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NYU Inc.
Disorientation Table of Discontents
Guide 2009 Introduction..................................... 3
NYU is a corporation. NYU Inc. is a
radical publication run by NYU students. The Past Year in Struggle................ 4
Editors:
Nick, Drew, Emily, Andrew, Rachel
Why Occupy?................................... 7

Contributors: Work, Study, Indenture................... 10


E.S., F.M, N.S., GSOC, C.B.

Photography: Study Abroad in the


Louise, Andrew Hinderaker, Vanissa Chan Age of Global Empire...................... 12
Groups:
Students Creating Radical Change Student Government
Take Back NYU!
Graduate Student Organizing Committee
Vs. Direct Democracy.................... 14

Back cover illustration by Frank. Meet the Trustees............................ 16


As always, we are in debt to the ghosts of
disorientaiton guide editors past: A.C., B.Q., Activist Resource Map.................... 17
D.M., C.B., J.M.

All writings in this Disorientation Guide rep- Manhattan Radical History............ 18


resent the perspectives of their specific au-
thors, not neccesarily all of those involved in
this publication.
Why I Don’t Volunteer or Want an
Internship......................................... 20
Anti-Copyright: All materials in this zine for
which the authors have legal copyright can be
freely reproduced or distributed with no need An Approach to Education............ 22
for prior permission from the authors. Copy and
distribute freely, on NYU’s dime if possible.
Going to School In New York........ 24
And finally, thanks to our readers, without
whom we would simply be talking to ourselves. Reading List...................................... 25

Radical Faculty at NYU.................. 26

Activist Clubs................................... 27

2
Introduction:

we live in an era of illusions


And these illusions define our lives. The status quo imposes upon us
endlessly: the promise of neoliberal prosperity, the pretense of democracy, the
supposed infallibility of the market. But people are increasingly beginning to
doubt the story they have been told; the seams are starting to split. Workers
around the world are occupying their workplaces, youth in Greece still refuse
to be pacified by the police, and students are more and more angry about
their diminishing future prospects. But power will do anything to maintain its
illusions—as such, the US government spent $800 billion to restore legitimacy
to our literally bankrupt economic system, while any desire for “change” was
funneled into Obama’s efficient presidential campaign.

The situation is the same here at NYU. We are told that we should trust
those in charge, that they know what’s best for us. But we can’t help wondering
why we will be on average $30,000 in debt when we graduate, why our tu-
ition now doesn’t cover printing costs, or why those long-sought-after great
classes are so rare. And through it all we work and study long hours while
alienation and boredom abound—because we have to, because we still believe
in those illusions.

This is a guide for those who wish to see a bit more clearly. For the uncom-
mon soul who feels crushed under an invisible weight and is not resigned to
carrying this burden forever. This is an antidote to the “disorientation” from
which we all suffer.

In the following pages you will find perspectives about the University,
about our complicated world, about our all-too-human condition. And from
it, you may be able begin to plot a path through the world we all navigate,
a route that takes you to more adventurous, liberatory places than you might
have otherwise gone.

For a freer and more joyous world,


The editors

3
2008-2009: The Year In Struggle

September 2, 2008-Take Back NYU! sub- ating structure.


mits a written letter to the NYU adminis- December 17-19- About one hundred stu-
tration stating their 3 demands; budget dents occupy The New School cafeteria
disclosure, endowment disclosure, and at 65 5th Ave in response to President
placing a student on NYU’s Board of Bob Kerry’s self appointment to the posi-
Trustees. The letter also asks for a re- tion of Provost, and New School’s failure
sponse within a month. to listen to its students. NYPD arrest two
October 2, 2008-The administration fails individuals, statements of support pour in
to carry through with their promise of from around the world, and a mass of
a timely response to the letter outlining students manage to get past NYPD and
demands, so a town hall meeting, titled campus security to enter the building
“Steal This School”, is called to discuss bringing the occupation to about 200.
the future of the campaign The New School gives in to some of the
October 31, 2008- A political street the- demands and the students leave with
atre event, “Monster Mash”, is held, in an ultimatum for Kerry to step down by
which vampires and corporate zombies April 1. Many NYU students participate
roam NYU sucking students dry with no inside and outside the occupation, build-
accountability or avenue for redress. ing community beyond the NYU bubble
December 5- Hoax financial aid flyers are and learning vital lessons about direct
distributed by SCRC on campus urging action.
students to consider going to CUNY February 5, 2009- The NYU Senate votes
based on a remark President John Sex- 28-22 in favor of lifting the ban on Coca-
ton made during a town hall meeting. Cola products that resulted from a cam-
December 12- Over 150 students dance paign opposing Coke’s involvement with
their final exam blues away in Bobst Li- the murder of several union members in
brary during the Study Breakdown. This Colombia. This clearly had nothing to
free form action celebrates the reclama- do with NYU Board of Trustee member
tion of space and radical self expression Barry Diller, who has also coincidentally
while building community within an alien- been on Coke’s board since 2002.
4
February 18- As dinner is winding down letter in support of the action. Around 9
at Kimmel’s Marketplace, students move A.M. the NYU administration claims that
tables and chairs to blockade the doors it wishes to negotiate. 5 negotiators are
to the cafeteria. A list of demands re- sent to sit down with the ever elusive Lynn
lating to transparency, democracy and Browne. The negotiators are immediate-
human rights is released. Contrary to ly detained and informed of their suspen-
claims made by the NYU administration, sion from NYU. The lengths to which the
there is no attempt to negotiate with the university will go to protect its shroud of
students during the occupation. secrecy are reiterated by the deceptive
February 19- Stalling on the part of NYU tactics they used to lure out the five ne-
administrators led the occupiers to esca- gotiators. The security guards move in
late their tactics and gain access to the mass, pushing through the blockade. 18
balcony on the third floor of Kimmel. Students are summarily suspended until
Banners are dropped while hundreds their disciplinary proceedings reach their
of people gather in the “free speech end.
zone” in front of Kimmel with lines of February 25- Over 170 Members of NYU’s
NYPD and metal barricades keeping Faculty released a statement and peti-
them from the building. Around 9 P.M. tion calling for the reinstatement of the
a wave of some 60 students defy the au- suspended students. They criticize the
thorities and struggle their way through “guilty until proven innocent” approach
a gauntlet of angry and forceful security that the university took, along with the
guards to join the occupation, bringing administration’s failure to listen to stu-
food and energy to the action. NYU dents’ demands prior to the occupation.
lets students know that they will not be March 9- Graduate Student Organizing
allowed to stay a second night in Kimmel Committee holds a sit-in inside Bobst
and set a 1 A.M. deadline hoping that wearing signs calling for the university
street support will be weak in the frigid to recognize their right to organize and
night. With the deadline closing, over form a union. NYU’s fear of activists can
1000 people gather in front of Kimmel, be felt with the increased presence of se-
refusing to be moved by the angry po- curity guards and other officials.
lice. Pepper spray spews from the police
line blinding those who see NYU’s short-
comings. Batons rise and fall striking vi-
cious blows to any who happen to stand
strong. The crowd remains steadfast in
the face of state violence and begins
to chant “SHAME!” One NYU student
is arrested and charged with several
misdemeanors including inciting a riot.
NYU alleges that there were no arrests
during the occupation and takes no re-
sponsibility nor even mentions the police
violence carried out in the name of se-
curing NYU. With the thousand people
in front of Kimmel and the eyes of local,
national, and global media focused on
the occupation, NYU realizes it cannot
enforce the 1 A.M. deadline.
February 20-Students remain steadfast in-
side and outside the occupation as let-
ters of solidarity pour in from Greece to
Helsinki . Even Noam Chomsky sends a
5
March 10- NYU calls NYPD for an imaginary protest at 11P.M. Approximately 30 po-
lice cars and two paddy wagons arrive. The metal barricades that have been sitting
ominously against Kimmel since the occupation are linked up and traffic is stopped.
There is no protest planned. NYU’s fear of its own students becomes even more ap-
parent along with their intention to use NYPD to stop students and faculty from taking
a stand.
March 12- Flyers fall from the upper levels of Bobst reading; “We are PEOPLE not PROF-
IT” and “The time has come to begin our refusal. We cannot allow ourselves to stand
idly by while NYU profits by our intelligence, lining other people’s pockets while our
future slips away. The crises we face are too great for self-interest-as-usual. This is the
beginning of their end, and our beginning. Out of their fall, we will rise. Will you rise
with us?”
April 10- An affinity group made up of New School and NYU students, along with others,
follow through with their threat to shut down the New School because President Bob
Kerry did not resign. The group enters 65 5th Ave around 5 AM and moves quickly
to secure doors and neutralize security cameras. Banners hang from the top of the
building and supporters begin to gather. NYPD responds quickly calling a “code
cobra,” a counter-terrorist maneuver. Over 200 police and two helicopters arrive
on the scene surrounding the building. NYU security officials and administrators work
with New School and NYPD sharing information about individuals and possible tactics
for defusing the growing power of students in New York City. Police violently attack
random protesters on 14th street. Video footage makes the New York Times blog and
the world watches how universities in New York deal with student activists. The police
cut through the front doors and arrest 19 inside. A support rally is called and heavily
attended resulting in several arrests.
April 16- A rally against police brutality is called and turns into a roving street pro-
test. Two students are arrested for linking arms on 6th Ave. and blocking traffic. The
police brandish their batons and hit
students’ linked arms in an attempt
to bully the students off the street.
The mass of 200 students marches
through the arch, across Wash-
ington Square Park to block 4th
street in front of Kimmel. Chants of
“FUCK THE POLICE” and “OCCUPY
AGAIN! AGAIN, AND AGAIN!”
can be heard echoing through the
streets. Dozens of police arrive and
block the entrance to Kimmel. It is
clear that New School’s struggle and
NYU’s struggles are on in the same.
OCCUPY EVERYTHING
May 1- Several black clad figures
gain access to the top of the Silver
Center. The purple flag that usually
adorns the building is nowhere to be
seen. A banner is left hanging off the
side of the building reading: “FUCK
TUITION HIKES”. The university re-
sponds by, surprise surprise, saying
nothing about the action and hiking
tuition once again.
6
Why Occupy?

