A group of students dissatisfied with the lack of communication between the student body and the administration at New York University staged an occupation of a campus building. Beginning on Feb. 18, the protest lasted 40 hours.
The group Take Back NYU led the protest to get the administration to agree to a list of demands. These included “amnesty for all parties involved [in the protest]; full compensation for all employees whose jobs were disrupted during the course of the occupation; public release of NYU’s annual budget and endowment; a Socially Responsible Finance Committee that will immediately investigate war profiteers and the lifting of the Coke ban.”
It was alleged that the police used violence and physical force to end the occupation. The group’s official statement said, “in the course of defending its secrets, NYU put students and its security guards at risk by encouraging the use of physical force to end a non-violent protest. NYPD officers used billy clubs and mace against demonstrators outside the building. These acts of aggression have gone unmentioned and unquestioned in the course of NYU’s handling of the occupation.” The statement and the full list of demands can be found at takebacknyu.com.
On the group’s name of Take Back NYU, James Devitt, the Senior Vice President of University Relations and Public Affairs at the university, said, “they’re calling themselves [that], but they’re not a recognized student group.” The group’s official statement states that they occupied one of the buildings on their campus, the Kimmel Center for University Life, from “10 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2009, to 2 p.m. on Feb. 20.” During those 40 hours, the group aimed to make the administration realize its “ethical failings regarding transparency, democracy, and protection of human rights.”
The students of Take Back NYU believe that the administration constantly ignores its students and will still not enter into a discussion with them about the school’s policies, even after the occupation is over. “None of their demands [were] met,” said Devitt. “That is the only comment I have. Disruption was minimal. Classes went on.” On most other questions related to the occupation, Devitt said, “I can’t get into specifics.”
The administration of NYU has reached consensual resolution in 17 cases of students who participated in the occupation. “In one case, disciplinary proceedings are still in progress,” Devitt said.
Take Back NYU believes that while in some ways it was an unsuccessful occupation because their demands were not met, the attention and coverage of the occupation did make it a partial success.