After releasing a joint statement on Dec. 8, 2021, the undergraduate and graduate student governments at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development are moving ahead in their efforts advocating for the removal of billionaire Michael Steinhardt’s name from the school. The Steinhardt Undergraduate Student Government and the Steinhardt
Graduate Student Organization have been successfully assembling student voices. Over 250 students and alumni responded to the Google Form linked in the statement. Since then, the governments have been in conversation with administrators who share their concerns.
This development comes two-and-a-half months after Steinhardt, an art collector and philanthropist who made two $10 million donations to NYU in 2001, was ordered by the Manhattan district attorney to surrender 180 stolen antiquities worth $70 million, receiving a lifetime ban on collecting artifacts. Many students, such as former Steinhardt USG President Anthony Cruz believe that Steinhardt’s name “tarnishes the school’s reputation.”
According to Cruz, who stepped down on Jan. 27, the governments received word from the Dean of Steinhardt Jack Knott that NYU’s Board of Trustees plans to create a Committee to review Steinhardt’s conduct and determine next steps. The Board released a statement publicizing their concerns, and USG and GSO hope to collaborate with them through direct consultation or representation on the Committee.
This is not the first time students campaigned for the removal of Steinhardt’s name. In 2019, several allegations of sexual misconduct came out against Steinhardt. In response to student initiatives pushing for a name change, NYU refused to take action. Despite that, Cruz is optimistic that this time, the university will respond with tangible change.
“Beyond the goal of changing the school’s name, I am also hopeful that NYU takes this experience as an opportunity to look at palpable, actionable items involving and beyond renaming to make our university more inclusive and just,” says Cruz.
Cruz’s sentiments are echoed by the GSO, who claim that removing Steinhardt’s name is essential to align with the school’s mission.
“Like the NYU Law School and NYU College of Dentistry, we are asking for the Steinhardt name to be removed from our buildings, degrees and school so we may become NYU, School of Culture, Education and Human Development (CEHD),” a statement retrieved from Steinhardt’s graduate student-led Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
The movement has complete support from NYU’s Student Government Assembly, who endorsed the joint statement condemning Steinhardt’s actions.
“Several members of SGA have met with the Board of Trustees and have brought this issue up and treat it with utmost importance, as Michael Steinhardt’s actions go against all the values of what this school represents,” said Ayham Adawi, vice-chair of the Global Student Council, on behalf of the SGA.
Given these developments over the past few months, the student governments hope to see a substantial impact in the near future.