NYU students demand that the school provide reparations for black students and cut ties with NYPD

Students in the New York University’s Justice Lab have drafted a letter of nine demands which include reparations for descendants of slaves, disbanding connections with NYPD and hiring more black faculty.

So far over 250 people have expressed support for the letter.

Students of New York University’s Justice Lab have drafted a letter to the school’s administration which demands reparations for descendants of slaves and dissociation with the NYPD.

In the letter written in March, the students write that they “are making a claim that African-American students and other groups that are descended from American Chattel Slavery are entitled to financial and structural benefits that NYU has denied them.”

They further describe a publication by Nelson Maldonado-Torres entitled “Outline of Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality” and state that his work emphasizes their “duty as students to critically assess the university. As students that are paying to attend this school, we have the power and authority to determine how this institution allocates its funding and resources.”

[RELATED: Brown University students overwhelmingly vote in favor of reparations]

The Justice Lab is a two-credit course offered by NYU that focuses “social and political contention in the contemporary United states.” The course has no set curriculum and allows students and faculty to create the syllabus themselves while working in small groups to research current events and develop strategies for combating these issues.

There are 9 demands outlined in the groups letter, but the writers clarify that “the demands we present are not a solution or salve for the harm that educational institutions have inflicted upon Black people.”

“Citing Maldonado-Torres again, the continuation of coloniality is perpetuated by liberal institutions that claim to advance modernity, which clearly describes New York University,” explains the letter which was signed by 6 students.

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The letter mentions the “misconception” that only the South was responsible for the perseverance of slavery in the United States, but they also point out that this is false. The NYU undergraduates go on to say that “New York, and New York University in particular, has a problematic history in relation to ideas on slavery and Black people.”

Some examples that are provided of NYU’s controversial history are that New York was once a slave state and “the nation’s earliest and largest African burial ground is just a few minutes away from Washington Square Park in Lower Manhattan.”

“It is NYU’s responsibility to guarantee that it honors, respects, and takes financial responsibility for the way that the experience of African-American students and communities has been shaped and influenced by slavery in New York and the United States as a whole.”

The individuals then listed their demands which include scholarships for descendants of slavery, hiring of more black faculty, increased funding for black student groups and dismantling of ties with the New York Police Department.

[RELATED: St. Joseph’s prof placed on paid leave after criticizing reparations]

Kayla Merriweather, president of NYU’s Black Student Union and one of the signatories on the letter, created a petition listing these demands and has gained 249 signatures.

Merriweather told the NYU News that “It’s important for organizations or people or groups who have done harm in the past to take accountability for that in the present.”

The first demand states that “NYU markets itself as a left-leaning university that advocates for its entire student body. To do that and to start to make up for the deficit Black students have faced at NYU, we make our first demand that NYU allocate part of its tuition to reparations.” Debt forgiveness for Black students is also included in this demand.

[RELATED: Harvard researchers claim COVID-19 wouldn’t have been so bad if US paid reparations]

Hiring more black faculty is the second demand outlined by the students, who state in the letter “for white professors to tell the histories of African peoples is to in part rob Black people from telling their own histories.” The students continue by calling on the university to not only hire more black faculty but also to create more resources and promotion opportunities for them.

Demands four and five are titled “cut ties with NYPD and allocate more funding for black clubs.” 

The demands mention the decision made by the University of Minnesota to cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department after the death of George Floyd in 2020, demanding that NYU do the same, writing “by condemning the actions of the police force, we can send a powerful message of support against systems of police and incarceration, and encourage other institutions to follow our lead.”

[RELATED: Virginia bill would create reparations scholarships]

The final four demands are “taking responsibility for gentrification and supporting health clinics and local schools” and “creating a reparations council and funding research on NYU’s relationship with slavery and racism.”

The six students “demand that NYU hold itself accountable for previous wrongs, and be proactive and informed in its efforts to ensure reparations for Black students.”

Brown University and Georgetown University have both promised reparations as a result of student demands.

Campus Reform reached out to NYU, but did not receive a response.