Wednesday, December 07, 2005

International Students Respond the Sexton, Address Vulnerability

Thanks to genpaul for this tip:
The following is a letter from international graduate students at NYU to President Sexton.

The letter with the most current list of signatories will be sent to NYU President Sexton on Wednesday, December 7th at 12pm.

To add your name and department affiliation to this letter please email


December 7, 2005

John Sexton
New York University

This is in reply to your letter of November 28, 2005, stipulating the deadline of December 5, 2005 for striking Graduate Assistants to return to work or face the consequences of loss of stipend and ineligibility to teach for the following two consecutive semesters.

The undersigned are international graduate students: some have withheld labor since November 9, some have continued to work, some others do not have teaching or research obligations this semester. Among the undersigned, those who have continued working have been influenced in their decision by direct or indirect intimidation. Out of those who are striking, some will return to work and others will not. Those returning to work will do so in fear of the legal and financial consequences that the implementation of your threats may carry and not at all out of agreement with your arguments. Those who continue to strike will do so in spite of those possible consequences, and in full awareness of the particular risks entailed. But we are all equally outraged and will not be silenced.

We, as international students, feel especially vulnerable to your antagonizing, intimidating and outrageous threats. Many of us have had to deal with increasingly restrictive U.S. immigration policies, enhanced surveillance and record-keeping and with hostility when being questioned by immigration officers. Some of us have suffered the threat of deportation. Thus, we are concerned with maintaining our legal status in this country.

NYU has stated that our legal status is not in danger, yet the administration is fully cognizant of the fact that our student visas are contingent on our continued status as full-time students and our ability to cover our living expenses, which in turn depends on our stipends and salaries. Our status prevents us to a great extent from working outside campus, as well as from applying for external grants and loans. If loans in US dollars were granted to us by NYU, as the administration has proposed, it would be extremely difficult to repay them when we return to our home countries.

We were invited to this institution to study and work and we came eagerly, expecting to find an environment of respect and mutual consideration conducive to academic advancement. But the administration's recent threats to our well-being have significantly harmed our confidence in NYU. Such a loss of confidence can be reversed by the administration. Under the current conditions we cannot encourage prospective students from our respective countries from coming to NYU. By refraining from doing so, we are following the lead of faculty from NYU and other prestigious institutions. A good part of NYU's strength comes from its international students. Hence, the administration's present position weakens the institution as a whole.

We all share a commitment to academic integrity and the rights of workers, as well as a deep belief in the possibility to resolve conflicts through amicable negotiations. We therefore support the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) and will continue in various ways to argue and fight for a reasonable contract for our labor.

NYU was the first and only private university in the United States to recognize a union of Graduate Assistants. That was unprecedented, and laudable. NYU now threatens Graduate Assistants with actions detrimental to their finances and careers. This is also unprecedented, and deplorable. We therefore strongly condemn these threats as signaling a sharp decline in NYU's intellectual and ethical position in the academic and labor community.

We believe that the administration can easily rectify its unethical position and palliate the antagonism it has created by withdrawing the threats and dropping the ultimatum. It is NYU's ethical responsibility to recognize the rights of workers and to engage in the constructive dialogue that has made this university an outstanding academic institution.


Waiel Abdelwahed, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Mariana Amato, Spanish and Portuguese
Magali Armillas-Tiseyra, Comparative Literature
Anurima Banerji, Performance Studies
Clarissa Behar, French
Diego Benegas, Performance Studies
Claudio Benzecry, Sociology
Leslie-Ann Bolden, Sociology
Paola Bonifazio, Italian
Alexandra Borer, Institute of French Studies
Michiel Bot, Comparative Literature
Nathalie Bouzaglo, Spanish and Portuguese
Lina Britto, History
Elda L. CantĂș-Castillo, Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Ipek A. Celik, Comparative Literature
Elizabeth Chavez, Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Wei-chi Chen, History
Teresa Colombo, Biology
Valeria Coronel, History
Hector Martin Crocce, Physics
M. Zeynep Dadak, Cinema Studies
Santiago Deymonnaz, Spanish and Portuguese
Munir Fakher Eldin, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Rong Fan, Physics
Miao Feng, History
Carolin Hagelskamp, Community Psychology
Ellen Xiang He, Comparative Literature
Matthias Heymann, Courant Institute
Katharina Ivanyi, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Pablo Jercog, Physics
Jelena Karanovic, Anthropology
Yilmaz Kocer, Economics
David Koffman, Hebrew and Judaic Studies, History
Monika Krause, Sociology
Azra Krek, Physics
Frederic Laliberte, Courant Institute
Sanghyuk Lee, Physics
Pia Leighton, Spanish and Portuguese
Christophe Litwin, French
Mariano Lopez-Seoane, Spanish and Portuguese
Sudhir Mahadevan, Cinema Studies
Aldo Marchesi, History
Morad Masjedi, Physics
Silvana Melitsko, Economics
Lina Meruane, Spanish and Portuguese
Al Saeed Momin, Courant Institute
Alessandra Montalbano, Italian
Gulseren Mutlu, Economics
Osamu Nakano, History
Jeppe B. Nielsen, French
Rachel O'Connell, English
Alan Page, English
Yaakov Perry, Comparative Literature
Marco Polin, Physics
Stéphanie Ponsavady, French
Sebastian Pueblas, Physics
Stephen Russell, Hebrew and Judaic Studies
Marco Scalvini, Italian
Jenny Shaw, History
Mariano Siskind, Comparative Literature
Federico Sor, History
Yi Sun, Comparative Literature
Gail Super, Law and Society
Smita Tripathi, Spanish and Portuguese
Aristotelis Tsirigos, Courant Institute
Basak Tug, History, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Z. Umut Turem, Law and Society
Javier Uriarte, Spanish and Portuguese
Alejandra Uslenghi, Comparative Literature
Yeliz Utku, Chemistry
Agnes Veto. Hebrew and Judaic Studies
Emily Wilbourne, Music

Fellow GSOC members support their international brothers and sisters, and deplore NYU's decision regarding the specific consequences it set for striking GAs. The administration intended such consequences to be born unevenly among our ranks, and is thus taking advantage of the international students' vulnerable status in order to break our solidarity. President Sexton, we won't be broken!


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