Surely by now you’ve heard about the reasons for occupying were so varied and
infamous NYU occupation. Those vegan (seemingly) disconnected.
militants who took over the Kimmel Mar-
Even so, we were met with more sym-
ketplace for forty hours with a veritable
pathy than we in our militant cynicism ex-
laundry list of demands? After breaking a
pected. Many students’ main gripe with
lock, attracting some topless ladies (advo-
us was our extreme choice of tactic--be-
cating disclothesure till disclosure), draw-
cause they understood and echoed many
ing crowds of hundreds to West Fourth,
of our demands. This leads us to the inevi-
and attracting about a million cops, we
table conclusion that people are pissed off
were removed from the space and sum-
about their education at NYU. Not only
marily suspended. We were carted off,
this, but it also became apparent last year
evicted from our dorms, and put on pro-
that students are capable of refusing to
bation, and a bizarrely apolitical, unnerv-
be invisible and silent in the fact of an au-
ingly self-satisfied press release from the
thoritarian administration. Not just smelly
University happily declared that “none of
anarcho-vegans and post-hippies, either.
the students’ demands were met.” Take
Indeed, at least a third of the “Kimmel
Back NYU!, the group that organized the
Eighteen” who were suspended had never
whole mess, hasn’t been the same since.
organized with Take Back NYU! before,
There are a lot of ways to feel about but chose to stick with the occupation to
this. Most of the kids on campus seemed the bitter end, despite the very real dan-
to feel (first) annoyed at their inability ger of arrest and expulsion. Students at
to access meal-plan quesadillas for forty NYU want to see tuition stabilization, a
hours and (second) sympathetic to some student senate whose resolutions actually
of our demands but baffled—and often mean something, priority when reserv-
incensed—by our tactical decisions. Prop- ing space in Kimmel, and knowledge of
erty destruction! Direct action! Nonsense! how their tremendous amounts of tuition
It was many students’ first encounter with dollars are spent. They don’t want their
a radical demonstration that actually in- money thrown into ridiculously elite, far-
terfered with their lives, and it seemed to flung campuses built on slave labor; they
arouse chiefly resentment, given that our don’t want their tuition funding war profi-
teers or union busters, especially not when
7
they can barely afford to print out all the This, at its root, is what we were
articles they need to. screaming about on the balcony at Kim-
mel. It’s why we broke the lock and
What united our many and varied de-
scuffed up the floors, it’s why the College
mands? The idea that membership in an
Republicans held up signs demanding
institution necessitates some kind of say in
access to quesedillas. Take Back NYU!
that institution. That is: the idea that you,
pursued a two-year course of action from
the student, are an integral part of the
its inception using all of the established
NYU knowledge machine, and deserve
means for raising our voices as students
to be treated with respect and dignity as
at NYU. We even elected a senator! We
such. Because you may not know it now,
exhausted lawful tactics. So when we hol-
but there’s roughly nothing that you as a
lered “WHOSE SCHOOL?” it was not a
student have the right to do at NYU in or-
rhetorical question.
der to make your voice heard, much less
your desires a reality. Want to appeal to Think about it: did you matriculate to
the Senate? Go ahead; even if they pass NYU believing that it would somehow be-
a resolution for something you believe in, come your school? You may already refer
that resolution is non-binding, and essen- to NYU as yours. But it’s more accurate to
tially serves as a suggestion to the Board say that you are NYU’s. You’re giving them
of Trustees (and our Trustees are a piece money, and because they are a private in-
of work, to put it lightly). You can rant and stitution, they don’t have to tell you a thing
rave and ramble, you can publish an edi- about what they do with it or why—and
torial in the WSN, you can organize with they don’t have to listen to you if you’ve
your friends and professors, you can rally got a problem with that. Sexton likes to in-
in the streets, you can ask John Sexton to sist that the school’s finances are no place
his face (if you can find him, and if you for politics, as if the two were extricable.
don’t get distracted by his creepy/endear- It stands, however, that NYU makes po-
ing hugs), you can hold your own town litical decisions with the way it spends its
halls, you can sign petitions and send let- money—whether you like it or find it mor-
ters and drop banners, you can occupy a ally reprehensible. NYU’s utter ineptitude
building, but all of these tactics will leave to handle student dissent, as demonstrated
you at best ignored and at worst suspend- by their dealings with the occupation (re-
ed. The point: NYU is not trying to listen fusing to negotiate in good faith, tricking
to you. our negotiators into leaving the Market-

8
place, then storming the room and
running us out and suspending us)
and with the actions leading up to
it ought to demonstrate to you that
something at NYU is not right—not
serving the students—and that the
administration is doing everything
in their tremendous power to keep
it that way.
If you’re riled up—or at least
intrigued—good. But you still may
have questions about occupation
as a tactic—mainly, what is it? An
occupation is a radical reclamation
of space that one ought to already
lay claim to. We took back the
Marketplace in the Kimmel Center
for Student Life—the building to
which we should have perhaps the
most access as students at NYU.
Why is taking space so important,
and where do you get this sense of negotiate in good faith, and we all get a
entitlement to that space? Taking space is taste of direct democracy. The New School
a nonviolent means for essentially holding did it a month before us and a few blocks
the University (or your landlord’s or boss’s north—what, we thought, could possibly
property) hostage. It causes a direct dis- go wrong?
ruption of regular student life, and must be Did we make mistakes? Of course we
acknowledged. NYU has seen its share of did. (I regularly describe the occupation as
occupations—there were rad hippie freak- “a spectacular shitshow.”) We have differ-
ins here the late sixties—and it has since ent understandings of where we faltered,
constructed its buildings to be more or less because we are different human beings
occupation-proof, which is one of the rea- with different analyses of what happened.
sons ours was quashed so quickly. We understand, at any rate, that there
Further, the more you realize that the were things we could have done better—
University is not structured for the benefit and most of us have been down to discuss
of the students, the more you see mani- that since the day we got evicted. One
festations of this spatially—especially the thing we can all agree on, though, is that
fact that Kimmel, the building where al- this is not the last you’ll from restless stu-
most all student club meetings are held, dents at NYU. And one thing we’re pretty
is nearly impossible to reserve space in, pleased about is that—love us or hate us—
and that NYU is constantly renting it out this occupation got the entire campus talk-
to non-student groups in favor of letting its ing about issues of accountability, democ-
own (far less profitable) students use the racy, and transparency at the University.
space. Kimmel is ours because we pay And with this article and this disorienta-
to be at NYU and to have access to it. tion guide, we are inviting you to do the
Finally, occupations have worked world- same. The next time you see us screaming
wide in recent months: there was a string about whose school it is (and there will be
of university occupations in Greece, Italy, a next time), take a minute and consider it.
France, and especially the U.K., regard- And maybe join in the yelling. We’ll wel-
ing university divestment from companies come your raised voice in a way that NYU
that profit from the Israeli siege in Gaza. never would.
Students secure a space, administrations
9
Students are workers. This may sound odd, Moreover, in a sick, counter-intuitive twist, uni-
because most of us don’t usually think of ourselves versities across the country have been raising tuition
as such. We see ourselves as college students at a to attract more students. Recruiters found that rais-
prestigious university—with the exciting lifestyle ing the cost also raises the prestige of a school since it
that entails—who just happen to have a job on the implies a better education is being offered. More stu-
side to earn some extra money. It’s no surprise that dents, and ones with better grades and SAT scores,
we think this way because universities, employers, then apply, boosting the schools’ ranking in U.S.

