September 3rd, 2014

Graduate Students Receive Checks For $5 After Email Error Promises Hundreds

An administrative error in NYU’s student health insurance program has left some graduate students scrambling for cash.

On May 1, 2014, approximately 52,000 students received an email promising a refund on their student health insurance policies. Among these students was Joanna Sterling, a PhD student  in NYU’s psychology program. Expecting a refund of $485.02, Sterling purchased new glasses and contact lenses. But instead of receiving $485.02 when her refund arrived on June 16, Sterling opened a check for $8.53.

“As graduate students, we live paycheck to paycheck, and often have to forego things like getting an up-to-date eye prescription,” Sterling writes in a statement from graduate student union GSOC-UAW Local 2110. “Not receiving the refund I was promised was very difficult for me because I already spent the promised amount on new glasses and contacts, an expense that I would have tried to forgo without the extra money.” Read more…

BREAKING: NYU Tel Aviv Closes For Fall Semester As Fighting Continues In Israel

NYU will be shuttering its Tel Aviv campus this fall, spokesperson John Beckman says. The move comes after weeks of prolonged violence in Gaza and multiple failed cease-fires between Hamas and Israeli Defense Forces.

In an August 6 email to NYU Local, Beckman said the move to close the campus was decided out of concern for student safety, as well as the possibility that events in Israel would disrupt NYU Tel Aviv’s academic program.

“As to NYU Tel Aviv,” Beckman said, “We have been closely following events there.  When we make evaluations in circumstances like these whether to suspend classes for a period or to evacuate students, we tend to err on the side of caution first and foremost with respect to the health and safety of our students but also with respect to whether we think the full academic program we intend for our students may be disrupted. In this case, it was not an easy decision to make, but earlier this week we informed the students signed up for NYU Tel Aviv that were suspending the program for the fall — some had already been in touch with us about their concerns about going — and anticipate resuming the program in January.  In part we made the decision now so that there would be enough time to enable us to work with the students to finalize alternative arrangements for their fall studies, which we are doing now.” Read more…

NYU Accra Closes For The Semester As Ebola Epidemic Spreads

Today, the World Health Organization declared the worst Ebola outbreak in history a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, calling upon the aid of global powers with the resources necessary to contain the disease. The epidemic has already claimed the lives of nearly a thousand and yesterday prompted NYU to cancel its fall semester abroad program in Ghana.

As WSN reported, the Accra-based campus will be shuttered at least until January, leaving the 11 students enrolled in the program with the option of studying at another NYU portal campus for the fall.

Gallatin junior Mariah Young-Jones was registered to study in Ghana in a few weeks and was “shocked” by the decision. “I really didn’t think that was going to actually happen,” she said. “But once it started to sink in, I kind of started to panic — I had been preparing to leave for so long, and suddenly I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I had only heard reports of outbreaks in Liberia, which is two countries away. I didn’t think that the crisis in Liberia would have so much of an effect in Ghana.”

Read more…

William Berkley To Replace Martin Lipton As Board Of Trustees Chair

William Berkley will succeed Martin Lipton as chair of NYU’s Board of Trustees.

In an email to students this week, Lipton announced Berkley’s election as chair-designate, a 16-month transitionary position ending in October 2015, when Berkley will become chair in full.

Lipton, who has chaired the board for 16 years, will remain on in a lesser capacity, as one of the board’s 65 acting members. “I am getting too old and have served too long,” Lipton said of his retirement in a New York Times this April.

Berkley, the chair and CEO of insurance holding company W. R. Berkley Corporation, has a long history with the university. A graduate from the Stern School in 1966, Berkley joined Stern’s Board of Overseers in 1987, the NYU Board of Trustees in 1995, and the NYU Langone Medical Center. He has been a Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees since 2004. Read more…

NYU Must Claim Responsibility For Labor Conditions In Abu Dhabi

Al Mubarak and Sexton.

In the wake of reports that NYU Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island campus was built by systematically maltreated workers, NYU has systematically attempted to distance itself from taking responsibility for the abuses themselves, outsourcing the blame to the contracting companies supposedly under the jurisdiction of the UAE government, as well as to companies in charge of supervising the labor itself.

Two days ago, the Times reported that in a memo to NYU’s trustees (many of whom are Wall Street heavyweights), Sexton asserted that the Saadiyat campus “was built with the construction contractors working for the Abu Dhabi development entity building it, not directly for N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi itself (unlike the operational contracts for providing food, transportation, public safety, etc.)”

In response to the Times’ initial report of abuse, President Sexton emailed a statement to the entire NYU listserv which stated that “with regards to those men and women working on assignments directly contracted to NYU Abu Dhabi…there have been no questions raised about compliance with the high standards we set.” Read more…

[UPDATED] Workers Mistreated At NYU Abu Dhabi’s Newly Finished Campus

Last month, NYU Abu Dhabi announced in a press release that its lavish, state-of-the-art, 450,000 m2 campus on Saadiyat Island had finished construction. Yet as the New York Times reported yesterday, the human costs were immense, and possibly unprecedented for an academic institution. The Times’ Ariel Kaminer investigated the labor conditions at NYU Abu Dhabi and found physical abuse, illegal recruitment fees, withheld passports, squalid living conditions and debilitating pay droughts, with minimal oversight from the university.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about labor abuses at NYU-AD. The Guardian’s report on migrant workers is a stunning indictment of the system of labor in Abu Dhabi, where satellite versions of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums are currently under construction on Saadiyat Island. Yet this newest article, in focusing on NYU’s explicit role in labor exploitation, takes the university to task.

