthier peers. Their situation also impacts their career
prospects because they’re much less likely to be able to take
on the all-too-common unpaid internships that students use
to make connections and build their careers. These factors set
self-supporting students several steps behind others and put

17

STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

18

them at a disadvantage when it comes to their education and
their career.
As we can see with working students, being financially
disadvantaged often takes a hidden toll in the form of time
and energy. This impact extends to a student’s ability to
handle student loans. Understanding and paying off loans, and
especially finding and applying for a manageable repayment
plan, takes a lot of time and energy. It’s an incredibly repressive
burden that drains energy and decreases the quality of life for
lower-income students and graduates.
Students who face financial challenges at college, whether it
takes the form of loans, being self-supporting, or both, have a
variety of different emotional reactions. One common theme
is avoidance - many students who have a lot of debt try to
avoid thinking about it at all while they’re in school because
the mere idea of it is too stressful. There’s also a taboo in
our society around talking about money, which makes many
students (especially when surrounded by wealthier peers)
feel too ashamed to talk about financial struggles. The
combination of these factors often leaves students facing
financial struggles feeling isolated and alone, adding extra
stress onto everything else that they are dealing with. Many
counselors aren’t equipped to deal with the problems these
students are facing, and it can be difficult to access reliable
and decent mental health resources without money, so there
are also very few outlets for dealing with negative emotions
caused by financial struggle during university.
Being a financially challenged college student is a burden at any
university, but especially at “elite” and expensive institutions
such as NYU. These students enter at a completely undeserved
disadvantage, and the university does nothing to try and make
their experience any easier. It’s time for students, both the
wealthy and the non-wealthy, to take action and demand that
these challenges be addressed.

19

20

STUDENT DEBT & ORGANIZING

Understanding Student Loans
For most loans, you will be expected to begin making
monthly payments six 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) 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 off 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/loans/repayment.phtml.
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 again.
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?

Loan Balance $ 3 5 , 0 0 0 . 0 0
Loan Interest Rate 6.80%
Loan Term
TEN
YEARS
ENROLLMENTSTATUS
Gr adu atin g
So o n
Bachelor’s
Degree

Monthly Payment $402.78
Number of Payments 120
C u m u l a t i v e
Payments
$48,333.80
TOTAL INTEREST
$ 1 3 , 3 3 3 . 8 0

21

Racism and
homophobia are
not incidental,
peripheral issues
encountered
with the stray
conservative student.
They are systematic
and ingrained into
the policies and
structures of NYU.

HOMOPHOBIA

RACISM &

INSTITUTIONALIZED

24

INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

Race and Student Debt
The student debt crisis affects most of us, but some
communities are hit much harder than others. This is a result
of deeply entrenched systems of white supremacy and antiblack racism, as well as a continuation of the income inequality
that is so deeply felt in our society.
We strive to wage a fight against student debt in a way that
also 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 group.
SOME FACTS

1

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.

2

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

3

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

4

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.

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

6

The poverty rate for black Americans is 27%, almost three
times that of white Americans

7

Youth unemployment—defined as the unemployment
rate for those ages 16 to 24 years old— was 28.6 percent
for blacks and 18.5 percent for Latinos, compared to 14.9
percent for their white counterparts in 2012

25

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INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

Why NYU Hates Poor Queers
At last year’s May Day (a.k.a. International Workers’ Day) I
marched and rallied with New York City’s Student Bloc, and
held up a sign that read “NYU Hates Poor Queers.” Now, I’d
like to elaborate on what I meant by that statement, which is
that NYU’s role in the student debt crisis is a compelling queer*
issue. Queers fit into the student debt crisis in at least three
key ways: that student debt is a queer issue more generally,
that NYU’s gay-friendliness and financial-unfriendliness are
interrelated, and that high tuition and student debt harm
queer people more acutely.
As the collective student debt of the nation has risen to exceed
$1 trillion (more than both credit card and auto loan debt),
NYU has matriculated the most indebted student body among
not-for-profit universities in the country. And in case you’d
forgotten, New York University is, in fact, a tax-exempt not-forprofit institution, yet it has become an exemplar in what many
call the “corporate university”—an institution better known
for its bureaucracy and expansion than its transparency or
accountability (to its faculty and students). Additionally, the
exorbitant price of attending NYU has foreclosed the notion
of academic meritocracy, the increasingly obsolete concept
that the brightest and most hardworking students can obtain
a world-class college education, regardless of socioeconomic
status.
But how is this a queer issue? Given the conservative paradigm
of the official gay rights movement, it’s unsurprising that
student debt appears irrelevant to queer people, separate
issues to be fought by separate constituencies. Much of the

