Take Back NYU! Doing Themselves, NYU a Great Disservice

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For anyone that hasn’t been following the story about the NYU student’s protest, here’s a summary:

Take Back NYU! (TBNYU) is an organization comprised of other NYU organizations, mobilized to fight for budgetary disclosure (and the occupation of the Kimmel Center includes solidarity with the University of Gaza on many different matters).

Wednesday, the students of TBNYU stormed the third floor of the Kimmel Center, blockaded themselves inside and sent a very interesting (and diverse) list of demands to the administration.  On their website, they’re blogging updates—rather, sympathizers are blogging as all outlet power has been shut off, along with internet access—noting protest time, people that have come out in support of their efforts, and anything else that someone interested might need to know.

Other updates can be found by following TBNYU students on Twitter, Facebook or other Social Networking sites that are easily accessed via phones.

After being granted amnesty to stay in Kimmel for one night overnight, NYU warned that any students (and non-NYU students) who remained last night would be considered trespassers if they stayed past 1am.  Some students left while others stayed.  Students that stayed are considered suspended (and rumors are that those in housing have had that taken away as well).

As of the time of this posting, all the students have been removed from Kimmel, and were suspended/arrested per NYU’s threats/promises/prerogative.

What, I believe, clearly should not have happened is… well, any of this.

I went to a University where apathy was high and unity was relatively low, so part of me appreciates the activism and the humanistic tone these events took (solidarity with Gaza, between students, with faculty, etc…).  But the counter-productivity, and the PR suicide, of the TBNYU kids is unfortunate, and will probably cost them more than their dorm rooms or degrees.

When you have a cause you believe in, finding a constructive way of getting your message across is probably a good place to start.  Sure, transparency with respect to where their money is going (and why their tuition seems to rise uncontrollably) is great.  But does it necessitate taking over other people’s property (last I checked, ALL the students at NYU pay, in part, for use of Kimmel.  Who is TBNYU to deny other students—some in agreement with their cause—the right to use the facilities their obscenely high tuition pays for?

Furthermore, let’s breakdown what these kids actually did: took over the third floor of a building.  It was NYU that closed the rest of the building off as a means of keeping the third floor under control.  Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but what serious threat did these kids think they were going to pose by occupying a single floor.  Yes, they managed to inconvenience a number of people (most of whom were not responsible for the things they were rallying against), but ultimately, not being able to get a quesadilla isn’t much of a hardship.  I don’t care how cheesy and delicious they are, people can always go down to Panchito’s on MacDougal instead.

The action TBNYU took was that of a petulant third-grader, not college (and some graduate) students.

During the kerfuffle, a department head stepped up and voiced her support for what TBNYU was doing.  Great.  Except now a department head is aligned with a group of “rogue” students who were tricked into leaving their safe haven (I heard about how the administration offered to talk to the five negotiators from TBNYU and then summarily suspended and arrested them.  It was like some weird “Wabbit Season, Duck Season” parallel…).  Says tons about her judgment, not only in aligning with them, but also in admitting that she was aligned with them.

(At this point, I can’t imagine what potential students on their walking tours of the campus must be thinking… And those poor parents, probably worried sick that their children will make similar stupid mistakes…)

So, who’s the victor?

It’s clearly not the TBNYU kids.  All those involved are pretty much in self-dug holes.  Deep ones.

It’s not the TBNYU cause; they’ve damaged the legitimacy of a number of their complaints by lumping them together with everything that was bothering them.  Had they had a targeted set of initiatives, those could have been taken care of.  But no, TBNYU had to get greedy and demand everything up front, which probably cost them getting at least one of their demands met.  In my experience, being precise with a willingness to be flexible is the best thing you can do when you’re in a position to ask for/demand anything.

It’s not NYU.  They look foolish for letting this go on as long as it did.  Since Wednesday night, students ran amuck (in a singular floor of one building).  NYU was prepared to take the steps it needed to to end the occupation, and they finally did them: turning off power to all outlets, shutting down Internet access, etc…  Why didn’t they do this at 1am Thursday morning in an effort to get these kids out before Kimmel opened anyways?  It is their own fault for not nipping it in the bud.

You know who the real winners were?

People like me that enjoy this stuff.

I openly admit to, personally, enjoying watching other people act a fool.  Professionally, though, I think this interest me because it highlights a fatal flaw in people as well as PR/Marketing/Advertising campaigns, and that’s painful shortsightedness.

What does that even mean?

Well, these kids were hoping to be turned into martyrs and/or thought they’d actually get away with a stunt like occupying one of NYU’s most frequented buildings.  Either these kids were colossally stupid and didn’t belong at NYU, they had no actual real-life experience that would have taught them that you can’t always get what you want (nor did they have a radio that played commercials or oldies or had parents, apparently), or they’re just so painfully arrogant that they believed they were above being punished, or at the very least could get themselves out of it.

They didn’t take into consideration that NYU didn’t owe them a thing.  They didn’t take into consideration the binding agreement that they signed up acceptance to NYU to conduct themselves in a particular manner (one that doesn’t involve illegally occupying school property).  If you are unwilling to respect your signed agreement, then don’t expect NYU to uphold a verbal agreement to meet with you about negotiating.

TBNYU comes off as thinking they’re invincible.  But getting expelled from NYU without making a dent in the cause you were fighting for hardly seems worth it.  I’m sure your parents will be thrilled (particularly if they paid for you to go to school.  If they didn’t and you’re on loans, then enjoy the debt you racked up for, what most would consider, nothing).

I stand by my assertion that the TBNYU kids have made a mockery of what protesting is about, and while I personally appreciate the fodder, it makes me sad to see kids with legitimate potential knowingly throw opportunities away for frivolous reasons (I’ve got nothing at stake here, and they still failed to convince me that the ends, should that have succeeded, justified the means).

If there’s something I’m missing, please let me know…

Jackie for AMP3pr.com




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