WORK
and politicians have a vested News & World Report,
interest in college students and other indexes. This
thinking as little as possible forces others schools to

STUDY
about their place in the larger raise their fees, in order
economy. But if we take a to compete.3 All this is
minute to see how we fit into happening as the federal

INDENTURE
things, its easy to see that we’re and state governments
getting screwed—and that our are cutting their direct
complacency about tuition subsidies to universities
hikes, diminishing financial (redirecting funds to
aid, and our low wage jobs is making life harder for the military) as well as their support for financial aid
just about everyone else outside the university. programs, such as the Pell grants, and increasingly
In the United States today about 20% of under- offering grants and loans based on “merit” rather
grads don’t work at all, 50% work an average of 25 than on need.
hours per week, and 30% work full-time or more, What does all this mean? Simply put, it is be-
sometimes holding down multiple jobs while tak- coming harder and harder for people in the U.S. to
ing classes. This means 10 to 12 million undergrads go to college, and universities are once again becom-
are in the workforce at any given time.1 At NYU ing preserves for the white and the privileged (since
we work on campus, swiping ID cards and mak- race and class are so closely linked), like they were
ing copies for near minimum wages, and we work before World War II. Its not a coincidence that these
off-campus in restaurants and stores. At campuses changes in higher ed have taken place at the exact
outside of big cities, students are seen as a prime la- same time that the economy of the country as a
bor force for warehouse, shipping, and other types whole has undergone drastic changes (deindustrial-
of industrial work. ization and globalization)—with a tiny elite becom-
Despite all the time we divert from studying ing disgustingly rich, while wages have declined and
and other activities to our jobs, we will still be in debt job security has evaporated for most working and
when we graduate. Why? Because over the past middle class people.
three decades the cost of going to college has been As student-workers we fit into this increas-
going through the roof for students at public and ingly unequal and unjust economy in at least three
private schools alike. From 1995 to 2005, inflation- ways: 1) we serve as a low-wage labor pool in the
adjusted tuition costs increased 36% at private col- short term, 2) we reproduce “cognitive” capitalism
leges and 51% at public schools.2 NYU is leading the in the longer term through our studies, 3) all the
pack. Since 2002, NYU has raised tuition by at least while becoming accustomed to a state of perma-
5% every year, meaning you are now paying $14,778 nent indenture.
more per year a than freshman in 1999. NYU claims To meet raising tuition, we have to work more.
it is forced to hike tuition to cover teaching costs, But when we don’t think of ourselves as workers, we
pitting undergrads against grad student instructors are more willing to accept mediocre or bad condi-
and faculty in the process. Yet, despite years long tions and pay because it seems temporary. Major
campaigns by students, faculty, and campus unions, companies now count on this and have been mov-
the administration refuses to disclose any financial ing aggressively to hire thousands of undergrads for
information which would prove this. Meanwhile, this very reason. Marc Bosquet shows, for example,
they give themselves fat raises: in the 2003-04 fiscal how UPS partnered with local colleges in Louis-
year, when Sexton raised tuition 5.3%, he gave him- ville, KY, to hire thousands of students to unload
self a whopping 16% raise, bringing his personal trucks from midnight to 4 am, five nights a week,
compensation package up to $897,139! with promises of tuition remission to supplement
10
paltry wages. The majority of students never got on producing well-trained workers?
the benefits because their jobs lead them to flunk or The only question, then, is on who’s terms,
drop out. Yet the constant stream of “students” has and for who’s benefit, are we going to be student-
allowed UPS and other companies to avoid hiring workers? Our struggles as students to lower tuition,
permanent employees more likely to fight for a liv- to raise the amount of public funds going to educa-
able wage and sane working conditions. True, NYU tion rather than war, to have better jobs on and off
hasn’t yet sold its students down the river in so bla- campus, to support affirmative action, to demand
tant a fashion, but its Wasserman Center, like stu- gender and ethnic studies courses, and to fight for
dent employment offices at most universities, does open admissions, are struggles over distribution of
essentially function as a temp agency, offering us as wealth, and therefore power, in our new Gilded Age.
low wage and disposable labor to all types of local They are part of the larger struggle to make sure no
employers. one is excluded from the right to a decent living,
But let’s be clear: at high-price outfits like NYU, meaningful work, and, ultimately, happiness. This
our primary financial relationship is not one of em- means our struggles over classes are, actually, part
ployment, but one of debt. The average student debt of class struggle. When we don’t take on these fights
upon graduating from NYU in 2008 was $33,637, we make life harder for ourselves (and our parents!)
the highest of any of the top 50 private schools in the now and in the future, and we let down other work-
country! This amounts to a new form of indenture: ers in more dire circumstances trying to win some
from the age of 18 we learn that we will always be respect and put food on their families’ plates.
in debt, always struggling to pay off student loans, So what can we do? French students provided
mortgages, and credit cards. This is how the illusion an inspiring example in 2005-2006 when they orga-
of the American Dream is maintained; as prices rise nized nationwide student strikes, and then took to
while wages stagnate and good jobs become harder the streets by the hundreds of thousands, to defeat
to come by, we are encouraged to keep on buying— a bill that exempted employers of college students
just on credit. from important labor laws. In the 1990s students
Perhaps the hardest thing for most of us to get at CUNY organized the Student Liberation Action
our heads around is that we are already workers not Movement (SLAM) to fight steep tuition hikes at the
just when we are waiting tables or shelving book at New York’s public universities. In recent years NYU
the library, but when we are sitting through a lecture students have formed a Tuition Reform Action Co-
or writing a paper—when we are being students. In alition (TRAC) and Take Back NYU!, which have
this late stage of capitalism, owners don’t just make demanded economic transparency and an end to
their profits from people who manufacture things unjustified yearly tuition hikes. Students have power
in factories, but also from the production of new when they form student unions rather than simply
knowledge, scientific innovations, and the shaping rely on student government. How struggles over the
of how people feel. So in producing us as highly- economics of higher education unfold over the next
skilled, highly-trained cognitive workers, capital- four years is ultimately up to you and other incom-
ism is reproducing itself. Without a new crop of ing students. But the recent experience of student-
professionals a few years down the line, the system worker activists has shown the absolute necessity
couldn’t keep working: like the structurally unem- to:
ployed, or a parent raising kids to be new workers,
we already fill a role in the economy whether we get •DEMAND AN IMMEDIATE MORATORI-
a paycheck or not. This is easiest to see when we UM ON TUITION HIKES
consider internships. Thousands of employers— •FIGHT POLITICALLY FOR MONEY FOR