public debate on LGBT issues restricts itself to problems that
queer people face and only queer people face. But queer
people are often things other than queer, and queer people
are affected (often in nuanced ways) by issues that affect or
target non-queers. Therefore, we need a fundamental shift in
how we define “queer issues.” We must turn toward problems
that affect queer people, rather than only focus on problems
that exclusively affect queer people. If we end up fighting
for oppressed non-queers along the way, that’s not a liability
to “the movement.” That’s just part of building a more just
world. This means acknowledging that queer people might
also be poor, disabled, black, brown, women, immigrant,
Muslim. When Muslims are under unlawful surveillance by
the NYPD, that means that queer Muslims are also under
unlawful surveillance by the NYPD. That’s a queer issue.
Student debt and high tuition prices hurt queer people
because many queer people happen to be students, and many
queer students happen to be poor. For this reason alone,
unprecedented student debt and tuition prices belong in the
domain of “queer issues.” NYU hates poor queers because NYU
contributes actively and substantially to a system of student
debt (which resembles no other form of debt at all, but instead
resembles indentured servitude) that harms students and
poor people—and therefore queer students and poor queers.
Though NYU is not a lender itself, it unapologetically advances
the systematic indebting, impoverishment, and exclusion of
students, a system so classist that I can only characterize it as
downright hateful.
In fact, It should be sufficient that if an institution affects
queer people at all, then we should unite against it, that queer
presence necessitates queer representation. Even if an issue
of injustice doesn’t involve queer people, it might be worth
our consideration anyway, simply out of a shared interest in a
more socially just world. In this sense, the student movement
that aims to break down barriers to free education for all indeed
envisions the more just society that Queer Union wants a part
in.

27

INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

28

However, NYU hates poor queers in
particular, which may come as a surprise
given John Sexton’s reputation as higher
education’s #1 fruit fly. In fact, NYU’s
routinely high rankings as an LGBT-friendly
college are part of what makes NYU’s role
in the student debt crisis so egregiously
irresponsible. NYU represents something
of a gay sanctuary relative to other colleges,
a space where LGBT students can expect
that they’ll be safe from queer-bashing
or homophobic hazing. That safe space
should not cost me $35,000 (the national
average) in potentially lifelong debt.
Prerequisite to explaining how “NYU Hates Poor Queers,”
perhaps a conversation on choice is in order. Choosing NYU,
and how to finance it, are not choices made in a vacuum,
especially for queer students. And this is arguably another
way that debates over student debt are profoundly queer: their
preoccupation with choice aand desire feel altogether familiar
to queer people. Frequently, we must reckon with both desires
and choices that disobey that which is “responsible,” and
refuse to be disciplined for them.
Many conservatives insist that the student debt crisis is merely
a matter of individual accountability, that our desire to attend
expensive universities is characteristic of our generation’s
shallowness, and that our choice to finance our education
through student loans is characteristic of our generation’s
sense of entitlement. Even President John Sexton reduced
the decision to attend NYU to that of choosing between a
Mercedes and a Chevrolet. However, choosing NYU involves
a far more consequential decision-making process, a far more
complex weighing of desires, than choosing a car.

29
Even solely on a financial level, choosing NYU was a choice
made under duress. Most of us grew up conditioned to believe
that a college education would mean upward social mobility. In
fact, in the midst of an economic crisis, getting a degree became
compulsory in order to stay afloat, and getting a prestigious
degree offered a competitive edge in the job market. The key
difference between choosing between colleges and choosing
between cars, Sexton fails to see, is that either car will get
me to a job. And as our student loan debt and New York rent
prices each continue to rise, the apparent financial benefits
to coming to NYU advertised to us were miscalculated at best
and predatory at worst. Moreover, choosing NYU entailed
making a life choice, a decision influenced by far more than
just financial factors.
For the sake of analogy, consider the decision to come out to an
employer, particularly in a place unprotected by employment
non-discrimination policy. In purely financial terms, it’s a
horrible choice, a massive risk to my livelihood without any
potential payoff—and many conservatives would still frame it
as irrelevant, inappropriate, or simply not worth such risks.
Of course, coming out to an employer is often a matter of
confronting a heterosexist work environment, of establishing
relationships of trust, of permitting oneself to speak about
one’s life and obligations outside of work. Regardless of the
reasons, the decision to come out to an employer occurs not in
a budgetary vacuum, but in confluence with a range of factors
both pragmatic and sentimental. And if I get fired for coming
out to an employer, that is not a just punitive consequence of
my decision, but a fundamental problem with an infrastructure
that does not provide adequate legal remedies for queers in
the workplace.
Similarly, the choice to come to NYU answers not a purely
financial question (i.e. How risky is this investment?), but
instead emerges from a range of considerations, including
whether I can be safely, openly, and authentically queer. And
that I’m shackled with an exorbitant amount of unforgivable

INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

30

debt because of that choice demonstrates fundamental
problems with higher education and lending practices,
rather than a mere consequence of my own decision. There
is nothing gay-friendly about indebting us, and reducing our
desire for a safe college to a poor financial decision. In this
way, the gay-friendliness and financial-unfriendliness of NYU
are entirely related; the former ought to be contingent upon
the latter. Frankly, it’s hypocritical for NYU’s administration
to take pride in the gay-friendliness of our school, when that
friendliness is conditioned upon the wealth of our families, or
our willingness to enter post-graduate indenture.
When we do locate queers within unjust structures, we might
provide a more substantial intervention by identifying the
ways these problems affect queer people in unique ways and
to unique degrees. For example, LGBT youth are homeless
at disproportionately higher rates, and often face uniquely
homophobic/transphobic encounters with shelters and police.
Even though homelessness affects a wide range of non-queer
people, we nonetheless have a significant stake in working
toward transformative solutions on behalf of homeless people.
Perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish here between the
two directions in which NYU hates poor queers: indenture
and inaccessibility. While NYU’s high tuition has put its own
students underwater in debt, it has put up a massive barrier to
would-be students who cannot afford to take out these loans
in the first place. In the most direct sense, NYU hates poor
queers because NYU is financially inaccessible to poor queers.
In either direction, though, queer people are hit harder than
our straight counterparts.
Transphobia and homophobia frequently produce volatile
households and unsupportive families. For this reason, queer
people are less likely to receive support, financial or otherwise,
from our biological families. Indeed, many of us pursue
college in order to escape abusive/intolerant households and
live independently. And while queer youth homelessness is
an issue I consider related but do not wish to co-opt here, the

proportion at which queer youth wind up homeless illustrates
this prevalence of homes hostile to queers. Even if NYU’s aid
officers assist queer students with the FAFSA in the absence of
parent signatures, NYU’s high tuition demands that students
take out additional private or federal PLUS loans, either of
which are unobtainable without a cosigner. For many poor
queers, such barriers foreclose the possibility of NYU in the
first place. For those of us that do make it here, or who come
out while in college, our own unsupportive households may
continue to sharpen the difficulty of dealing with the high
price of an NYU education. Families might financially cut
off their queer kids, forcing queer students to take out bigger
loans, work full-time, or drop out of NYU entirely, leaving us
with a great sum of debt with zero payoff. And whether we
graduate or not, when deferment periods end, queer students
have an especially hard time making payments with money
from entry-level jobs and without the financial support of our
families.
In addition to the hostility queer people are more likely to
encounter at home, queer students and post-grads are more
likely to encounter hostility in the workplace, especially the
visibly/non-passing queer. Most of us expect our degrees to at
least bring us decent-paying jobs with which we can begin to
pay off our debt. However,trans* and gender non-conforming
folks, along with people of color, have more difficulty obtaining
and maintaining secure employment, with or without NYU
degrees. Myths about gay wealth aside, all LGBT folks tend to
face higher rates of firing, lower rates of hiring, and significant
wage disparities from straight employees. Sure, NYU’s not
at fault for workplace discrimination, but these conditions
exacerbate the struggle of paying off student loan debt
for queer people. This debt drains our financial resources,
compels us to take jobs with less workplace protections, and—
more insidiously—discourages queer student activism with
the threat of losing crucial job opportunities.
NYU hates poor queers, because NYU’s role in the student
debt crisis affects queer students distinctively and acutely.

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INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

32

Both the student debt crisis nationwide and the student debt
crisis at NYU are queer issues, pressing issues that belong high
up on the agenda of queer student activism. What should
we do about it? Some may suggest that we push for an NYU
scholarship fund for queer students, work with financial aid
officers to raise their awareness about unsupportive families,
or petition the Wasserman Center to provide more programs
that connect LGBT students to employers. However, each
of these approaches does nothing to address the roots of
the problem facing poor queers and queer students: high
tuition prices, predatory lending practices, and administrative
unaccountability for either. More fundamentally, these
approaches steer clear of a broader vision of social justice: free
education for all.

----* Throughout this piece, I use “queer” primarily as
shorthand for all non-straight and non-cisgender identities,
and people who claim those identities (e.g. Transgender,
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual). Of course, “queer” has additional,
more imaginative and non-identitarian usages that might
also apply in certain points of this essay, often by accident.

