NYU students and faculty members protested at the March for Science, a nonpartisan demonstration defending science and advocating for scientific integrity, on Earth Day, Apr. 22.
NYU Green, a group managed by the Office of Sustainability, bussed more than 30 students and faculty members to Washington, D.C., where they joined students from NYU’s D.C. campus on Friday. Later that day at a “March Briefing,” former EPA employees and activists discussed how the Trump Administration will affect certain policies, such as the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement.
Faculty members began trickling in on Saturday morning, the day of the march. In total, there were approximately 50 members of the NYU community in attendance.
NYU also had a teach-in tent, where professors Kent Kirshenbaum and Carol Reiss spoke on the Mall Grounds, but not all students could attend. While some students were able to bypass the registration requirement by showing their NYU IDs or sneaking in, most were relegated to stand in the rain because of capacity limits.
On the main stage, a plethora of scientists, activists and musicians (including Bill Nye the Science Guy) spoke about why science is important for all and how it does not necessarily have to be a dividing issue.
Bill Nye wasn’t the only coveted scientist who made an appearance; President Andrew Hamilton made an appearance and marched alongside students.
In an email sent to the university, Hamilton wrote: “We will be marching not in despondency but in hope, steadfast in our belief that the many benefits of scientific research — inspiring young minds, fostering innovation, creating new technologies, and yielding everything from new medical therapeutics to a stronger economy — will prevail. And we shall remain resolute, as well, in our efforts over the coming years to improve and advance science and technology here at NYU.”
Hamilton, who once was a professor of chemistry, recently announced the $500 million expansion of NYU’s Brooklyn campus, Tandon. He also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in March about how the Trump Administration’s budget cuts for STEM programs is harmful.
“Take it from someone who has trod this path: cutting science funding was a bad idea then, and it is a bad idea now,” Hamilton wrote. “A 20 percent cut perhaps does not sound like much today. However, I can assure you that the loss in scientific stature and talent and discoveries will haunt this nation’s future for a generation or more.”
Yet, there were more students protesting back on the main NYU campus that day: the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), NYU Divest and the Incarceration to Education Coalition (IEC) demonstrated during events for Weekend on the Square — a weekend tailored for newly admitted students to “experience” what the university has to offer.
“As a scientist, I completely agree with the evidence that has come forward… [about] climate change and the role that carbon emissions play,” Hamilton said, “but the sense that the board took was that the case had not been made for the use of the endowment for making statements.”
He stood with the Board against divesting, against IEC’s wishes to eliminate the question about criminal history on applicationsand against SLAM’s desires for a student member on the Board.
Then, in late February, SLAM occupied the Bobst lobby to demand a meeting with Hamilton to further discuss the possibility of student representation on the Board of Trustees. According to SLAM organizer Katie Shane, senior vice president for student affairs Marc Wais was able to help set up a meeting. The result was a public forum titled “Tea With Andy” held in March.
During this forum, a student asked why NYU is not a sanctuary campus — any college or university that adopts policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants — despite Hamilton’s pro-immigration rhetoric.
For example, in an email after President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, Hamilton wrote that “as a scientist who studied and worked in four countries before becoming a citizen of the U.S., I know how important it is to be able to move across borders in peaceful pursuit of one’s scholarship.” In the aforementioned Washington Post op-ed, Hamilton even argued how immigrants help to bolster the scientific community and the community; comments that drew fire due to the fact NYU is still not a sanctuary campus.
Hamilton’s response during “Tea With Andy” was that the word “sanctuary” has no meaning. It’s an answer he repeated during the March for Science.
“That is a conversation for another day,” said Hamilton at the march. “Today is about science and words that matter, and that is not one of them.”
After being asked why NYU is not a sanctuary campus, Hamilton left. He walked away from the main street where all the students were marching. That was the last anyone saw of him that day. The remaining student and faculty members marched all the way up Constitution Avenue and led some chants.
After the march, there was a “debrief” at the NYUDC campus. Students discussed the highs and lows of the march as well as what they can do to become better activists.
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