heeb'n'vegan

"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)

2.20.2009

NYU Student Takeover

I started grad school at NYU a month ago, and I don't have much knowledge about extracurricular activities or undergraduate life at this point. I was surprised to learn that several dozen students barricaded themselves inside a cafeteria from Wednesday night until this morning in an effort to protest a laundry list of items. Their main goal was financial transparency for NYU, which seems legit enough, but the long list of unrelated demands alienated many people who might otherwise support the cause.

The protesters displayed a Palestinian flag outside the cafeteria and had two distinct demands related to Palestinian issues: "That the university donate all excess supplies and materials in an effort to rebuild the [Islamic] University of Gaza" and "That annual scholarships be provided for thirteen Palestinian students, starting with the 2009/2010 academic year. These scholarships will include funding for books, housing, meals and travel expenses." I think supporting the people of Gaza in a humanitarian crisis is a worthwhile issue, and I don't see these demands as inherently anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. I have no problem with individuals' choosing to donate supplies and materials to the Islamic University of Gaza, but support for the school in the wake of recent warfare is not the role of NYU. Regarding the full scholarships, I fail to see why 13 Palestinian students deserve this special consideration and how this can be thought of as practical. I can't imagine that NYU would actually heed these two demands, and their irrelevance to the protesters' main goals will only hurt their cause.

Animal issues were not left out either. Why do the protesters want budget disclosure? There are quite a few reasons, but one of them is that "students deserve to know if our tuition supports animal research many consider cruel." Take Back NYU!, the group that organized the protest, notes the following on its Web site: "Almost always, all the food [served at events] will be vegan; the rest of the time there will be at least a significant vegan option. Usually it will also be freegan, organic, and/or local. And maybe just cheap."

Ultimately, each of the protesters' demands must be assessed on its own.

Update (2/21): StudentActivism.net explains why Palestinian issues were part of Take Back NYU!'s demands: "Since early January, students at more than twenty universities across Britain have staged sit-ins demanding administration action on Palestinian issues. Two weeks ago, students at the University of Rochester in upstate New York held a similar protest. Today’s NYU occupation follows those actions in form, and by making Palestinian issues part of their list of demands, TBNYU is linking its protest to the others in content as well. By calling for support for Palestinian students and the [Islamic] University of Gaza, TBNYU is sending a message to student activists on both sides of the Atlantic. It is declaring itself to be part of a new international student movement." That doesn't change my opinions, as stated above, but it does provide some context.

2 Comments:

  • At 2/23/2009 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "I can't imagine that NYU would actually heed these two demands, and their irrelevance to the protesters' main goals will only hurt their cause."

    Some of the British Universities which were protested did in fact capitulate to these types of demands.

     
  • At 4/08/2009 4:55 PM, OpenID JJRC said…

    Perhaps it was because the protests in the British Universities were based solely on Palestine. My understanding of TBNYU is that they want sweeping reforms over very different subjects. It is a bit outrageous to storm the University's privately owned space (be it a student center or a classroom) and make these demands.

    The final moments of the raid posted on Gawker is quite intense for the student and appears to be routine for the school officials.

    JJRC

     

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