This is an eyewitness report from the NowPublic member Pythiian1 who was on the scene.
NYU Suspended Students as Their Protest Ended a 3-day Occupation
Feb. 21 Update
According to a quick polling by NYU students' newspaper, out of the total 1,143 responses, 86% (984 votes) were against the protest, 14% (159 votes) were sympathetic to the protesters. The University is still reviewing the next step in handling other TBNYU members/students who did not engage in the 3-day occupation.
This is a report done after the protest has ended somewhat peacefully, although not necessarily, for those students involved in the protest at the Kimmel Center on West 4th Street and across from the Washington Square Park since Wednesday night, Feb. 18. The Kimmel Center provides on-campus social activities, dance and musical performances, art exhibits, and a dinning hall for the New York University community.
By the time I arrived to NYU, the "Take Back NYU" protesters were already removed from the Kimmel Center, New York University and declared persona non grata. The protest ended approximately 1:45 pm since that was the deadline that NYU gave to those involved "safe harbor" if they acceded to the University's terms.
Nevertheless, the number of NYPD and University security guards were overwhelmingly large, which managed to frighten most of the undergraduate students who were not accustomed to such a sight.
Five students opted to meet with the University's official ended up being the first group to be suspended and removed from NYU housing. The remaining students in the Kimmel Center were also suspended along with their housing privileges revoked once the protest was over. They were escorted to their dorms to pack up their belongings.
NYU has offered to provide alternative housing, although, it was unclear as to how many among these students would accept the offer.
The protest stemmed from the NYU students' anger over the lack of the University's financial transparency as the undergraduates' annual tuition alone is $50,000. It is the most expensive university in a city that is full of well known and prestigious state colleges, private universities, not to mention the prestigious Ivy League Columbia University.
The protesters also wanted the school to offer scholarships to students from the Gaza Strip. Farah Khimji spoke to local news reporters as Councilman Charles Barron stood by to lend support to the protester. Ms. Khimji alleged that she was pushed to the ground by NYU security guards. The University has no comment regarding this allegation.
The number of students involved seemed to vary between 18 to 24, although there were some non-NYU students involved in the protest, which might explain the ever-changing number of student-protesters. The last count is 18 according to University officials.
Those individuals who were identified as non-NYU students were considered as trespassers and subjected to NYPD arrest.
Shortly after the protest ended, the following statement was issued by Mr. James Devitt from the NYU Office of Public Affairs to all members of the NYU community and the press.
NYU STATEMENT ON EVENTS AT UNIVERSITY’S KIMMEL CENTER
New York University is pleased to report that the students who sat in the Kimmel Center’s cafeteria and disrupted services have peacefully exited the building.
Robust dialogue is a customary, normal, and expected part of the interaction between students, faculty, and administration at NYU. But it is not appropriate for it to take place while there is an ongoing violation of university rules.
Despite the protesters’ stated principles that the protest was to be non-destructive and non-violent, the protesters, despite specific warnings to stay off the Kimmel Center balcony, broke the lock to gain access to the balcony. The protesters also injured an NYU security officer during a scuffle. These actions dishonor NYU’s commitment to free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate, and legitimate forms of protest.
From the outset, the University made clear to the protesters that they were violating the University rules and engaging in improper activity. Nonetheless, the University offered to sit down and have a dialogue with the students if they left the cafeteria early the night of February 19.
The 18 students who stayed through the night of February 19–after rejecting the University’s offer to leave the building–have been suspended pending the outcome of the university’s disciplinary process.
No students who were participating in the demonstration in the Kimmel Center cafeteria were arrested by the New York Police Department.
None of the students’ demands was met.
These student-protesters did not garner a campus-wide support from the undergraduate student population, and even less or no interest from the multiple graduate and professional schools. The protest was mostly supported by individuals from nearby colleges and organizations.
Even the NYU College Democrats and Republicans were against "Take Back NYU's" (TBNYU) strategies and tactics by issuing a rare joint statement:
Though 'Take Back NYU!' (TBNYU) has raised legitimate concerns regarding the conduct of the NYU administration, we, the undersigned, believe that these concerns should be expressed in a more constructive manner within the avenues that NYU has established for student advocacy.
Many NYU students support budget disclosure, financial aid reform, greater sensitivity to student concerns, and increased openness and transparency. However, we believe that:
1) TBNYU’s tactics are confrontational and disrespectful in a manner that alienates sympathetic students and prevents the university from constructive and respectful engagement.
2) TBNYU’s demands are too disjointed. Broader student support can only be achieved if demands are coherent and focused.
3) TBNYU’s conduct is not appropriate to the gravity of the situation and does not encourage the thoughtful discourse necessary.
We urge that the NYU administration not dismiss the concerns of TBNYU and continue to pursue an amicable end to the situation. Should they be raised in a more constructive and appropriate manner, whether by TBNYU or any other student group at NYU, we hope the administration will not close the door to future discussion on the issues.
We, the undersigned:
NYU Students Organizing for America
Students of Color and Allies
NYU College Democrats
NYU College Republicans
Political Union & Review at New York University