primarily for-profit corporations—depend on stu- FINANCIAL AID, NOT FOR WAR
dents working unpaid internships to complete day- •SUPPORT OTHER CAMPUS WORKERS IN
to-day tasks. Employers justify the countless hours THEIR STRUGGLES TO ORGANIZE UNIONS AND
of free labor students donate to them by labeling the WIN FAIR PAY AND WORKING CONDITIONS
work a learning experience. But what’s to differenti-
ate that unpaid training from the training we get in
the classroom, especially given the declining focus Footnotes:
1 Bosquet, How the University Works, 150.
on humanities and acquiring “knowledge for its 2 Green, The University Against Itself, 84.
own sake” in universities increasingly focused only 3 Green, The University Against Itself, 88-92
4 David Harvey, Limits to Capital, xi.
11
Study Abroad In the Age of
Global Empire
Does the state of our times need any more explanation? It seems apparent: the US is the
world’s policeman, Coca-Cola and McDonalds are cultural reference points for most of the
world’s population, and laborers in developing countries manufacture products they can’t af-
ford to buy. Is this any different than the empires of centuries past? The details may be differ-
ent—after all, the British East India Company didn’t have a commitment to “business ethics” or
“sustainability”—but once we cut through the corporate public relations jargon, the situation is
fundamentally the same: a global empire of wealthy, developed countries (led by the US) ex-
tracting wealth from weaker nations. It is not a historical coincidence that the countries that were
official colonies a hundred years ago are now dominated by multinationals based in the US or
Europe, and are regularly policed by the US or NATO. One can explain this by citing “power
vacuums”, corporate ingenuity, or even “uncivilized natives”—but the end result is the same:
Empire. Domination. Exploitation. Misery.
Until “sweatshop free” and “green” became advertizing buzzwords, we didn’t even have
to think about the widespread misery our lifestyles have inflicted upon the rest of the world. Now,
thankfully, we can just pay a little more for peace of mind—right? Is it that simple? Unfortunately,
no. Our privilege as citizens of a first-world country is not so easily remedied, it has a tangible
cost. Our tax dollars are still turned into military hardware that ensures US supremacy (“keeping
us safe”—but why do we have so many enemies?). We still use oil in every aspect of our lives and
invade when that supply might be threatened. Our toxic waste is still dumped off the coasts of
countries that don’t have the money to defend their waters. And all the economists’ talk about
the “fair market value of labor” doesn’t make the sick feeling in my stomach go away when a
quarter of the world’s population is living on less than $1000 a year.
With US citizenship, we also have the privilege to travel almost anywhere in the world.
Many NYU students will end up doing just that, during a semester abroad. So what does this
mean in the context of Empire? Are we spoiled intruders, cashing in on our privilege to live it up
(while well protected and comfortable) in an exotic country? Are we curious scholars, seeking to
learn a little bit from a different way of life? Or are we traitors to our nation, “gone native”, now
seeing our home culture as exploitative and ethically repulsive? All of these archetypes have ex-
isted as long as the phenomenon of empire has—but hopefully none of these simplistic categories
captures any of our behaviors fully (and I dearly hope not the first).
My point is that the ways in which we behave in a foreign country—especially a develop-
ing one—is fraught with pitfalls. Without realizing it we can fall into the well worn paths that
(most commonly white and privileged) foreigners have forged. These paths include exoticization,
where one sees the “natives” as token examples of unique and genuine humanity, rather than for
their flawed and complicated selves; entitlement, where a visitor thinks they are exceedingly im-
portant and welcome wherever they go, or where being in a foreign country is simply an excuse
to party; cultural insensitivity, where one fails to realize that they are not in the US anymore, and
makes an arrogant ass of themselves; or plain old racism, where the stereotypes that have been
socially instilled in us since birth give rise to ugly judgments and preconceptions about people
we’re just meeting.
These social patterns fit perfectly with the economic, political, and cultural domination of
Empire. We deny the humanity of another (through exoticization or dismissal), or view ourselves
as more important (after all, we can pay for it, so we deserve it!), and thereby rationalize our
privileged position in the world. In that ignorant state of mind, it is not necessary to question
how this situation came to be. It is not necessary to wonder why we have the opportunity to visit
places like Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe while hardly anybody in those areas
of the world would be let into the US, even if they could afford a ticket.
Concerns about empire become even more significant when one considers NYU’s global
ambitions. John Sexton regularly flies to 7000 miles to give lectures at the nascent NYU campus
12
in Abu Dhabi. And who is he lecturing? The most elite, of course (read: privileged, upper-class,
and well educated). NYU’s presence in Abu Dhabi—and for that matter, Argentina, the Czech
Republic, or Ghana—is important because it bestows legitimacy. “Look”, those countries and in-
stitutions can say, “we have Americans here!” The emir of Abu Dhabi approached both Harvard
and Yale (where he was turned down) before he convinced Sexton to expand the NYU franchise
in his country. And now the children of the elite can say they have degrees from an American
university. NYU is not in Abu Dhabi because of any commitment to scholarly rigor—it is in Abu
Dhabi to provide prestige to the elite of that country, because they can pay for it.
Imagine the absurdity of University of Ghana creating a satellite campus in the US, where
American students and professors go because it is such a venerated institution. If such a campus
were ever created, it would be likely that most of the student body from Ghana would immediate-
ly move to the new campus—simply because it is in the US. The impossibility of this situation shows
clearly the power imbalance of the world today, where the US is undisputedly dominant.
For NYU, like any other expanding corporation, local controversy is secondary. The wide-
spread persecution of homosexuals and women in the United Arab Emirates is not a deal-break-
er, nor is the exploitation of unprotected migrant laborers who are constructing the campus in
Abu Dhabi. These problems will be addressed, as always, by a series of press releases promis-
ing that nothing is really wrong, and perhaps an NYU functionary will even receive a carefully
guided tour of the construction site to make sure no workers have fallen to their deaths because
of lax job-safety laws. NYU’s expansion in Abu Dhabi is analogous to the march of empire ev-
erywhere: create a sphere of influence based on historical domination, blanket any objections
with propaganda and repression, and extract wealth. This process has created the neoliberal
consensus in the world today—this is how empire has expands.
We can use the ability to travel abroad to expand our conceptions of the world—to learn
about different cultures without abstracting or essentializing them, to study the effects of centuries
of Western economic domination, to talk to the people who are usually invisible to us, who we
were taught to ignore. Or we can use our time abroad to party, to hang out with other privileged
internationals, and to see all the tourist sites so we have some pictures for our friends and rela-
tives about our fun semester in whatever foreign country. Of course, it’s also completely possible
to have fun while learning to undermine empire—it just takes a little more creativity.

