New York University students, or at least a few dozen of them, have just set several records for student occupations of a campus building: fewest occupiers, shortest occupation (3 days) , least support among the student body and longest list of demands. Surely the strange litany of demands had much to so with the adventure’s quick collapse. The protesters wanted public disclosure of NYU’s endowment and operating budget, a student on the university board of trustees collective bargaining for TAs and student workers, tuition kept at or below the rate of inflation, access to the library for the general public, and priority for student groups in building owned or leased by NYU. After his list, the demands got showier: 13 scholarships for Gaza students, extra NYU supplies sent to rebuild Gaza University, amnesty for all occupiers and—perhaps to guard against the possibility that the occupation would be taken seriously– a serious reconsideration of the lifting of the campus ban against Coca-Cola. Nothing about a longed-for reduction of salt in cafeteria French fries, however.
Noam Chomsky, clearly dodging the Coca-Cola issue, put out a statement supporting the protesters’ call for “universities to end their participation in the brutal oppression of Palestinians.” The New York Daily News published an editorial making fun of the occupiers as weeneies and wusses, and mocked their slogan, “Take Back the University.” Who took the university, the News asked. “Was it the Klingons?” Two NYU alumni set up a web site, “Fake Back NYU” explaining that the protesters may seem laughable, “largely because they speak a language of knee-jerk-faux-liberal-college-speak.” The Washington Square News said it had interviewed thirty NYU students and not one of them fully supported the list of demands. Maybe the occupiers, 18 of them now under suspension, just got their timing wrong. Takeovers and non-negotiable demands seem to work better in the spring and fall, when the weather is better.