33

34

INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

Abolish THE BOX
We write as members of The Incarceration to Education
Coalition (IEC). We write to welcome you to NYU, share our
campaign with you, join in a national conversation about
access to higher education, and to debunk some of the myths
surrounding criminal records screening in college admission
procedures. IEC was founded in the fall of 2013 by formerly
incarcerated NYU students, students without criminal
records, faculty, and community members. We are committed
to abolishing THE BOX.
THE BOX refers to a page on the undergraduate application
for admissions that includes the following two questions
alongside boxes requiring applicants to check “yes” or “no.”

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?
YES

NO

Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or
convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other
crime?
YES

NO

THE BOX is a tool of surveillance that constitutes racial and
economic discrimination. Our campaign is targeted at NYU
where you now attend school. Of the over 500 colleges and
universities that purchase the Common Application, NYU
has the largest applicant pool and is therefore the university
most invested in THE BOX. We focus on NYU with the goal of
removing THE BOX from the Common Application.
THE BOX was added to the NYU undergraduate application
in 2005; the Common Application added the BOX in 2006,
the same year that NYU started purchasing its services. For
the past nine years every undergraduate applicant at NYU
has been confronted with THE BOX. It’s alleged benefits have
never been grounded in empirical evidence. What’s more, THE
BOX inherits the discriminatory legal precedent of Jim Crow
and “separate but equal” laws. And most revealing of THE
BOX’s inherent racist and discriminatory character is that the
increase in “campus safety” it promises has never materialized.
Over the past two years the IEC has spoken with student
leaders and organizations, student government, deans,
admission office representatives, enrollment management,
and the university president to find out why NYU continues
to use THE BOX. No one has given any compelling evidence
supporting THE BOX’s presence. 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 reflects they are no safer than colleges
that do not ask for this information.2
Does “risk” mean that criminal history predicts future behavior

35

36

on campus?
NO. There is no empirical evidence that criminal history
screenings can predict future crimes on campus.3

INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

Does “risk” mean that universities are liable for the behavior
of formerly incarcerated students (more so than students
without criminal histories)?
NO. Only one university has ever been brought to court for
liability related to the behaviors of a formerly incarcerated
students and the court ruled in favor of the university
dismissing liability.4
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 data shows time and time again 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 acknowledge and stand in
solidarity with activists fighting for Title IX protections on
campuses across the country, but we also acknowledge that
using rape to maintain and produce white supremacy, racism,
and the criminalization of people of color does not protect,
comfort, or heal those of us who have survived sexual assault.5
There is no correlation between THE BOX and campus
safety or academic performance. Thus, “risk” in this context
operates as an indicator of stigma based on fear, not a
realistic assessment of an applicant’s future behavior. Pedro
Noguera, Professor of Education at NYU, supports doing
away with the Box: “[Abolishing] THE BOX for all college
applicants, including those applying to NYU, is the best way to
provide educational opportunities for formerly incarcerated
individuals.” Furthermore, education dramatically reduces
recidivism 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% for individuals who
earn an Associate’s degree, 5.6% for individuals who earn a
Baccalaureate and less than 1% for individuals who earn a
Master’s degree will recidivate.6

Some NYU administrators have suggested that if formerly
incarcerated applicants are admitted at similar rates to
applicants without criminal records then the policy is not
discriminatory. Singling out students with criminal records
is discriminatory, regardless of whether qualified applicants
are admitted afterwards. The NY court of appeals asserted
that this kind of screening “is at odds with the laws and public
policy regarding the release of prisoners.”7 Michelle Fine,
Distinguished Professor at The CUNY Graduate Center asserts,
“Exclusion is political cowardice with no benefits. Remove
THE BOX, open your doors and others will follow. NYU will
flourish in terms of the university’s intellectual life, the rich
diversity of your student body, and the ethical standards to
which your institution aspires.”
The United States has always maintained an interest in
marking people of color punishable, unsafe, enslave-able.
Through means of State control, the lives particularly of poor

