Our NYU: February 10, 2021
A Note from President Hamilton
That figure has been in my head as of late, and all you fans of musical theater will immediately recognize it as the number of minutes in a year immortalized in the musical Rent, which Jennie and I saw performed at Tisch back in 2016. It’s been a little over a year since the coronavirus began taking hold, forcing us to transition NYU Shanghai to all-remote instruction—and, in short order, the global sites and the New York campus. Though we mourn the losses of the pandemic (the people who have died—as well as the gatherings postponed, milestones uncelebrated, and family and friends we miss), it’s also been quite a period of remarkable adaptability and resilience by our community, and I reflect on that with gratitude and admiration.
Now that we are getting underway with the spring term, with the vaccine arriving and a new presidential administration that marks a shift in the approach to combating the pandemic, we are at a hopeful inflection point. Even so, our routines are unchanged, as we continue to wear masks, physically distance, and keep each other safe: the coronavirus, with its variants, remains a threat.
Other shadows that loom over us are particularly in my thoughts, including the disproportionate, enduring impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. Especially so as we recently hosted our own MLK Week, a time to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and uphold our commitment to a more just and equal society, it’s disheartening to face the deep fissures among us, wrought by racism and structural inequalities. There are no clear answers as to what it will take to heal our country. I do want to take an opportunity to focus on our commitments close to home to build a more inclusive community here at NYU.
Under the leadership of Lisa Coleman, senior vice president for global inclusion and strategic innovation and the University’s chief diversity officer in the Office of Global Inclusion, the University-wide NYU BeTogether initiative had its soft launch in the fall with the Global Scholars & Innovators Series. Leveraging the findings of the Being@NYU assessment, BeTogether builds upon NYU’s excellence, creativity, and research to further a more equitable future. In addition, NYU’s Global Inclusion Officers Council is central to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the University. Deans and administrators in Washington Square, Brooklyn, Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi have also been appointed or hired leaders to increase capacity related to DEI.
NYUWomxn100 has been a yearlong University-wide effort to mark 100 years since the US ratified the 19th Amendment (though not all women gained voting access at that time). Many of the events have recognized the often unseen efforts by those of marginalized backgrounds, and we look forward to the awards ceremony event on March 8. That month, we will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of NYU’s LGBTQ+ Center, one of the oldest in the nation.
We have much work to do as a university and community, and the initiatives I mention are stepping stones on that journey. I am proud of our mutual values and the commitment we share toward a more equitable and inclusive society. Let us make sure that the weeks, days—even the minutes—are put to good use.
I wish you a healthy, safe semester.
Technological innovations have made maps a bigger part of our lives than ever before, whether we’re deciphering voting patterns or understanding COVID-19 outbreaks. But according to Global Liberal Studies Professor Kyle Wanberg, they also offer insight into how we view history, identity, and power structures. His new book, Maps of Empire: A Topography of World Literature, focuses on the narratives they uncover and the way they can reveal how some troubling aspects of the colonial past continue to affect our present. (Map: Getty)
Though the pandemic has disrupted many of the programs offered to NYC youth, NYU Dentistry’s Saturday Academy is happily not one of them. This free program for local high school students was established in 2012 by Lorel Burns and Cheryline Pezzullo—Dentistry students at the time who are now faculty—to increase diversity in healthcare professions. Saturday Academy sent each of its students lab materials to their homes, enabling them to meet online and learn about dentistry. (Above, high school senior Rewan Ahmed)
The admissions process for high schools in New York City has come under fire for the system’s racial segregation and the underrepresentation of Black and Latinx students in the city’s best-resourced schools. NYU Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, led by Professor Deborah Archer, filed a complaint against NYC’s Department of Education on behalf of Teens Take Charge (above), an organization led by high school students working to achieve educational equity. It charged that the screening system discriminates against students of color and violates rights under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Diverse voices are needed throughout our society but, speaking as a scientist myself, it’s a critical need as we advance discovery in science and medicine. We were thrilled to see our own Keith Doelling, Andre Fenton, Girardin Jean-Louis, Aisha Langford, Azizi Seixas, and Andre Taylor (above) honored by the Community of Scholars as among the 1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America. The list is published by Cell Press Cell Mentor, a professional site for scientists and researchers.
NYU alumnus, director, writer, and cinematographer Cary Joji Fukunaga’s standout work in film and television (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective) has already made him a source of Violet pride. Now he’s giving back to the NYU community by creating a grant to support historically underrepresented voices and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or people of color) stories in film and TV. The $20,000 grant will be awarded to a student in the Graduate Film program to fund their thesis film and includes a mentorship component for high school students.
Global Public Health Dean Cheryl Healton (above left) has been researching the issue of racial and ethnic diversity in schools of public health since 1999. Last year, Healton and colleagues, including GPH Associate Dean Melody Goodman (above right), provided an update published in Public Health Reports. They found that diversity in public health schools has increased, particularly among students, but more work is needed to increase diversity among faculty reaching senior positions in academia—and retain them once they get there.
In South Africa, only 9 percent of Black South Africans attend graduate school compared to 40 percent of White South Africans. To lessen the disparity, Anthropology Professor Justin Pargeter has teamed up with media specialists, artists, and teachers on free comics and worksheets to explain concepts in archaeology in English and isiXhosa, two of the country’s official languages. Backed by the South African government, the works are part of the Science Spaza youth science training program, which seeks to bring about a more diverse generation of African archaeologists.