The following are some suggestions for “alternative” study abroad programs, which more
directly address the complicated situation we confront when we wish to travel abroad:

Mexico Solidarity Network


http://www.mexicosolidarity.org/
A nonprofit organization that works directly with community organizations and unions in Mexi-
co, including the Zapatistas. Students travel to and live in communities in Chiapas, Mexico City,
Tlaxcala, and Ciudad Juarez.

CIEE
http://www.ciee.org/
Offers exchange programs all over the world, where each student lives with a host family for the
duration of the program.

CUNY Union Semester


http://www.unionsemester.org/
Not technically, study abroad (but NYU counts it as such), where students learn about US labor
history, right here in New York City.

Where There Be Dragons


http://www.wheretherebedragons.com/
More rugged programs in many developing nations, where participants study and travel with a
small group of other college students.

13
Student Government Vs
Direct Democracy
During the occupation of Kimmel last protest tactics and claim that “most work
February, occupier and CAS Senator Cait- (such as the Coca-Cola ban and divestment
lin Boehne said she “didn’t care” if she was from genocide) is done in Senate commit-
recalled from the Student Senate when the tees and councils”—the supposedly “ap-
occupation was over. Having spent two propriate” place to improve the University.
years working for change within the Stu- However, they do not mention that resolu-
dent Senate, she realized that the student tions such as the Coke ban were drafted
government at NYU is, in her words, “an precisely because a massive publicity and
institution whose sole function is to act as protest campaign exposed the company’s
a democratic façade for an authoritarian abuses in Latin America and India, forcing
administration.” Her actions and state- NYU’s cumbersome governance body to
ments were condemned by respond. And to prove the
the usual reactionaries, all The blind gratitude point further, the ban was
whom have a vested inter- of those still faith- overturned last February
est in the continuation of in the University Senate
this façade. ful to student gov- (where students are only
However, their ob- ernment resembles a one quarter of the vote),
jections did not address dog’s pleasure at be- even though every single
Boehne’s fundamental student council voted to
concerns—that the Student
ing fed scraps from uphold it.
Senate is essentially power- his master’s table. While politicians ev-
less when it comes to truly erywhere would like to
altering the direction of the University. It is deny the value of protest and direct action,
now common knowledge that the Student it is clear that forceful steps are necessary
Senator’s Council only has the ability to when we wish to change unaccountable
make nonbinding “recommendations” to power structures. Instead of decrying pro-
the Board of Trustees. And while certain test, those representatives who desire real
Senators defend this role, saying that we change should use their positions within
should be thankful for attending a univer- government to reshape it into a form that
sity that “listens” to us, we believe that de- is truly democratic. If this is not possible,
mocracy entails much more than dubious they may find it necessary to work outside
promises that our concerns are heard. De- the system entirely.
mocracy implies both collective power and Democracy doesn’t just look like a
accountability—which is obviously absent small group of students listening to John
in the decision-making structure of NYU. Sexton brief them on the University’s lat-
The blind gratitude of those still faith- est plans. It looks like raucous marches,
ful to student government resembles a crowded meetings, and an ongoing ex-
dog’s pleasure at being fed scraps from change of ideas among all parties. As it
his master’s table. On the other hand, stands now, there is no exchange—the rul-
Boehne was fed up with being talked at by ers of the University can choose whether
John Sexton for two hours at every Senate or not they want to listen to us. We want to
meeting, and after seeing actual votes oc- see a University where they have to listen
cur only three times in two years, she de- to us, because the university exists for us,
cided to take a more rigorous stand. The the students.
Senate’s defenders criticized the use of

14
Officers of the Board
(including Sexton)

The Board of Trustees

President Sexton
University
Senate

University Administration
Deans Council Admin. Management Council
Faculty Senators Council

Less students, more power!


Student Senators Council

Student Senators Council (SSC) consists of:


University Committee

* 15 Senators (1 from each school)


on Student Life

* 7 Senators-at-Large (appointed by elected members of SSC)

● Reps. from Faculty Senate, Deans Council, & Student Affairs


● Chairs of UCSL Subcommittees (IGC, Student Advisory
Board, and Inter-Hall Residential Council)
● Presidents of each school’s Student Council

All Student Councils


(one for each grad and undergrad school)

CAS GSAS Tisch Tisch Grad Gallatin Gallatin Grad Stern Stern Grad
Steinhardt Steinhardt Grad Med Law Wagner SCPS Dentistry Social Work

Constituents (You!)

Board of Trustees: Composed of 46 rich folks who buy Student Senators Council: Exclusively student
their membership. Eight of the richest + John Sexton make up the senators. This meeting is also closed.
officers of the board, who make all the important (read: $$$) deci-
University Committee on Student Life: Stu-
sions. They are also the only individuals who have access to NYU's
dent senators + alternate senators + student council presidents +
entire operating budget. Many of these dudes have been involved in
some student life-y admin. This meeting is open, so come and listen
shady business deals (see Trustee article). The officers of the board
to them discuss Strawberry Fest. Most discussion happens in commit-
are 88% white, 100% male, 100% rich, and 100% old.
tees, so this is really just an information spread-fest, like USenate.
John Sexton: presides over the Senate and makes recom-
Student Council: This is the base level of student gov-
mendations to the Board of Trustees
ernment at NYU. Every undergrad and grad school at NYU has a stu-
All-U Senate: Made up of student and faculty senators, dent council. Student councils manage clubs within their respective
deans, and some administrators. Actual voting rarely occurs here, schools and advocate for their students to the upper levels of student
it’s more a tool the administration uses for information dissemina- government, but most focus on building “a sense of community.”
tion. Once, though, in 2005, the Senate actually pushed through a Anyone can join and the meetings are always open. You can obtain
university-wide ban on Coke for unethical labor practices in their bot- voting rights in your student council if you attend a few meetings.
tling plants. The most power a student or faculty senator has is the Check here: www.nyu.edu/stugov/councils.html for info about your
power to make recommendations to John Sexton, who will then relay school’s student council.
the message (we hope) to the board of trustees. Senate meetings
are closed, unless you can score a guest pass (ask your senator for
one!).
15
Meet the Trustees!
A few of the fine oligarchs who run your school
Ken Langone
Among the world’s richest people and namesake of
NYU’s Medical Center thanks to a $200 million dollar do-
nation, Ken Langone was the subject of legal prosecution
for for providing a $190 million dollar pay package to
fellow Trustee Ken Grasso while Grasso was CEO of the
New York Stock Exchange, and Langone the head of its
board. Langone also founded Home Depot and Choice-
point Inc, which sells private data culled from credit card
records and non-disclosed sources to the Department of
Homeland Security, and takes government contracts to
spy on citizens suspected of terrorism. Choicepoint also
has been sued for allowing the unauthorized release of
government records to its customers.

Catherine Reynolds
A pioneer of “social entrepenuership”, Catherine Reyn-
olds is the CEO of student loan company EduCap, which
provides loans for students at private colleges. Despite
EduCap being a non-profit, Reynolds owns a $30 million
Gulfstream Jet and has been paid millions of dollars in
annual compensation, enough to donate $38 million to
the Smithsonian in 2003. Reynolds can afford such excess
partially because EduCap has been caught issuing loans
at rates substantially above those of for-profit companies.
For that, and for potential kickbacks issued to universities,
the IRS opened an investigation into EduCap in late 2007.
Reynolds has made a fortune off of putting students like
you in debt - and she helps call the shots on NYU’s tuition
hikes.

Others You Might Want to Know...


Marc Bell CEO of the fine progressive magazine Penthouse who has donated thou-
sands of dollars to the GOP.

Larry Silverstein As the CEO of Silverstein Properties, leased the World Trade
Center for 99 years beginning in 2001, and attempted to profit off the deaths of thou-
sands by demanding two payouts from his insurers - one for each of the towers.

Daniel Tisch Heir to the Tisch fortune, which was based on the family’s owner-
ship of Lorillard Tobacco, the manufactuers of Newport cigarettes, and pioneered the
strategy of marketing menthol cigarettes to African Americans.

Martin Lipton A lawyer that made a fortune running mergers and acquisitions in
the Reaganomics 80s, Lipton has since become vocally opposed to ethical investment
policies and activist shareholders. Larry Silverstein and Ken Langone’s lawyer.

Anthony Welters Executive Vice President of UnitedHealth, a health care com-


pany whose top brass were under federal investigation for backdating stock options.
The NY Attourney General opened an investigation on UnitedHealth for shortchang-
ing its customers on insurance compensation for medical procedures, including those
covered by United Health.
16
Activist Resource Map