37

INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA

38

people of color have always been more monitored and on
trial. This control is mobilized by sending a militarized police
force to monitor a residential neighborhood, and by NYU
and elsewhere through administrative violence. Because
the violence and surveillance embodied in THE BOX is
administrative, NYU can more easily justify its militarized
racism. Ruth Wilson, Gilmore Professor of Earth and
Environmental Sciences and author of Golden Gulag: Prisons,
Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California agrees,
writing that Abolishing THE BOX is a small but precise way to
combat the militarization of US citizens of color.
This spring, after forcibly ejecting IEC organizers from
the conversation, and taking our campaign to the board of
Trustees without our consent or wisdom, NYU announced
that it would reform its admission policy. Under the reformed
policy, NYU will conduct a preliminary “box-blind” (their
ableist language, not ours) reading, wherein it will select
students without considering if they have checked THE BOX.
It will then conduct a secondary screening of all students who
checked THE BOX, and reserves the right to revoke acceptance
at this stage. We do not consider this a victory. Any attempts to

reform THE BOX only re-entrench its violence. The viability of
the initial box-blind reading is a tacit admission on the part of
NYU administrators that an individual’s past experience with
the criminal legal system has no bearings on an individual’s
readiness for college level work. To go back and reassert THE
BOX in a secondary reading, despite being repeatedly proven
to be irrelevant to issues of campus safety, is simply an attempt
to normalize its violence. The discriminatory violence of THE
BOX can only end with it’s abolition.
Ultimately, THE BOX is only a small fragment of a much
larger issue. Once it is removed IEC will continue our work
to dismantle the social, economic, and political barriers
that stigmatize and dehumanize formerly and currently
incarcerated people.

----1 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/
injuryprev-2012-040644.
2 Weissman, M., Rosenthat, A., Warth, ., Wlf, E. and Messina-Yauchzy, M. (2010).
The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered. New
York: Center for Community Alternatives.
3 Eiseman v. State, 1987

4 The Incarceration to Education Coalition. “Abolish the Box: Moving Beyond
Criminality in Addressing Sexual Violence.” Crunk Feminist Collective, 2 Oct.
2014. Web.
5 Education from the Inside Out.
6 Eiseman v. State, 1987
7 The Incarceration to Education Coalition. “Still Boxed Out: NYU Discriminates
Against Students Who Have Faced Arrest.” SpeakOut. Truthout, 2 Aug. 2015. Web.
06 Aug. 2015.

39

NYU incessently
expands with no
mercy for the
communities
it destroys and
people it buries.
Administrators
have reached
an important
milestone: The sun
never sets on the
NYU empire.

& COLONIAL POWER

GLOBAL NETWORK

42

The Graveyard Below NYU
Abu Dhabi

GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

Indentured in the Desert

Last May, in a cavernous, state of the art building, NYU
Abu Dhabi’s second graduating class threw a celebration.
The ceremony was joyous: it featured more pomp, regalia,
and applause than the typical university commencement.
Speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of NYU’s degree
granting portal campus in the oil-rich absolute monarchy. A
slick promotional video showed students praising NYU Abu
Dhabi for “exporting hope and exporting future,” “stand[ing]
for investing in people and investing in a generation,” and
breathlessly lamenting that their four years in an educational
paradise with the Future Leaders Of The World were over.
But there was an elephant in the room. Just a month before, the
international investigation firm Nardello and Co. published
an NYU-commissioned report detailing widespread labor
abuses during the construction of NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus.
The report confirms 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. Most of these workers left penury in their respective
home countries in search of something better. They have
found repression and exploitation instead.
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

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GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

44

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 being gay. Israeli citizens
are banned from entering the country. Unionizing is illegal
and there is no minimum wage. The Emirates are run by a
monarchy that lacks even the pretense of democracy. While
John Sexton may label these policies as “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
school’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.

45

46

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 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.

GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

----In an email after Nardello and Co. released its report, 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 roughly 10,000 workers excluded from
NYU’s $217 minimum monthly rate. The deported strikers are
unmentioned; and, unlike with the construction of a high-rise
on top of Coles Gym, of which students get monthly updates,
the administration has not provided any updates about the
progress of its restitution measures.
These promises are wholly inadequate. The administration
has time and again demonstrated its lack of concern for the
victims of 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 can be found in the advice of Professor Andrew
Ross: “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

47
----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
while 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.

----1 Human Rights Watch. “Migrant Workers’ Rights on Saadiyat Island in the United

Arab Emirates 2015 Progress Report.” Report. Feb, 2015
2 Crabapple, Molly. “Slaves of Happiness Island.” VICE. 4 Aug, 2014.
3 Sexton, John. “NYU Commute To Get Better If You’re In Abu Dhabi.” NPR
interview.
4 Saul, Stephanie. “N.Y.U Professor Is Barred by United Arab Emirates.” The New
York Times. 16 Mar, 2015.
5 Ross, Andrew. “High Culture and Hard Labor.” The New York Times. 28 Mar, 2014

48

Meet the Board of Trustees

GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

What is the Board of Trustees? Who does it Serve?

