Well, they did create a Web site, you have to hand them that. Last week, a few dozen New York University students, along with students from other universities looking for a lark with maybe some hummus and hippie chicks on the side, barricaded themselves inside a dining hall in N.Y.U.’s Kimmel Center on Washington Square South. Slapping up banners (“This is an Occupation”) and a Web site, their demands were a juvenile hodgepodge of fashionable outrage: scholarships for students from the Gaza Strip (curiously they did not propose similar scholarships for students living in Israeli towns bombed by rockets launched from the Gaza Strip); permission for graduate teaching assistants to unionize; a tuition freeze; and full access to the university’s financial books.
How these disparate demands related to one another is anybody’s guess. The protestors lack of seriousness was demonstrated by their unwillingness to negotiate with university administrators and the profound lack of support from the thousands of N.Y.U. students whose lives were disrupted by this handful of delinquents. As Charlie Eisenhood wrote on the NYU Local blog, “Despite the affectation of seriousness, the whole occupation ultimately felt like a joke.”
Bereft of any idea of what activism really is, the protestors quickly violated their own pledge of nonviolence—a security guard was injured and had to be taken to the hospital—and not to damage property: Behaving like a bunch of frat boys on a panty raid, they broke a lock to gain access to the Kimmel Center balcony.
N.Y.U. administrators demonstrated sagacious leadership, showing patience and dissolving the disruption without having to call in the NYPD. Now might be a good time for the protestors to reflect on how their behavior made a mockery of their mission statement: “In our quest to construct an ideal university, we seek a university founded upon mutual respect, democracy and accountability, and we espouse methods consistent with that quest.” Unfortunately, accountability goes both ways. Eighteen students who chose to remain past the university’s 1 a.m. Friday deadline to leave the building have been suspended. One N.Y.U. senior involved in the protest, asked by a reporter about the suspension, said, “I’m worried in terms of the fact that I want to go to law school and I want to graduate.”