20 February 2009

Conversations: "Exposure til Disclosure" and the TBNYU! occupation

I'm wayyyy too tired to make this post right now, but I do want to keep the conversation going strong about the past couple of VERY eventful days on the New York front. We've been following all the coverage of the occupation, from the New York Times to the student reporting to other blogs and just from massive flow of voices out there you could write a book about radicalism, representation, media influence, activism, and on and on. I'm going to come back and edit this post with my own thoughts when I'm less sleep deprived and more coherent, but in the meantime I'd love to get some dialogue going in the the comments about the happenings, responses to any of the coverage, opinions about the actions taken by the student activists, anything and everything.

Also, check takebacknyu.com for update on the occupation and what went down. I don't want to try to summarize their very articulate and amazing posts so I encourage you to go there and read what these rad activists are saying. Action and support is still as necessary as before, if not more so.

So, talk talk talk. I'll be back on all of this, probably tomorrow morning/afternoon.
In the meantime, this ninja needs a cigarette, yo.


  1. Well, in a livejournal community I asked Keri to comment on this but she wanted to move the conversation here. I asked for her opinion on a comment Jack Manley left in an NYUlocal post. You can read it here, halfway down the page: http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2009/02/20/students-to-lose-housing-under-nyus-housing-and-student-conduct-policies/

    Jack Manley
    Feb 20, 2009 17:07

    I would like to take this opportunity to list 7 errors the Take Back NYU protestors made that could be rectified in future protests to a much more effective end:

    1. While lord knows I agree with almost all of the demands they made (save the public opening of Bobst due to the security risks it presents), they made too many demands at one time. One of the central tenets of protest is to have a focal oint and to fight for that point tooth-and-nail. With 13 demands that often muddled the issue, people often became confused with what the true goal of the protest was.

    2. The University made a calculating and highly intelligent decision on the first night that completely undermined the entire effort. By publicly announcing that they were allowing Take Back NYU to occupy that space and giving bathroom access, they created a public image that they were helping their students express themselves, therefore creating more sympathy for the very authorities Take Back NYU was protesting. There is no real effective way I can think of at the moment to counteract such a calculated PR move as this other than to try and protest again at a place in which the University is not as likely to accommodate you.

    3. Back to the list of demands. The fact that your first demand was amnesty for all involved was a mistake. It certainly shouldn’t have been first among your demands, and should not have even made it onto the list. One of the most important effects of a protest is, in the aftermath, what happens to the protestors. If they go to jail, that can incite more protest against wrongful imprisonment. If the police or other authorities take brutal actions, that incites a protest against police brutality. A basic tenet of civil disobedience is that everyone involved in a protest is fully aware that their actions can cause them to end up in jail, evicted from homes, even publicly persecuted, yet they stay involved because that is the depth of their belief.

    4. The negotiation process should never have happened. The very fact that they went into a negotiation process further undermines your effort. Allowing a negotiation process allows the administration to think that they have a form of leverage over the protest. If they had denied any sort of negotiation process, the University’s plight becomes all the more dire: They don’t know what’s going to happen because they have no way to read or play the people who have taken over the space. This offers them absolutely no chance to exact leverage over you, and limits their options to 1: police action.

    5. A better coordination with protestors on the street would have helped to keep them from undermining their effort. The topless antics of the two female protestors lost them quite a bit of credibility early on, because people were willing and more than able to write off the occupation as an amateurish stunt without a proper center of power. Never underestimate your popular support. One of the first actions Take Back NYU should have taken was to publicly announce to its supporters not to let themselves get out of hand unless the situation warranted it (as it did last night with the cops macing some students). By giving your supporters a set of guidelines to follow, you increase the power of your own presence.

    6. At 9:30, when they brought in extra supporters, they made a huge error by injuring a security officer. The fact is that this creates a situation where they have been the group that incites the violence rather than become the victimized themselves by it. The fact that they hospitalized someone without an explicit reason is startling, because it breaks from the ideals TBNYU were fighting for (i.e. nonviolent occupation). Despite the fact that it gets more supporters into the occupation, the situation lends itself more towards the parties that have had wrongs done to them.

    7. The underlying psychology seems misguided, as the movement appeared to focus all of its energies and power into one protest. This, while admittedly noble, is inherently wrong. The first major protest in a movement should never function with a sense of finality. TBNYU could take a page fro the protestors of the sixties, as the first protests in many of the movements incited several other protests in response to the reaction to the first one. This creates a definite “Us vs Them” mentality when you lead a series of protest, which is the ultimate goal. Yet, everything TBNYU did suggest that this was it: the culmination of all of their efforts at NYU to create change in the administration and politics of the university. As a result, by putting down this one effort, you give the university ample ability to permanently discredit your power base and prevent future student action.

    In summation, while I do believe strongly that there is always a place for student coordination and protest at any university, the actions taken by TBNYU, their supporters from The New School, and the other parties involved lead me to believe that the protestors have no real or concrete understanding of what it is to take part in civil disobedience. I hope anyone who decides to protest any issue in a similar manner will consider the points I have made above.

  2. Oh, and for anyone who is reading my comments, I'm not a student at NYU. I'm just speaking as a young activist.

  3. hey <3 u


  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.