The Board of Trustees is NYU’s governing body. It’s
responsible for setting university policy, 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.” 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. Doesn’t this sound like a horrible
situation? It get’s worse. The Board of Trustees is a highly
undemocratic institution. 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. Thus, the
Board is free to protect its own interests and to further its own
projects at the expense of students, faculty, and laborers 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 Trustees?
The NYU Board of Trustees chief interest is furthering and
protecting the interests of individual members. So who are
the members and what are the interests? Since the NYU Board
of Trustees is around seventy people strong--it 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. There is a
total disconnect between Board members and anyone you will
ever come into contact with as a student. 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 few examples.

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GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

50

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 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 %. 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.
Give him a warm welcome if you see him around campus.

51

Khaldoon Al-Mubarak
Aside from being the Chairman of the Executive Affairs
Authority, Al-Mubarak is also the CEO of Mubadala. This
multibillion-dollar corporation was one of the main firms
responsible for the construction of NYU Abu Dhabi.
Mubadala 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.
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

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GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

Catherine Reynolds

its non-profit status, EduCap has issued loans at interest
rates substantially higher than those of for-profit lending
companies. So, there’s no “profit,” but there is enough money
lying around EduCap for Reynolds to buy a private airplane
and donate 38 million to the Smithsonian? How many people
on this Board want to keep us the most indebted student body
in the world? Anyone else need an airplane?
Daniel Tisch
Daniel Tisch is heir to the enormous Tisch family fortune
(Forbes estimates it to be around $1.2 billion). This fortune
was made 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. Thus, the Tisch family’s money was made from
getting as many Black Americans addicted to the most harmful
form of cigarette tobacco. The Tisch family’s overwhelming
presence at NYU is a consistent reminder of the violent racism

our school was built on and continues to operate on today.

53

54

Birthright and the
Destruction of Palestine

GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

Welcome to Israel!

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’ll want and others you won’t. One table you’ll
most definitely encounter, not only this week, but throughout
your time at NYU, will be decorated with signs saying “Free
Trip to Israel” or “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,” Taglit Birthright
will present itself with an image of Israel that is depoliticized
and devoid of conflict, something we know to be untrue. The
trip will never present you with 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 displaced by Israel
are not able to claim this “birthright” despite generations of
family who lived or live in Palestine-Israel. Taglit-Birthright
will conveniently leave out the fact that the West Bank has
been under military occupation since 1967. This fact is not
disputed by any nation in the world. Well, except for Israel.
The birthright tables around campus won’t include facts
about Israel’s siege on the Gaza strip, where Israel controls the
movement of anything that enters or leaves: food, construction
materials, the airspace and waterways, and the people that live
there. These human rights abuses have even affected some

of your fellow NYU students who have attempted to come
to NYU with the Pathways to Peace program. Unfortunately,
many have either missed the program entirely, have 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 Birth-Right
advertisements you will repeatedly encounter on campus.
If you’re an American student, you should understand that
nearly four billion dollars a year goes to the Israeli army (IDF),
which maintains domination over Palestinians by denying
them basic human rights and overseeing the destruction of
Palestinian cities. 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 criticizing Israeli policies is not
anti-Semitic. There are several groups, such as Jewish Voice for
Peace that oppose Israel’s human rights violations. However,
this trip will not encourage you to join groups against the
Israeli government.
Taglit-Birthright will not mention the plight of Israeli citizens
who are themselves Palestinian. These citizens comprise
nearly twenty percent of the Israeli population. They are
legally and systematically discriminated against because
they are not Jewish. There are a number of laws codified by
the Israeli government that actively discriminate against
Palestinian citizens of Israel. For instance, the Citizenship and
Entry Law (enacted in 2003) denies citizenship for 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 citizenship. Recently, the Israeli government
has made plans to resettle thousands of Bedouins who live on
desired land in the south of Israel so it can be settled by their
Jewish counterparts. 

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Palestinians living in occupied territory are at least as
threatened by Israeli settlement and demolition as their
non-Jewish Israeli-citizen counterparts. From 2004 to 2012,
Israel demolished 412 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem,
leaving 1,636 people homeless, 879 of whom are minors.
Despite consistent intentional pressure and despite being in
constant violation of Article 54 of the Geneva Convention,
Israel has only enhanced its program of mass destruction and
displacement; in August 2015, more Palestinian homes were
demolished than had been inany month for the last several
years.

