NYU Student & Labor Action Movement (SLAM) has been running its End Deathtraps campaign since September 2013. Recently, we earned a victory. Last week, NYU administrators notified the community that they were putting a hold on all orders for merchandise at JanSport until it and its parent corporation, VF, agreed to sign onto the Accord on Factory and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
Though SLAM is gratified and excited by this end to a year of successful of campaigning, we remain deeply troubled by the state of democracy at NYU and the possibility for student input in the University’s decision making. Though we’ve received the result we wanted– the end to NYU’s commercial relationship with abusive apparel manufacturers– we have at no point during this year received the process we wanted, and that we feel we are entitled to as members of the NYU student body.
The NYU administration has consistently refused to engage meaningfully with our requests to participate in their decision making. We have never been granted a meeting with President John Sexton, despite years of requesting a meeting to address our concerns. The administration’s attitude toward our organizing has been consistently flippant and dismissive. Because SLAM is a student-led organization that believes in taking direct action to advance social justice, we have been accused of refusing to follow process and of acting in poor faith.
We have no faith in the “process.” The process is skewed. The process does not allow for meaningful student participation in the financial administration of this University. Even though this institution is increasingly built from the staggering economic burden of its student body, students have no meaningful vehicle for intervening in the University’s finances, or even for learning about them. This needs to change.
The End Deathtraps campaign demonstrated the administration’s lack of respect for student input. During our meeting with high-level administrators, we discovered that NYU had consulted with every economic and social actor before consulting even with its own students. They called peer institutions. They called the company with which we had demanded they sever ties. They even consulted the Workers Rights Consortium– a step in the right direction, except that SLAM had already provided the administration with information from the Workers Rights Consortium three months prior to this consultation. They call this due process, due diligence. We call this a symptom of our institution’s deep fear of democracy and distrust of student input.
We are thrilled to announce a victory for our End Deathtraps campaign. But we will continue to fight NYU for meaningful student participation in its financial decision making. We will continue to oppose NYU-supported labor violations at its satellite campus in Abu Dhabi. We will continue to oppose the 2031 Plan– a naked effort to advance the economic interests of a few wealthy stakeholders at the expense of students and community members. We will continue to oppose NYU’s rising cost and irresponsible dependence on destructive student debt. We will continue to offer our support to student groups fighting against NYU’s racist admissions procedures and against NYU’s destructive and unsustainable investments in fossil fuels.
We invite all members of the NYU community to join these fights, and to work with us to build a vision of a democratic, inclusive, radically better university.