Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Take Back NYU! Protester Clara Totenberg Green

NYU student activist group Take Back NYU! (TBNYU!) staged a protest February 18-20 in the university's Kimmel Center to bring attention to their demands for social accountability at the university. The students occupied the Kimmel Center overnight despite threats of academic dismissal and possible arrest for trespassing. Eighteen students were suspended.

After suspensions were doled out, protesters and members of TBNYU! and even their supporters were reluctant to speak to the media for fear of punishment by the university. Twenty-two press inquiries were sent out by profilepicks.blogspot.com before one interview was granted.

The following is NYU student and TBNYU! member Clara Totenberg Green's explanation of the events, as told to profilepicks.blogspot.com

I was part of the group Students Creating Radical Change, which is the group that Take Back NYU! came out of. I’m interested in politics and social justice and I’ve always felt that you have to approach social rights issues within the community you’re a part of before you can affect change on a broader scale. I’ve always felt that disclosure was necessary in order to keep the NYU administration accountable to its students and to provide for transparency and democracy and the students’ say in what’s going on at our school. The ideas behind this campaign are absolutely necessary for all political campaigns on campus.

For everyone the disclosure demand was the biggest demand, the thing we’ve worked around most for the last two years, and that’s a representation of all the other demands. Besides that, the demands that go along with disclosure are important: the financially responsible committee, and also having a student on the board of trustees.

Administrators know that if they disclose the budget there’s gonna be mass political debates on campus and opposition. If we find out that women get paid substantially less than men professors, then of course there’s gonna be massive protests to that, and they know that, so
that’s why they don’t want disclosure. They know that they’re hiding something and they’re afraid of what would happen with that.

They don’t want to negotiate with us because that says that we’ve won in some manner, and they did the same thing with the graduate students [in fall 2005]. That’s just their way of shutting people down. By not even giving them someone to talk to, they’re silencing them.

Their public [statement] was that we students have no right to [occupy Kimmel] and this is an inappropriate way to project dissent, that there are proper channels to do that and this is not one of them.

It’s necessary that they speak to the students because the students have attempted to travel down all the traditional paths of expressing their opposition to what’s going on right now, and we’ve been consistently ignored. It’s time the administration actually sat down with them and talked about what we’re demanding: give us full disclosure of the budget because without that we can’t be a fair and democratic university in the public service.

They are Bernie Madoff in this case. That’s the most ironic thing about it all. They are filing all these claims saying that they were deceived and should have been told about everything. It’s the exact same thing because they were giving their money to someone who lied to them about where it was going and didn’t tell them the right places it was going. Of course, they’re doing the same thing to us. They were businessmen participating in a business and that’s exactly what we’re doing – students are shareholders and this is just another corporation. We give our money to this big business that does what it wants with our money and we have no idea where it’s going and we have no say in it.

Clara Totenberg Green

Take Back NYU!: http://takebacknyu.com/
Take Back NYU's demands
A video of the protest 2/19/09 5 p.m. via YouTube
More videos of the protest on YouTube
February 18, 2009 New York Times article

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