The latest in the saga of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Versus New York University ($-NYC): after calling for a thorough investigation of NYU’s generous executive compensations—which include cheap mortgages on million-dollar homes, and, yeah, vacation homes—the Senator claims to the New York Times he’s being “stonewalled.” He states that the university denied him access to information on individual loans, as well as copies of the documents he was allowed to review. The university argues that aside from Grassley’s investigation into former NYU EVP and current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, investigating other specific staffers is “is neither required nor called for.”
So on the one hand, Grassley is investigating this because he’s a Republican, and Lew is Obama’s Treasury secretary. And fuck that, right? He has been singling out NYU to find some kind of political traction from it—whether specific ammo against Obama, or a more amorphous critique of Academic Largesse. NYU’s nonprofit status is the excuse, but of all schools, he picks the one with the political connections (having also investigated Harvard and Yale, though not for months). And really, does a US Senator need to know the specific amounts of individual loans from a private university to its employees? Probably not, honestly. Removed from our outrage, that sort of investigation looks really sketchy.
But it’s hard to remove it from our outrage. Because it is outrageous, in a million different ways. It’s reasonable that NYU feels touchy that Grassley is digging around, but to have a nonprofit university use its money in such ways is ethically questionable—especially when it’s our/your money. We’ve heard (and made!) excuses and apologies in the past, but NYU’s behavior is ridiculous at best, and reprehensible at worst. (It’s probably legal, because the law school doesn’t give out million-dollar vacation loans for nothing.)
So witch hunt? Sure. But does Ariel Kaminer at the Times have her work cut out for her? By having the government investigate NYU’s lavish compensation schemes—even if it’s for a super lousy reason—Chuck Grassley might be one of the good guys. He couldn’t give a crap about FASP, 2031, or the no-confidence vote, but to have NYU’s administrative disconnect in the spotlight in any capacity isn’t a terrible thing.
Look, we’re students at NYU. Whether by cognitive dissonance or not, we want to be on the university’s side. We’re not out for blood. Is that an abdication of impartiality? If it is, so is this: it’s really fucking hard to be on the university’s side. We don’t want to be enemies with Sexton’s expansionism, or the frankly-needed rethinking of Washington Square Village, or the global network plan at all. We get to go to a dozen countries and still be on NYU WiFi. We get bathrooms in Union Square. We get access to Nobel laureates. The tradeoff is that when NYU acts mad sketchy with human rights activists, or gives educators vacation homes, or acts otherwise like a steamroller, it becomes difficult to stay cheerleaders.
We’ll continue to keep covering everything that NYU does—good and bad. (Like these murals on the Amistad revolt! That’s pretty cool!) NYU Local has no interest in unnecessary harangues, just like being a chipper marketing tool would suck. The university isn’t irrational, and deserves to not be treated like vampires. But no false equivalency. Like Dad said to us after we smashed the mailbox: we aren’t mad, just disappointed, frustrated, and actually kinda mad. If there are freshmen reading this, NYU is a great place to be. It’s just hard to have an administration that acts sorta evil sometimes.
This was pretty angry. If you didn’t like this post, here’s a Selena Gomez song.