Resources C. ABC No Rio


A. Bluestockings Radical Books 156 Rivington Street
172 Allen Street (212) 254-3697
(212) 777-6028 An Artist Collective, Radical Center and Zine Library
A co-operative, not-for-profit radical bookstore. One among other things. ABC No Rio also hosts a weekly
of the few remaining in all of New York City! $1 cof- hardcore/punk matinee on Saturday afternoons as
fee and lots of great events to fulfill your radical and well as such radical and activist collectives as Food
literary needs! Not Bombs, Books Through Bars and the Lower East
Side Biography project. Also a great zine library (if
B. Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Ar- you’re interested in zines, be sure to check out Blue-
chives stockings and the Barnard Zine Library at Columbia)!
70 Washington Square South
(212) 998-2630 D. Judson Memorial Church
Did you know that you have a radical resource right 55 Washington Square South
under your nose? The Tamiment Library on the 10th (212) 477-0351
floor of Bobst Library is a great way to learn about Baptist Church devoted to often-controversial social
radical and labor movements in the US. It is open to outreach programs as well as art programs and per-
the public so anyone (i.e. your non-NYU friends) can formances.
get into Bobst if they are (first) going to Tamiment.
continued on next page
17
E. Lower East Side Tenement Museum educational materials. If NYU doesn’t meet your LGBT
91 Orchard Street needs, be sure to check out the myriad of services that
(212) 431-0233 this 25-year old center has.
Museum dedicated to the immigrant history of the Low-
er East Side. O. Saint Marks Church
131 East 10th Street
F. Henry Street Settlement: Abrons Arts Center (212) 647-6377
466 Grand St Like Judson Church, this church is devoted to social ac-
(212) 598-0400 tivism. Be sure to check out Reverend Billy’s satirical
Progressive Arts Center that offers arts programs and Church of Stop Shopping.
performance to Lower East Siders as well as other NYC
residents. Henry Street Settlement also offers shelter, P. War Resisters League
daycare and health services as well as many other pro- 339 Lafayette Street
grams that enrich the lives of New Yorkers. (212) 228-0450
www.warresisters.org
G. Brecht Forum An 80+ year old radical pacifist organization. The WRL
451 West Street organizes against war and for nonviolent revolution lo-
(212) 242-4201 cally and nationally
A center for arts and education dedicated to social jus-
tice in the New York cosmopolitan area. The Brecht Fo-
rum hosts a variety of events from lectures and classes
In Brooklyn (not pictured)
to movie screenings and art exhibitions.
Change You Want to See Gallery
84 Havemeyer St
H. 4th Street Food Co-Op
changeyouwanttosee.org
58 East 4th Street
A multi-purpose venue that hosts free lectures, screen-
(212) 674-3623
ings, meetings, and workshops relating to art, activism,
The only volunteer-run food co-operative in Lower Man-
technology and theory.
hattan. Join today! If you don’t join, no worries, you
can still shop anyway!
Time’s Up! Brooklyn
99 S. 6th St.
I. Culture Project
times-up.org
55 Mercer Street
The newer Time’s Up space in Brooklyn.
(212) 925-1806
Theatre that brings talented actors and writers togeth-
123 Community Space
er to put on politically and socially relevant pieces.
123 Tompkins Ave
Tischies take note.
http://123communityspace.org/
An anarchist community center in Bed-Stuy, with an af-
J. Time’s Up
ter-school program, a food co-op, and bike workshop.
156 Rivington St
Unfortunately, the space is being evicted because the
(212) 802-8222
landlord doesn’t want a community center in his build-
times-up.org
ing.
Bikes, bikes, bikes. If you have ever wanted to ride a
bike or learn how to fix a bike or just learn some more
about bikes, this is the place. Time’s Up! also hosts Manhattan Radical History
events, including some awesome parties after Critical
Mass. 1. 53 Christopher Street
Site of the Stonewall Inn, where in 1969 riots gave birth
K. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe to the gay liberation movement in the U.S.
126 Crosby Street
(212) 334-3324 2. White Horse Tavern
Used bookstore and volunteer-run cafe whose proceeds 567 Hudson Street
go towards fighting AIDS and helping the homeless and Gathering place for many members of 60’s bohemian
other low-income families of New York. culture as well as labor rights leaders.

L. Bowery Poetry Club 3. 23-29 Washington Place


308 Bowery Site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire -- the largest
(212) 614-0505 industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York,
Poetry and Revolution go together nicely. causing the death of 148 garment workers who either
died from the fire or jumped to their deaths.
M. Nuyorican Poets Cafe Inc
236 East 3rd Street 4. 1 Bowling Green
(212) 505-8183 Site of the former Fort Amsterdam which served as ad-
What did we say before about poetry and revolution? ministrative headquarters for the Dutch and British up
until the end of the American Revolution. It was set on
N. LGBT Center fire by poor whites and blacks in 1741 as part of a sup-
208 West 13th Street posed plot to revolt and level NYC by fire. It was also
(212) 620-7310 the site of the Algonquin Indian massacres.
A hub of LGBT activists, organizations, services, and
18
5. 605 East 9th Street
Formerly P.S. 64 and the Charas/El Bohio Cultural Cen-
ter. After this school closed down it was established by
squatting artists as a radical community center (Cha-
ras/El Bohio). The building was recently made a histori-
cal landmark.

6. Tompkins Square Park


On August 6-7, 1988, Police battled with “residents”
of the park; people who had taken up residence in the
park and who refused to abide by the recent curfew re-
strictions. The police brutality witnessed at this riot was
some of the worse people had seen in years.

7. 539, 541 and 545 East 13th Street nated, killing three members of the group and destroy-
In 1995, cops battled squatters at these addresses ing the house.
for twelve hours. Some squatters had been living in
these buildings for close to ten years and had worked 10. 208 East 13th Street
to make the buildings habitable again. Residents and Former home of Emma Goldman, radical activist and
neighbors participated in peaceful protest in order to anarchist.
keep their homes.
11. New York Stock Exchange
8. 23 5th Avenue Hey what’s the stock exchange doing on here?! Yes
Home of Mabel Dodge, a patron of the arts who held my friends, there have even been radical happenings
a weekly “salon” at this site. Radicals such as Emma within the city’s greatest center for capitalism. In 1967
Goldman, Maragaret Sanger, “Big Bill” Haywood, Abbie Hoffman declared the death of money and led
Lincoln Steffens, and John Reed, were often in atten- protesters into the NYSE gallery. They proceeded to
dance. throw handfuls of money (mostly fake) at the traders
below. After this incident the gallery was enclosed in
9. 18 West 11th Street bullet-proof glass.
Site of the Weathermen House. The radical group
known as the Weather Underground, were assembling 12. Five Points
a bomb to use at Fort Dix when it prematurely deto- One of the most notable slums in New York History.
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19
Why I Don’t Volunteer,
Why I Don’t Want an Internship
It’s not easy to find peace about your labor. The U.S. government doesn’t give
role as a student in the city. What are you money to social work because it doesn’t have
going to say when you’re walking to class to. It doesn’t have to because people (read,
and a homeless man asks you for change? upper-middle-class women) will do the work
What is there to do about the trash that ac- for free or marginal pay.
cumulates on the streets, making New York at The delegation of women to bear the
night look nothing less than post-apocalyptic? spiritual burden of their civilizations is noth-
What about the injustice of the school system ing new. American Christian institutions rode
you’ve risen to the top of? on the work of women who, modeling them-
Our university and the city at large pro- selves on male ideals of compassion, cooked
vide resources to assuage this discomfort. and led charity outreach. Cities rode on the
Maybe you’ve already heard about commu- charity of churches. Post-WWI and II, feminist
nity service workdays, the dean’s team, Ox- scholars have paid attention to the profes-
fam, and internships with non-profit organi- sionalization of domestic work in the service
zations. Community service fairs can connect sector, one of the lowest paid sectors of the
you with organizations outside the university economy: nursing, teaching, social work,
that work in schools, homeless shelters, food housecleaning, haircutting, laundering.
pantries, non-profit bookstores, thrift shops, Nor is the availability of rituals to
daycares, adult education centers, and soup leaven the burden a recent development.
kitchens. Most advertisements cater to women, for
When I first moved to the city, I was products from food to make-up to music to
susceptible to all of this. Through NYU, I dance classes to cigarettes. Poet and ancient
volunteered at a public school, teaching ESL Greek scholar Anne Carson writes, “ancient
kids how to write resumes. I painted schools, society was happy to have women drain off
worked in a food pantry, went to yoga, at- such unpleasant tendencies and raw emotion
tended Buddhist lectures about compas- into a leakproof ritual container” (132). It
sion and non-violence, became vegan, and is not an accident that women constitute the
worked in a non-profit bookstore. I know peo- majority of activist and spiritual collectives.
ple who’ve worked much harder, and done Carson goes on: “As if the entire female gen-
much more. Not everyone has responded or der were a kind of collective bad memory
will react the same way, but that is what I did. of unspeakable things, patriarchal order like
I got over my guilt by working for free, and a well-intentioned psychoanalyst seems to
the city went on. conceive its therapeutic responsibility as the
After about a year, I began to notice channeling of this bad sound into politically
that the other people in these organiza- appropriate containers” (134). “Politically
tions had something in common. The other appropriate containers” include, of course,
volunteers at the food pantry, the members anything you can buy: poetry journals, yoga
of NYU’s environmental club, the inhabitants classes, mixed drinks, psychotherapy, and, if
of the “green” dorm, the vegans I knew, the time is money, soup kitchens.
poets I took classes with, the bodies around It is important to look at any and all
me in yoga class, were almost all female. social service work and activism as parts
Moreover, nothing we wanted to change, of economic history even as we’re trying to
changed. Just because we fed one person change it. Community-based activism is not
didn’t mean there were fewer hungry people. always so far away in intent and structure
Just because we taught kids how to write re- from PTAs. When we work at food co-ops,
sumes didn’t mean there were jobs for them, or volunteer at bookstores, or feed hungry
or that they would be treated respectfully at people, or lead community art therapy class-
work. es, what kind of work are we doing, and for
The maintenance of the American capi- whose benefit?
talist city hinges on gendered divisions of The ways gendered divisions of labor

