NYU can be a scary place, in many more ways than one. Not in a “spooky” way, in the sense that we’re filled with sheet-ghosts, pumpkins and plastic skeletons, as the word spooky now suggests; New York can be intimidating, classes can be overwhelming, and the environment is generally cold.
It’s Halloween, so I won’t waste too much of your time with a drawn-out explanation of why our next theme is “Horror.” However, as we are an NYU blog, expect content to be largely New York-centered, particularly around Washington Square Park, which itself has some odd stories surrounding it.
Not this kind of scary. Not spooky.
Under the Arch Editor
Table of Contents (updated throughout the week):
Dark History of Washington Square by Ariana DiValentino
By Ariana DiValentino
It’s no secret that New York is a goldmine for paranormal enthusiasts and folklore junkies. Without statues to rub for luck and centuries-old ghost stories — only a mostly-joking belief held by some that there is a correlation between walking under the arch and graduating — NYU may not be as steeped in campus tradition as some of our benchmarks, but hints of superstition are visible in our urban habitat nonetheless. Lafayette Hall skips thirteenth rooms on each floor and the 13th floor entirely, as much as a 17-story building can lack a 13th floor, as does the much-newer Gramercy Green, built within the last decade. Rumours of haunting right on our own campus are one of the pieces of NYU history we share with alumni generations before us, namely the ghostly presences felt in Brittany Hall, supposedly stemming from its colorful history as the Brittany Hotel. But some deeply buried legends tell stories older than the horror-movie tropes they seem to have been ripped from. A university as old as ours in a city as rich and complex as New York is bound to have a few skeletons in its historical closet, and in fact there are thousands that we share the square with. What’s most disturbing is that these forgotten tales are far from myth.
University Building Watercolor and Engraving by A.J. Davis, c. 1833
By Omri Bezalel
A few weeks ago an NYU student commented to a mutual friend that I was very “right wing.” I’m Israeli and the comment was made after a discussion among myself and other American students about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. No one in Israel had ever pegged me on the right side of the Israeli political spectrum (which on a military scale, left might mean more dovish and right more hawkish), which led me to wonder why the spectrum is different in New York than it is in Tel Aviv.
Individual maps taken from Wikipedia
One reason is the completely different realities of the two cities. Most spectra deal with beliefs and opinions, but where do facts come into play? In Israel’s case, surely there are things we can agree on: Children and innocents on both sides should not be killed. Israelis should not be bombarded with missiles. And Hamas is not an innocent organization. But do these fall in different places on different political spectra, or do they simply rest in place as the spectrum slides around them to readjust? The truth about facts is hard to grasp without experiencing the reality of the situation first hand. Many people in New York are missing that context.
By Emma Scoble
This is a continuation of a previous story, found here.
But who would be able to bring about such change right now? Specifically within NYU, the answer seems to point towards the Board of Trustees. However, repeatedly, through our discussion, I noticed a general distrust of NYU’s Board of Trustees. “We don’t really have hope of convincing the Board of Trustees. We know which companies the work for such as Fox News, Chase Bank…. Those are the two biggest red flags,” said Lucy. “[There are also] a lot of [trustees from] retail companies,” said Cayden, “which is questionable when NYU is the second largest private property owner in the city…and is looking at expanding.” Lucy continued, “Basically, we know that the people on the Board of Trustees are business men and their interests are not NYU and this is not their main job. We don’t really have much hope of convincing Sexton, the president who will come after him, or the high up admins because we have seen and watched the work they are doing.”
SLAM members expressed a wish that there would be professors would be on the Board or even simply a more diverse set of alumni who are not all successful business people. Katie mentioned, “70% of public [universities] have 1 or more students serving on their boards of trustees. We don’t have any—or any faculty members.” Thus, SLAM members feel that as far as the Board of Trustees are concerned—their pleas are falling on deaf ears, and the only option is to have all of the students on their side to force change.
Photo courtesy of Lucy Parks
By Emma Scoble
Editor’s Note: This investigative piece on Lucy Parks, her associates in SLAM, and their fight against NYU student debt was initially inspired by our “Money” theme but remains relevant as the conditions surrounding Lucy Parks’ exit from NYU remain the same.
On a crisp, autumn evening, the sun was still shining in a cloudless sky as I buzzed myself into a brownstone apartment building, located in the Bedford neighborhood of Brooklyn. Inside, I am welcomed into a kitchen filled by the aroma of tandoori spices. “She’s almost here,” Cayden, an NYU Senior, tells me. By “she,” Cayden is referring to Lucy Parks, the would-be Gallatin junior who dropped out of NYU in September and subsequently released an open letter to President John Sexton on the internet about her financial struggle and criticisms of student debt and financial aid at NYU. In the three weeks since the letter was released on September 10th, Lucy’s letter went viral and garnered national media attention. The letter has since been seen by over 98,000 viewers and news organizations such as the Huffington Post and Yahoo! Media have given her a platform to tell her story. The buzzer by the door rings, and in walks Lucy herself, just as Cayden pulls a sizzling tray of tandoori chicken from the oven.
Lucy Parks at a protest in Washington Square Park. (Photo courtesy of Lucy Parks)
Tonight, I have come to dinner for a round-table discussion about student debt with roommates Cayden, Lucy, and Katie (whose real name has been withdrawn due to her on-campus employment), who are all active and vocal members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM). SLAM is a student organization that aims to combat student debt, both at NYU and across the nation, as well as better the conditions of students currently struggling financially. The purpose of my visit is not to rehash the details of Lucy’s well-known story, nor is it to bemoan the financial struggles of simultaneously dealing with NYU tuition and the cost of living in the city, which all NYU students are already quite aware of. As 51% of New York University students are currently receiving financial aid (as reported by the 2015 U.S. News Report on Colleges) and an average of only 59% of total need is met, a high number of students have firsthand experience with the difficulty and realities of monetary burden and debt. Tonight, I hope to discuss their perspective on real solutions.