To build the university where Bill Clinton will speak this week, laborers are paid less than what was contracted, are refused their own passports and bank cards, and sleep a dozen to a room. When attempting a strike, workers were arrested and beaten by the police. This is par for the course in Abu Dhabi—strikes are illegal and brutally suppressed—but it is a stunning contrast with NYU-AD’s commitment to academic freedom and university core values.

Read more…

Local Stops: H.A.G.S. From Everyone Here At NYU Local

-The joy of finishing finals may be equivalent to the happiness felt by beagles seeing grass and sunshine for the first time ever.

-What’s cooler: This NYU hat or the “NY Train Project” by Adam Chang?

-Serious Eats ranked fast food vanilla shakes, because apparently Serious Eats like to drink boredom from a straw.

-Basics bitches run this city.

-There’s no such thing as free lunch – or free money for that matter.

The school year is over! H.A.G.S.

Photo of the Day by Caleb Savage

Lost Confidence: NYU’s Culture Within Expansion And Controversy [Part Three]

Earlier this year, John Leguizamo played a game of half-court basketball with a group of kids. A bidder won this chance to shoot hoops with the movie star through the Faculty Against Sexton Plan’s online auction, supported by a multitude of celebrities who call Greenwich Village home.

“I came to support the faculty of NYU,” said Leguizamo. “We don’t really have a lot of heroes in the modern world, and I found what they did so courageous and brave.”

The playful game took place on a basketball court in the Cole Sports Center, NYU’s gym that was built during the first year of the Reagan administration and to this day lacks air conditioning. On the other side of a thin divider, New York University’s basketball teams took on Washington University in St. Louis. Cheerleaders, pompoms and all, rushed into the court between plays, and a Bobcat, the school’s mascot named after it’s library catalog, danced and flailed its arms. On the side of the bleachers, a pep band performed appropriate pump-up songs throughout the game.

Putting down their instruments, the musicians returned to a quiet presence, often reading a textbook or scribbling in notebooks cast aside before the song. Other than the forced presence of the home school, the crowd’s loudest cheers and jeers came from the green-packed bleacher of fans who came to support the visiting school. NYU is not a sports school and never pretends to be so. Jokes about the football team, which seized to exist in 1953, seep into tours for prospective students and adorn the bookstore’s merchandize. Read more…

Lost Confidence: NYU’s Culture Within Expansion And Controversy [Part Two]

Part Two of Three. [Part One] [Part Two]

The original NYU 2031 plan, as proposed in 2010, would bring radical redevelopment to the Northern and Southern Superblocks. Created through the process of “slum clearance,” in the 1950s and now primarily owned by the university, these large slabs of land sit in the heart of Greenwich Village, just above Houston Street, and house hundreds of faculty members and their families.

The proposal squeezed twisted, boomerang-shaped buildings into Washington Square Village, wiping away playgrounds and storefronts. A massive structure of stacked towers, referred to as the “Zipper Building,” would replace the Cole’s Sport Center.  The grocery store at the corner of Bleeker and LaGuardia would disappear, and a new high-rise would take its place.

When revealed, the overall plan shocked faculty and community members, and helped catalyze the atmosphere of resentment and distrust that lead to the censures against John Sexton. In May of 2012, during the midst of budding contention and after receiving the city’s approval to build on the superblocks, Sexton created the University Space Priorities Working Group to evaluate the university’s space needs. Delivering the group’s charge, Sexton only attended the first meeting; afterward, the group made its conclusions and recommendations available to Sexton and the public at the same time.

Faculty members, sprinkled with a few student and administrative representatives, comprised the Working Group, which over the course of 18 months proved that a diverse and largely independent advisory group could arise within NYU’s structure. Read more…

Gallatin Junior Aides Republican Underdog In State Assembly Race

It’s not every day that a junior in college is a top aide to a politician. Nor is it every day that a single mother and retired JAG officer runs on the Republican ticket for an assembly race in DeBlasio’s New York.

To the normal NYU student (normal being relative), Gallatin junior Chris Hofmann might seem like a square; a straight-laced dude who wears sweaters only a mother could love. He’s quick to give a firm handshake when we meet at the Starbucks on campus, and is much nicer than a Left-leaning Independent would like to admit of a Republican. He says he’s running for the New York Regional Chair of the College Republicans National Committee, that “it’s a big deal.” He wins the chair later in the month, around the time when I meet the candidate he represents, Maureen Koetz, at NYU’s own College Republicans chapter meeting.

Maureen Koetz, a veteran and native New Yorker, put herself in the running for New York’s State Assembly. If elected Koetz would represent portions of downtown Manhattan spanning from Little Italy to Battery Park City. The seat is currently held by longtime incumbent, Sheldon Silver.

The Sheldon Silver Saga is an article in itself. His longtime friend admitted to being involved in a $9 million charity scam. Silver signed off on a payout to an assemblyman’s sexual harassment victims. Silver also allowed his children to register using his Grand Street address, so they could vote in his district. Read more…