Our View-Budget angst begs question ‘What would NYU do?’

Once again, students climb to a higher elevation to erase perceived social injustice, while the “Establishment” takes the low road by giving them the heave-ho. Sounds sort of like the opening sentence of some 1960s newspaper story about a “UC Berkeleyesque” campus takeover, doesn’t it?

The reality is that it actually happened when some frustrated New York University “millennium” students occupied an NYU student area on Wednesday, Feb. 18. The group of approximately 70 students calling themselves “Take Back NYU” hijacked a dining area in the student center for around 40 hours, according to multiple news sources.

During the first night of the occupation, the students created a website, takebacknyu.com, posting their demands for the university to “create a more accountable, democratic and socially responsible university. …”

At the core of the students’ discontent are skyrocketing tuitions and a lack of institutional transparency in how fees are used, they explained on their website.

While some of the 13 demands seem either frivolous or tacked on for impact, others appeared fairly reasonable given the plight of college students surviving in a spooky national economy.

Probably anticipating disciplinary scrutiny, the laundry list led with the escape clause for, “Full legal and disciplinary amnesty for all parties involved in the occupation.” Now that’s damage control.

In an apparent attempt to muster institutional solidarity to their cause the students demanded, among other things, resuming labor union contract negotiations and a cluster of other collective bargaining concessions for all campus employees and student workers.

We hope any inferred editorial opinion thus far is understood because these students put themselves out there for some globally-recognized issues. Much of their pain is being felt by college students from New York to Cal State Long Beach.

The current economy is hurting higher education on a global basis, rocking the foundations of learning in nearly every institution between Podunk, Someplace-or-other and the University of Gaza, the latter being one of the group’s major social justice concerns.

When the incursion ended the following Friday, administrators announced the suspension of 18 occupiers “pending a disciplinary review,” the New York Times reported.

NYU and other universities should respect the source of this frustration. This instance of civil disobedience wasn’t borne out of some conscription by hippies “with flowers in their hair.” Students are reaching the proverbial boiling point on an international scale.

“Take Back NYU” hit rock bottom after two years of trying to be heard, and more modern docile forms of protest were proving futile. Assuredly, none of us would like to see situations like this escalate to the Vietnam-era police-state siege atmosphere that permeated higher education in the ’60s and ’70s.

When youthful frustration climaxes with a hijack/filibuster like NYU, though, it seems like the only way to be heard is to revisit the philosophy of resistance to oppression that founded this nation and placed civil rights on the front pages.

As a result of having their concerns ignored, this small group jumped in the H.G. Wells “Time Machine” and snubbed “The Man.” They were definitely noticed by administrators and like-minded college students. Their plight has gone World Wide Web viral. Those students took a stand and told their masters, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna to take it anymore.”

We’re facing the same problems in the California State University system that students are experiencing in New York, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and Palestine — the homes of other recent student occupations.

Our statewide solution to date, however, has been to “join” the so-far-impotent-and-blatantly-ignored Alliance for the CSU.

Our state Legislature flipped us off during budget negotiations. The passionate letters from our community, parents, faculty and university staff undoubtedly hit the paper shredder before they could land on an empathetic politician’s desk.

Stopping short of announcing, advocating or condoning a physical blockade of university property, something has to give way. We are asking our various communities to consider different tactics that will pull the plugs out of our elected representatives’ ears.

The Daily Forty-Niner staff — your fellow students — don’t have the solutions, but we sure would like your input on how to better get the message across that affordable education must, as President Obama told Congress the other night, be a priority investment.

At the very minimum, posting supportive comments on the NYU protestors’ website will show student solidarity. It’s at least worth the effort to read the ones already posted. You’ll realize you’re not alone. The lines are open, CSULB.


One Comment

  1. Alliance for the CSU is a complete joke because CSU administrators are involved in the team. Imagine if Saddam Hussein had sat in the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff strategic meetings. There would have been neither “Shock” nor “Awe” Administrators in the CSU answer to the chancellors office, which answers to the governor. The campus presidents and their minions are merely involved to glean information and run interference. We should have a walk out or take over to get our message out.

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