Dear Ms. Haymaker,
We, the Student Labor Action Movement have gathered here today shocked and outraged by NYU’s treatment of our fellow student and anti-debt organizer Nia Mirza. We see your action to revoke her previously approved appeal to live off campus due to issues of affordability as nothing other than intimidation and retaliation. As you are most likely very well aware, this summer Nia started a petition demanding that NYU lower the cost of tuition so that it match the price early decision students originally saw when they applied to NYU. Like Nia, we think it is predatory for this administration to be dishonest about the price of this university, especially to students who are bound to NYU since they apply early decision rather than regular decision.
As an NYU administrator and specifically the Director of Global Programs for Liberal Studies we know that you are aware of the difficulties imposed upon international students who are ineligible for government financial aid and thus often the first to succumb to predatory loans. In addition, they are unable to receive employment outside the university, and thus must rely on campus jobs, something not offered at the DC campus where Nia studies. How then in any moral way could you demand that Nia move back onto campus and pay the full cost of NYU housing within 24 hours or withdraw from the university? How then could you deny her request for a few extra days so that she could discuss with her family abroad the situation in which they found themselves? How then could you and your administration be so insensitive and cruel?
At this point, we are simply disgusted and disappointed in NYU. Between the Jack Lew Kick Back Scandal with Chase Bank, the vacation home scandal, use of slave labor for the Abu Dhabi campus, the absurd amounts of money going to the $6 billion expansion plan and top administrator salaries, the refusal for NYU to faithfully implement the new contract approved between it and GSOC, and finally not allowing NYU Divest to present to the board of trustees as promised, we thought NYU would have budged by now. However, no such budging has occurred and our allies have been cruelly toyed with. Repeatedly NYU administration has shown little interest in prioritizing the interests of its students or faculty. Due to our disgust and disappointment with the administration we will no longer stand by as they dismantle the life prospects of individual students with absurd debt and the commodification of education, something that should be considered a right. We have tried demanding an overall solution to little avail. Routinely we have been brushed aside with lies as the administration continues to curtail to the interests of the few rather than the many. We stand here today committed to a single case relating to a single student. We will continue to do so for individual students struggling until we are able to achieve our larger goal and place control of the university where it belongs, in the hands of its students and faculty.
As we read this letter out loud you may be wondering why we have not pursued the “proper channels” for change. It is this reasoning that has constantly lead to NYU directing its security staff to disrupt our actions. In response, we first say to the security staff that we appreciate all the hard work they do despite NYU’s lack of appreciation of them. We read the administration’s efforts as nothing more than the continuous attempt to divide and conquer students and workers. We students love the staff at this university and want to them know we will do everything today to comply to the best of our ability, however we will not be manipulated, we will not be divided and we will not be conquered.
Second though we ask, what proper channels and for whom? Have you forgotten that NYU Divest was promised a meeting with the Board of the Trustee’s only after spending two years going through your proper channel of approaching the university senate? Have you forgotten that two years ago NYU’s university senate promised to cut ties with all companies producing apparel from NYU out of sweatshop in Bangladesh, including JanSport and its Parent Company VF but refused to actually implement their promise? Or have you forgotten that the promise was only fulfilled after SLAM conducted a 6 hour sit-in occupation of the welcome center. These “proper channels” only exist in order to delegitimize the true work of enacting change. Today is a day of action.
We stand here in solidarity with all those across the country struggling to create an economy that works for us all. Fast food workers courageously fought to raise their wage to $15 an hour and won. We are inspired by their example as we press the university to follow in similar suite with its own student workers. Recognizing that the greatest obstacle standing between us and a university that works for us all is our own tenacity and drive to fight for these goals, we proudly proclaim that the students and workers united will never be defeated!