A Jewish NYU student who has never been
to Israel 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, which is extremely difficult, and
even then may not be let in. Palestinians in
Gaza and the West Bank do not have this
ability. If a Jewish person wanted to move
to Israel, they will face very few barriers.
In fact, the Israeli government will aid
them in their efforts. 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 written to depress you or guilt you if
you’ve ever thought Birthright looked interesting, but did not
understand its purpose. They are to show you this seemingly
harmless free vacation is actually a tool funded by the Israeli

government as another means for removing Palestinians,
which the government openly calls a “demographic threat.”
As an NYU student you will encounter these ads more
frequently than others. 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 are not sponsored
by the government but by NGOs that give accurate accounts
of life in Israel-Palestine. In addition, you can also check out
activist organizations, like Students for Justice in Palestine
(SJP). SJP is a group of students from diverse backgrounds
(including Palestinian and Jewish) that believe in equal rights
for Palestinians and Israelis.
Birthright is a propaganda trip 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. Going on a birthright “vacation”
makes you complicit in the occupation, destruction, and
colonization of Palestine. That NYU sponsors an official
Birthright trip and houses the founders of Taglit-Birthright is
testament to its own violent complicity.

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NYU 2031

GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

Bulldozing the Village

Under John Sexton’s more than decade-long leadership,
New York University’s merciless expansion has drawn
considerable criticism from many of its students, faculty, and
nearby residents. In 2006 the university unveiled NYU 2031,
a detailed space-planning program that proposes significant
redevelopment in Greenwich Village, downtown Brooklyn,
and Governor’s Island. The plan sparked much-publicized
debate among faculty and administration from the onset – for
instance, a survey of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences taken
in 2012 suggests that 40% “strongly oppose” the plan and an
additional 18% “oppose” it – and resulted in a lengthy and
only recently resolved lawsuit and appeal.
NYU, which professes to be “in and of the city,” has been at
odds with the community of Greenwich Village and beyond
since its founding in 1831. The following is intended to act as a
primer that details the context and controversies surrounding
the university’s expansion tactics: it should serve not as an
encompassing guide but as a provocation for further research
and consideration.
----The university moved into the Village in 1831, coinciding
with a construction boom in the area. Up until then,
Washington Square Park was a military training ground, and
the area around was largely dedicated to New York State’s
first penitentiary, Newgate Prison. In 1831, the city closed the
notoriously overcrowded prison and many of its inmates were

shipped to the newly constructed Sing Sing Prison (famously
built using the labor of its inmates). Mayor William L. Marcy
encouraged Albert Gallatin and University Council to use
excess construction material from Sing Sing to construct
NYU’s initial buildings. In 1834, stonecutters took the streets
to protest NYU’s use of prison labor, storming the University
contractor’s office. Thus, NYU stands at the center of New
York State’s first organized labor riot. It had entered “the
community.”
In the latter half of the 19th century, Greenwich Village
would establish itself as a bohemian enclave – artists, poets,
dramatists and political radicals were attracted to the relatively
low housing costs. NYU continues to use the cultural history
of its location as a key selling point (John Sexton calls it the
“locational endowment”). Nevertheless, the university has
historically been uninterested in preserving or cultivating its
surroundings.
By the ‘50s, the university had considerably expanded,
operating campuses in both Washington Square Park and
University Heights in the Bronx. Post-war boom allowed
enrollment to soar and prompted several urban renewal
and housing bills from the city governance. City Parks
Commissioner Robert Moses, whose name is synonymous
with urban development, was a key figure in shaping many
of these plans. Moses aggressively acquired three blocks of
working class tenements south of Washington Square Park
and designated them as the site of three “superblocks,” large
modern 17-story apartment complexes (only two were built –
the third was halted after tenants of the first two organized a
rent strike over poor living conditions).
It is during the post-superblock ‘60s that NYU transformed
into the expansionist enterprise it is today. The land intended
for the halted superblock was gifted to NYU and developed by
the university as the Silver Towers faculty housing. In 1962,
the Ford Foundation awarded the university with $25 million
in development resources and in 1964 the two remaining

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superblocks were sold to the university well below price.