20
maintain violence is particularly apparent someone who has always been interested in
during wartime. Before the Civil War, most activism and in spiritual life, I am now saying
schoolteachers were male. When men went that sometimes trying to make things better is
to battle, women took over, and because just enough to keep them as they are.
the nurturing aspects of
teaching were thought
appropriate venues for
female expression, kept
their positions. During
WWI, women worked as
nurses, teachers, clerks,
saleswomen, and secre-
taries, and conserved
supplies. After WWII,
women worked as social
workers, campaigners,
and counselors. By mak-
ing the home front stable,
women justified war and
imperialism for men. During WWI, Virginia So if you find yourself bringing coffee
Woolf argued that women participate in war to the white man who runs the journal that
by agreeing to witness it. What would have publishes poetry about the grief of industrial
happened during the Civil War if women had society, think about what you could be do-
refused to take over teaching positions? As a ing to industrial society instead. The whiny
wife of an alcoholic inadvertently condones song your friend’s band (yes, most of the mu-
his drinking by washing his clothes for him, sic scene in NYC is male) sings about urban
women can enable unjust societies to per- loneliness doesn’t have to be your loneliness.
petuate themselves by caring for its margin- You don’t have to be the tragic anorexic girl
alized populations. In the same essay, Woolf in those male-directed independent films,
tells men asking for her help, you started this, and no, you don’t have to waste your time
so don’t ask me to fix it. or money watching them. You don’t have
I’ve never been a nihilist. I’m not saying to spend all your free time trying to teach
that you should refuse an internship if you’re public school children how to write resumes,
committed to learning something that you when you don’t even really think that anyone
can’t understand by sitting in a classroom. should have to write a resume, or believe
I’m not saying you should never do volun- that you’re special just because someone
teer work, if you have the time and desire to already forced you to write one. You don’t
work outside the economic system, and I’m have to run fundraising committees (do you
certainly not saying that paid work is more really want to help rich people feel better
valid than voluntary labor. I’m not saying about themselves by giving you money?). At
that you should deny yourself the pleasures the end of the day, are men earning millions
and cultural diversity of the city just because of dollars from the beer you drink to relax
they chose you as a victim/target audience. afterwards? This is not about the fight to
As a female, though, I will not give my achieve economic equality for women in the
body or time to smoothing things over as long job market. Instead, I ask how your choices
as they hold up. I’m not giving my money to salve the wounds of the system that perpetu-
companies that want me to tranquilize myself ates aggression toward you and others who
by dieting or listening to sad white boy mu- share your anatomy. Guilt and self-destruc-
sic or drinking or stretching in yoga class. I tion not useful here. If you’re volunteering
am arguing that “charity” and activist work somewhere, pay attention to your audience.
participate in war culture and capitalism. I What happens if you ask a high school kid
am arguing that society wants us to heal our- what she wants? What are you going to say
selves, as long as we don’t do anything too in the space that you have, and who do you
drastic once we exhume our discontent. As want to hear it?
21
An Approach to Education
The university student is a subject in the process of being murdered. She is a
being capable of thought and reflection, but her energies are constantly redirected
into the vainest realms, until emptiness roars out of the abyss of useless knowledge
and declares that life itself is worthless. When the murderous socialization process
of education is complete we are left with an intelligent living dead, with ghosts that
know how to follow orders.
Sleep in. Go to class. Sit through it. If I am a good student, I take notes (and I
might have even done the reading). Back in the dorm, do work or hang out until
it’s time to get drunk. Try to enjoy it. Go to sleep alone, or in the tenuous grasp of
another unknown body. Repeat for four years. After all that, we are ready to gradu-
ate and grudgingly accept our fates within society.
With a university diploma we are supposed to have a shot at being “well-off ”.
We have options, they tell us. No longer. We now go back to live with our parents,
work in coffee shops and restaurants, and wait for life to begin. The privilege of a
university education has become a safety net for our emotional poverty; able to sur-
vive materially, we waste away from the hunger of deferred dreams. And the ques-
tion “What are you doing after graduation?” is rarely met with a straight answer.
“Mourning.” Because life will never begin. Because we are dead.
Four years of learning more and more about less and less. Four years of becom-
ing not quite ourselves, of learning to carry the illusions that are thrust upon us.
We are just barely interested in our studies, just enough to continue, just enough
to fill our heads with empty knowledge for the sake of our future. We either suffer
22
through our professional trainings or fill our schedules with a series of irrelevant
masturbations. Some rigorously pursue that object that is not currently theirs (doc-
tor, lawyer, ecologist, businessperson) while others bide their time in an academi-
cally hedonistic laze. In one case, the student rushes headlong towards death. In the
other, he waits for it to find him.
In both, a procession of ghosts exits the graduation ceremony. Each one is
ready to wait patiently for life to begin or to perform the task it is relegated to. We
are bred to be patient, enduring, and only marginally unhappy.
It is no wonder that apathy is an epidemic among students. We have nothing to
look forward to except those moments we steal away from our colonized existence.
Grasping at straws, we get high, have parties, sneak food out of the dining halls.
These forms only allow us to maintain a pittance of sanity, the equivalent of a short
breath of air in the midst of drowning. We try not to be too bored, because it would
kill us too suddenly. We prefer a death that is slower and much less noticeable.
When a class finally is interesting, it is in spite of everything the university
stands for—it occurs in those moments when we overcome our alienation, commu-
nicate honestly, forget grades, and begin to pursue truth in the face of all the lies we
have been told. For a split second, the never-ending internal monologue of “Why
am I in class right now?” is interrupted, and we are startled by our understanding.
We suddenly know why we are here, and wish all our classes could be so profound.
It is no coincidence that they are not.
As the university’s purpose is to produce marketable knowledge and produc-
tive workers, these moments of discovery are purely secondary. The institution,
more concerned with the result than the act, salvages the product of these moments
into objects that can be sold—prestige, academic papers, “an education”—but the
process of discovery remains honest as long as it stays under the radar.
For all of us, it is a daunting task to attempt to avoid being murdered and turned
into one of those patient enduring ghosts. Everything we see forces or convinces us
to become a whisper of our once vivacious selves--our gestures reduced to dishon-
est facsimiles, our thoughts proceeding all too logically, our lives just barely worth
living, just enough to continue. As survivors, we search for moments of honest
connection to sustain us, while we deepen and enlarge the network of ties based on
more than the misery of the exchange of commodities.
We desire to realize our collective subjectivity, to impose it upon a world that
has imposed death upon us for so long. In the academy, we will derive the fullest
knowledge from interactions beyond grades or assignments. We will pursue ca-
reer training cynically, with the hope of gaining enough information to manipulate
those who still believe that capitalism deserves to exist. We will treat the university
as an oxymoron—as a monument to hegemony which can nonetheless be infil-
trated and ransacked.
We hope to learn enough to restore ghosts to more corporeal forms.
23
Going to School
in New York City
Going to college, taking classes, eventually choosing a major, is part of the process
channeling you into a position in the labor economy. Your parents know it, even if you
don’t. It started when you were in kindergarten and a teacher complimented you on your
ability to build sandcastles really well, or to keep your desk clean, or to settle conflict.
Of course, this distribution of reward in schools often initiates the gender binary as well.
As a Gallatin student, I was particularly susceptible to the illusion that I came to college
to better understand the structure of society and to figure out how to change it. Many of
the classes I have taken and the professors who have taught me do truly aspire toward
this goal, and I am grateful to them. But none of these intentions, theirs or mine, change
the fact that that the primary function of education in the United States is to, through a
complex system of racial, gender and class segregation, direct people toward often pre-
determined roles that hold up our society.
And so when we walk around New York City, we walk around as part of the labor
force: as students. We represent New York University as an institution and ourselves as
participants in its actions in the community. When we attend an NYU party populated by
mostly white, upper-middle class students in the middle of a Latino neighborhood, we are
part of the city. When we walk past a homeless person on the street and choose to give or
not give her money, we are part of the city. When we write a paper for a class about the
problems of labor inequality in New York City, we are writing a paper, in a class, in an
institution, in a city, for an audience of a professor who works for an institution and lives in
a city. In our first writing classes at NYU, professors ask us to consider who our audiences
are. And who is our audience? When we choose to surround ourselves with people who
think like us and share our cultural values, we consent to exist as another commodity in
the city. Activists are not immune to this.
We sat through the standardized testing of elementary school, some of us passed
through metal detectors to enter our high schools, we agreed to sit silently during the SAT,
we filled in bubbles, we used number two pencils, we signed our names—and all in prepa-
ration for a role much less passive and much less innocent. To arrive at the point where
we can participate in the mechanism of a city, to give money to its bars and restaurants
and to gentrify its neighborhoods. To walk to class in the morning and pass five homeless
people without stopping. To be tutors in public high schools and tell students that they
must learn what we learned or they will never have the “advantages” we have as students
and later as laborers. To have professors read some of our best thoughts and critiques
and to evaluate and then forget them, and to have cashiers at delis and bodegas witness
the manifestations of our despair. To have companies and corporations observe and
exploit our malaise. So who is our audience? Who do you want to witness your thoughts
and choices? We have to work to escape the segregation preordained by the city and by
our role in it as students and consumers. Whose opinion do you want to hear, and who
do you want to evaluate your work?

