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/ April 5, 2013
[PHOTOS] Students Demand Sexton, Trustees Cut Ties With Major Banking Empire

Yesterday, NYU group Students for Economic Justice (SEJ) held a demonstration on the steps of Kimmel to protest the university’s connection with JP Morgan Chase Bank. Called “Evict Chase,” the group’s campaign has pointed to the NYU’s close ties with the bank, along with the company’s lack of “respect for human right to housing.”

“Basically, Chase Bank is the worst bank in the New York City area for foreclosures on homeowners,” Lucy Parks, Gallatin freshman and member of SEJ’s organizational core, told NYU Local.

According to a study by New York Communities for Change (NYCC), “Chase is harming families and communities in New York by refusing to modify the mortgages of struggling homeowners at an alarming rate.” The study cites the lack of loan modification granted for homeowners seeking to prevent foreclosure – eighty percent of homeowners who requested a loan modification didn’t receive one. And SEJ members claim that this disproportionately affects homeowners of color and those in lower socioeconomic standing.

“As an NYU student, I want my university to stand up for human rights,” said junior Daniel Jones, said in a statement. “I don’t think my tuition dollars should be supporting an institution like Chase.”

The group, which has loose affiliations with other advocacy groups on campus like Students for Justice in Palestine and Occupy Wall Street, has petitioned John Sexton and NYU’s Board of Trustees twice now by delivering letters at university senate meetings asking them to consider severing ties with the company, but haven’t made any progress with the administration thus far. The group has also called for transparency concerning the administration’s financial relationship to Chase. Because NYU does not release the details of its financial affiliations, it is difficult to judge what sort of ties the university really has with the bank.

According to Service Employees International Union, JP Morgan Chase, which accepted bailouts and backstops totaling $94.7 billion after the recession, began offering trial mortgage modifications for just 25% of its 417,341 borrowers. But NYCC reported that just thirty-six percent of these trials were converted into permanent modifications.

Following the controversy surrounding NYU President John Sexton’s 2031 expansion plans and the College of Arts and Science’s vote of no confidence against the president, some members of SEJ hope that the issue will gain renewed consideration.

“People are being more critical of John Sexton and the Board of Trustees,” Parks said, addressing the lack of response the group has seen from the administration. “I think he’s going to have to start paying more attention to students and faculty now.”

Photos by Sophia Melas.