New York University students campaign for transparency, 2007-2009

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Time Period:  
February 20,
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
New York, New York
Location Description: 
NYU Campus, Manhattan
From the Take Back NYU! facebook page:

1. The inclusion of an elected representative from the student body in New York University’s (NYU) Board of Trustee meetings, with powers equal to those of the trustees

2. Public release of NYU's annual operating budget, including a full list of university expenditures, salaires, contracting, construction, allocation amongst schools and departments and more, as well as the sources of this funding.

3. Disclosure of NYU's endowment holdings, investment strategy, projected endowment growth, and persons, corporations and firms involved in the investment of the university's endowment funds. Additionally, we demand an endowment oversight body of students, faculty and staff.


In 2007, a group of New York University (NYU) students called Students Creating Radical Change decided to campaign for disclosure and transparency. They started forming the group Take Back NYU! (TBNYU) and started in October with an event called "What is NYU Hiding?" They followed it shortly with another event, called "What is NYU Hiding in Abu Dhabi?"

The students spent the 2007-2008 school year building support for their efforts, and collaborated with a number of other student groups to write Take Back NYU!'s demands for the NYU administration. They had three: budget disclosure, endowment disclosure, and the placing of a student on NYU's Board of Trustees.

TBNYU spent the summer gathering more support and endorsements from student groups, and presented their demands to the NYU administration on September 2, 2008. They asked that the administration give a reply within one month, but they never received a response. Around the same time, TBNYU helped produce the "NYU Disorientation Guide 2008" - a satirical look at the campus' policies. Later in the school year, TBNYU hosted another event, called "Have Your School and Eat It Too: an Edible Exploration to Imagine our Ideal University".

On February 18, 2009, TBNYU staged its most direct action - a nonviolent occupation of the Kimmel Student Center. Shortly before 10:00 PM, approximately 70 students gathered in the third floor cafeteria of the student center and barricaded themselves inside with tables and chairs, chanting their list of demands (which had expanded since TBNYU had first presented them to the administration).

The University stated that the students would be allowed to occupy the building for the night, and went so far as to allow the protesters access to restrooms. The University, however, was very clear that the protesters would not be welcome to stay in the building for more than one night.

TBNYU gained quite a bit of support. Students rallied outside the building in support of their efforts, and a number of students pushed their way through the police to get inside the building and join the occupation. Some female students in the rally of support disrobed to represent their demands of administration transparency. TBNYU also gained the attention and support of Councilman Charles Barron, who spoke at the support rally.

However, despite all of the growth of support, the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful. Police forces entered the cafeteria on February 20 and forced the occupiers to leave. 18 of the protesters were suspended from the school and faced disciplinary review. It was reported that these 18 individuals were the negotiators and leaders of the occupation, and supporters of TBNYU claimed that the NYU administration underhandedly told the students that they would be willing to meet for negotiations. According to some of the members of TBNYU, the leaders then left the occupation to go to an office where they were then told that the administration refused to hold any and that they were all suspended.

Following the end of the occupation, TBNYU announced its intent to continue with the campaign, however, no further actions were actually carried out by the group.

Research Notes
Green, C. "One Reflection on Take Back NYU sit-in." Democratic Solidarity Committee. 2 Mar 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

"Take Back NYU!" Black Maps. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

"History." Take Back NYU! 19 Oct 2008. Web. Accessed through WayBackMachine 28 Mar 2011. <>

"Official Statement from Take Back NYU!" Take Back NYU! 21 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed through WayBackMachine 28 Mar 2011. <>

Nogales, Pam C. "The New School occupation and the direction of student politics: an interview with Atlee McFellin." The Platypus Affiliated Society. 1 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

"Student Group Takes Over NYU Dining Room, Makes Demands." New York Magazine. 19 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

Lysiak, Matthew. "Cops, crowd scuffle outside NYU student protest; 2 arrested." NY Daily News. 19 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

Lee, Trymaine. "Students Protest at N.Y.U." New York Times. 18 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

Moynihan, Colin. "18 students are suspended as protest at N.Y.U. ends." New York Times. 20 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

Moynihan, Colin. "N.Y.U. Students Continue Occupation to Press Demands." New York Times. 19 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

Birch, Jonah. "The fight to take back NYU." 20 Feb 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Mar 2011. <>

Additional Notes: 
Student documentary on the occupation of the Kimmel Student Center:

Photos of the occupation:

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Ashley Banks, 28/03/2011