GLOBAL NETWORK & COLONIAL POWER

The university suffered considerable financial instability for
the next decade. It sold its University Heights campus in the
Bronx in 1973 to both keep afloat and out of fear of “urban
decay” in the borough. Due to its limited endowment, the
necessity of consolidating two campuses into one, and the
gradually rising yearly admissions, the university began to pour
much of its energy into speculative real estate acquisitions
and complicated construction projects. In the ‘90s, it began
development of student housing around Union Square,
lobbying the city to rezone the area for taller buildings. Both
its tuition and admissions rates soared. NYU became one of
the largest landholders in the city.
In 2000, the university announced plans for the construction
of Furman Hall, a building for its law school. The proposed site
was the former residence of Edgar Allen Poe, where he wrote
“The Cask of Amontillado” and published “The Raven.” Several
demonstrations were held to protest the plans and moves
were made to establish the site as a landmark. The university
continuously denied the historical significance of the building
in press releases, but relented in agreeing to incorporate
the facade in the new building’s architecture, but only after
moving it a block down. The aggressive development of the
campus often found the administration at odds with advocate
groups such as the Greenwich Village Society for Historical
Preservation – consider the architectural mismatch of the St.
Ann’s Church facade and the sleek Founder’s Hall; consider
the university’s botched promise to preserve six percent of the
historic Provicetown Playhouse in its construction of its law
school buildings.
----NYU 2031, a $6 billion 25-year expansion plan, was announced
in 2006 and was met with swift and forceful opposition from
many long-time residents and community members. The
bulk of the redesign affects the Washington Square Village

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64

superblocks and will result in continuous construction
within these three blocks for the next two decades. Most
controversially, 2031 will redevelop four historically public
sites: Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Park, LaGuardia Gardens,
and the Mercer-Houston Dog Run. Opponents of the plan
honed in on this in their legal battle against 2031. Greenwich
Village residents and NYU faculty filed suit against the city
claiming that it had illegally approved construction on
“implied parkland” for non-park use, a claim that was upheld
for all but the dog run in January 2014 by State Supreme Court
justice Donna Mills. The victory was short-lived: the university
appealed the decision and the State Supreme Court’s findings
were ultimately overturned in summer of 2015. NYU 2031
moves forward.
The community struggle over 2031 coincided with the faculty’s
growing distrust of the administration. In 2013, the Faculty of
Arts and Sciences passed a vote of no confidence in president
Sexton. Many voters cited the University’s expansion tactics
as the reason for their vote; others were ambivalent about
the plan but unhappy about the behind-closed-doors nature
of the planning process. Others objected to 2031 because of
what it means for tuition and class size. The Faculty of Arts
and Sciences Economics Department noted that they “are
concerned that these large costs [of NYU 2031] will be paid
for by some combination of higher tuition rates, a larger
student body, lower teacher-student ratios, fewer tenureeligible faculty, reductions in real faculty salaries over time,
and smaller benefits.”
For incoming students, NYU 2031 might seem benign, but
it is an example of NYU’s circular “manifest destiny” logic.
One of the ways the university bankrolls its billion-dollar
expansion plans is by steadily admitting more undergraduates
yearly, often overflowing the dorms and placing a portion of
students in nearby hotels. The administration then justifies
expansions by pointing to such instances as an example of
the need for additional space. It markets its “rich and diverse”
surroundings and then shows litlle interest in or support for

the communities that have long made up the neighborhood.
NYU 2031 is the climax of a half-century of escalating “urban
renewal.” The city rolls over to large private entities, gleefully
rezoning community space and adjusting height restriction
laws even if such changes are unsustainable, untenable, ugly,
or result in the displacement of working-class communities.
Mostly, long-time residents are tired of the never-ending
construction across the lower Village, construction that we
are footing the bill for.

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Core development zones

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Radical Groups on Campus
Students for Justice in Palestine
http://nyusjp.org/
justiceinpalestine.club@nyu.edu
Queer Union
http://nyuqueerunion.tumblr.com/
queer.union.club@nyu.edu
NYU Divest
http://nyu-divest.squarespace.com/
nyudivest@gmail.com
NYU Dream Team
https://nyudreamteam.wordpress.com/
dream.team.club@nyu.edu
Student Labor Action Movement
https://nyuslam.wordpress.com/
nyuslam@gmail.com
Know Your City
http://knowyourcity.launchrock.com/
knowyourcitynyu@gmail.com
Incarceration to Education Coalition
https://iecforchange.wordpress.com/
incarceration2education@gmail.com
International Socialist Organization, NYU Branch
http://nycsocialist.org/category/nyu/
iso-nyu@nycsocialist.org

Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee
https://revolutionarystudents.wordpress.com/
rscc.nyc@gmail.edu
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union
collectiveactiongetsthegoods.tumblr.com
PLACES
Bluestockings Bookstore
bluestockings.com
172 Allen Street, Manhattan
212-777-6028
The Base
thebasebk.org
1302 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn
thebasebk@gmail.com
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Spaces
http://www.morusnyc.org/
155 Avenue C, Manhattan
973-818-8495
Revolution Books
http://revolutionbooksnyc.org/
146 W. 26th St., New York
212-691-3345

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NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

------------------------------------------------------FALL 2015

Item sets