NYU Students Occupy Building

Late on Thursday, February 19 2009, we received this report on the NYU occupation from Tom Trottier, a WIL member and trade union member in New York City.

I was unable to interview the students who are in the occupation.  The NYU administration and their security force, as well as the NYPD, have learned some lessons from the New School.  They sealed off the third floor of the Kimmel Student Center, which is a lounge area for students.

I spoke with students outside the building who support the occupation, and I was there for two hours.  The students include NYU students, New School, Columbia and City College.  They said that there were students from other schools in the occupation and they estimated that 70 students are involved.  NYU’s administration said that, if the students do not leave by 1:00 AM (Thursday night/Friday morning), they will be removed, and the students will be expelled.  Obviously, it will be difficult for NYU to expel non-NYU students.

It was not clear how much planning was involved in this occupation.  Many of the students were hungry and tried to send down a bucket for supporters to put food in, but NYU security quickly took the bucket.  No persons and no food are being allowed to get to the students in the building.  Only an NYU ID will allow you in the building, but not to that floor..

The program, which can be seen from the Take Back NYU website, is a collection of demands that range from recognition of the graduate students’ union (This had been recognized in the past, but a change in ruling by the NLRB gave NYU the chance to “un-recognize” the union.) to divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine to demands to stabilize tuition.  The students told me that tuition is more that $50,000 per year.

It is also not clear if the student groups involved in this tried to reach out to the NYU students on these issues prior to this occupation.  It seems they should have campaigned on some of these issues and tried to raise awareness and test support before moving ahead with this action.  Also, by starting it at 10:00 PM at night, many did not become aware of this until today (Thursday).

Even though there were only a couple of right-wing students counter-protesting, the big business media plays them up as if they were equal to the protesters inside.  If nothing else, events like this show how the media, which itself is big business, attempts to form public opinion in the way they cover an event.

The WIL and YFIS supports the just demands of the students.  We are against any attempt by the NYPD and/or the NYU Administration to remove theses students. These actions, like the factory occupations in Chicago and around the world, show that students and workers are beginning to fight back.  In order to win, students need to link their struggle with the labor movement.  Students also should examine the root cause of all of the problems that their demands seek to address.  Capitalism is a system which exploits workers, charges exorbitant tuition for education and is involved in imperialist oppression around the world.  The schools under capitalism are huge bureaucracies, which answer student requests with a slap of the face.  Only in a socialist society can we democratize all of the schools and address exploitation and imperialist oppression.

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