24
Reading List
Race and Racism Auto/Biographies
The Angela Y. Davis Reader, edited by Joy James Memoirs of a Revolutionist, Vera Figner
This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherríe Cold War Fugitive, Gil Green
Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Orientalism, Edward Said Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, Alexander
White Like Me, Tim Wise Berkman
The Cost of Privilege, Chip Smith Soon to be a Major Motion Picture, Abbie Hoffman
Racial Formation in the U.S., Winant & Omi Living My Life, Emma Goldman
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
Radical History
Politics Detroit, I Do Mind Dying,
Hegemony or Survival, Noam Georgakas & Surkin
Chomsky War at Home, Brian Glick
Days of War and Nights of Horizontalism, Maria Sitrin
Love, Crimethinc. A Promise and a Way of Life:
The Society of the Spectacle, White Anti-Racist Activism,
Guy Debord Becky Thompson
How Non-Violence Protects the We Will Return in the
State, Peter Gelderloos Whirlwind, M. Ahmad
Fragments of an Anarchist A People’s History of the United
Anthropology, David Graeber States, Howard Zinn
Anarchy, A Graphic Guide,
Clifford Harper Fiction/Literature
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Their Eyes Were Watching God,
Paulo Friere Z.N. Hurston
Civil Disobedience, Henry The Awakening, Kate Chopin
David Thoreau Glass, Irony, and God, Anne
The Coming Insurrection, The Carson
Invisible Committee The Little Prince, Antoine de
Do It!, Jerry Rubin Saint Exupéry
T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Hakim Howl, Allen Ginsberg
Bey The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
Feminism/Gender Politics The Peace of Utrecht, Alice Munro
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir Surfacing, Margaret Atwood
Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol Adams The Golden Compass series, Philip Pullman
Under Western Eyes and Feminism Without Black Boy, Richard Wright
Borders, Chandra Mohanty The Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf
Cunt, Inga Muscio and Betty Dodson Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy
The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
Gender Outlaw, Kate Bornstein Current Struggles
Infection and Inequality, Paul Farmer
Philosophy Endgame, Derrick Jensen
Monolingualism of the Other, Jacques Derrida No Logo, Naomi Klein
Against History, Against Leviathan!, Fredy Perlman Planet of Slums, Mike Davis
The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault
A Moral Equivalent of War, William James Periodicals
The Politics of Experience, R.D. Laing Rolling Thunder
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzche Z Magazine
Animal Liberation, Peter Singer Earth First! Journal
The Revolution of Everyday Life, Raoul Vaneigem Anarcho-Syndicalist Review
Ishmael, Daniel Quinn Left Turn
Fire to the Prisons

25
Radical Faculty
NYU is chock-full of rad professors and T.A.s.
So why are you settling for boring lectures?
This is by no means an exaustive list, let us
know about the ones we missed!
Gallatin
Sinan Antoon – orientalism, the middle east
Bill Caspary – democratic community edu-
cation
Stephen Duncombe – cultural resistance,
media
Politics
Antonio Lauria-Perricelli – militaries, glo-
Christine Harrington – neoliberal fallacies,
balization
community politics
Patrick McCreery – queer politics
Bertell Ollman – marxism
Kim Phillips-Fein – labor
Rene Poitevin – gentrification, organizing
Journalism
Aarti Shahani – immigrants, race, deporta-
Craig Wolff – police brutality, Comparitive
tion
Literature
George Shulman – race, communication
Kristin Ross – radical history and theory of
studies
France
Alejandro Velasco – Latin America, revolu-
History
tion!
Manu Goswami – postcolonialism
Sociology
Greg Grandin – Latin America, American
Vivek Chibber – socialism, globalization
imperialism
Jeff Goodwin – social movement theory
Mary Nolan – European women’s history,
Michael McCarthy – labor, socialism
post-WWII world order
Rene Rojas – marxist
Performance Studies
Social and Cultural Analysis
Jose Munoz – queer theory
Lisa Duggan – gender and queer studies,
Tavia Nyong’o – race, sexuality
feminisms
Jennifer Morgan – African-American stud-
Law
ies, feminisms
Amy Adler – GSOC, feminist
Crystal Parikh – race, queer studies & femi-
Jerry Lopez – community issues, race
nisms, post-colonialism
Khary Polk – American studies
Steinhardt
Neil Brenner – metropolitan studies
Pedro Noguera – urban schools
Andrew Ross – labor studies
Lisa Stulberg – race, urban schooling
Gayatri Gopinath – transnational feminism,
queer diasporas, race
Tisch
Josie Saldana – Latin America, latino/a cul-
Randy Martin – marxism, political perfor-
ture, post-colonialism
mance
Nikhil Pal Singh – race and black radicalism
Elizabeth OuYang – civil rights attorney,
Andy Cornell – fuckin’ worked on
community activism
last year’s disorientation guide
26
Activist clubs @ NYU
National Organization for Women Students Taking Action in Darfur
(NOW) (STAND)
Now.club@nyu.edu Stand.club@nyu.edu
www.now-nyu.blogspot.com
Voices for Choice
Earth Matters Voicesforchoice.club@nyu.edu
nyu.earthmatters@gmail.com
www.nyu.edu/clubs/earthmatters Journal of Human Rights
Journal.humanrights.club@nyu.edu
ACLU@NYU
Aclu.club@nyu.edu Latinos Unidos con
Honor y Amistad
Campus Antiwar (LUCHA)
Network (CAN) www.nyu.edu/clubs/
Can.club@nyu.edu lucha

Free Culture Queer Union


Free.culture.club@ www.nyu.edu/clubs/
nyu.edu queerunion

Informed Democracy The Icarus Project @


Informed.democracy. NYU
club@nyu.edu icarus@gallatinstu-
dent.com
NAACP@NYU theicarusproject.net
Naacp.club@nyu.
edu NYU Journal of
Global Affairs
FilmAid @ NYU Jga.club@nyu.edu
meredithlmeyer@ www.gallatinstudent.
gmail.com com/jga

World Health Initiative Oxfam American @ NYU


Whi.club@nyu.edu Oxfam.america.club@nyu.edu
www.nyu.edu/clubs/Oxfam
Access Health
acchealth@gmail.com Amnesty International @ NYU
www.nyu.edu/clubs/access.health Amnesty.club@nyu.edu
www.nyu.edu/clubs/amnesty.interna-
Cruelty-Free NYU tional
seal.club@nyu.edu
Students for Justice in Palestine
Students Creating Radical Change justiceinpalestine.club@nyu.edu
(SCRC)
scrc.club@nyu.edu Community Roots
c-roots@list.nyu.edu
27