After NYU Students Demand Partial Tuition Refund; Dean Chooses a Peculiar Way to Say No

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College campus with a clocktower. (peterspiro/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

While the price tag for one year at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts doesn’t top the list of expensive U.S. colleges, $81,856 is not a small sum of money. A group of students, dissatisfied with their virtual classes, have demanded that a portion of their Spring 2020 tuition be refunded. They have posted an online petition, which so far has gathered over 2,200 signatures.

The school’s dean, Allyson Green, sent out an email informing the students that the answer was no. She explained that “she doesn’t have the authority to refund tuition and that it’s “challenging” for the school to give students their money back right now.” Strangely, she attached a video of herself dancing to REM’s “Losing My Religion” to the email.

One of the students, senior Michael Price, shared Green’s video on Twitter.

Price spoke to NBC News, “This was not an accident, this was her sort of way of trying to reach out to the student body.” He said that at first, he thought the video was “ridiculous and tonedeaf.” Price added.”I am personally upset that we are being denied access to this equipment and facilities and still being charged the same amount for what is admittedly by the university a lower quality education.”

In her email, Green argued that “remote learning was unexpected for everyone and that it was actually costing the university “millions more.” She also said the school is still paying for facilities and maintaining them even though students can’t use them.”

After being contacted by NBC, Green issued a statement:

The focus of my career as a performer, choerographer, and dance educator, and my most authentic mode of expression, has always been dance. In the video, I shared the song with which I have welcomed first-year students to the Tisch School of the Arts for the past eight years. It is a piece that — as I explained in the accompanying email — speaks to frustration and disappointment, and that helped see me through the loss of 30 friends to AIDS — another difficult period for artists.

What I meant to demonstrate is my certainty that even with the unprecedented hardships of social distancing and remotely-held classes, it is still possible for the Tisch community to make art together, and that all the artists in our school will find ways to remain closely connected even as circumstances challenge us. I regret it if my email left the reasons for my dancing misunderstood — although I will note that I have also received many positive acknowledgments — but its intent was surely neither frivolous or disrespectful.

One student, Eli Yurman, wrote an open letter to Dean Green in the NYU newspaper asking her to please stop. I’m going to include the last portion of it because, although he tells her the video is supremely, supremely stupid, Yurman is strangely fascinated by it.

In the most recent email, in addition to doubling down on the message “we are not refunding your tuition,” Dean Allyson Green included a Vimeo link to a two minute and 16 second video in which the self-described choreographer and visual artist awkwardly dances and lip-syncs to R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.”

We here at NYU Local would just like to say: what the f**k is this.

I mean,

Allyson.

What the f**k.

We get it. You’re stressed. It’s a stressful time. People are mad, a lot of them at you. But what the f**k are you doing???

We get that the financials of a private university are complicated. We get that you can’t just wave a wand and give people their tuition. It might even be the case that those students are in the wrong.

Let’s talk about it! But even if they are, how could you possibly think this would do anything but piss everyone off? Like, did you think about this for even a second?

The video is not cute. It’s uncomfortable to watch, it goes on for too long, you end it by staring at the camera for a good eight seconds, none of it is working in the way you think it’s working. Maybe you’re a dancer, and the way you work through stress is by dancing, but the number of steps between that and filming and uploading this video to the internet is SIMPLY TOO MANY. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!

The TL;DR of it all is this: this pandemic is stupid, NYU administration is stupid, Tisch administration is stupid, and this video is supremely, supremely stupid. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch it 12 more times. 

Was Dean Green’s message effective?

(Note: For those of us who are “a certain age,” and do not know these little acronyms, I looked it up. TL;DR means “too long; didn’t read.” In slang it can also stand for “Too lazy; didn’t read”. It is also used as a signifier for a summary of an online post or news article. Usually the author of a long post gives a tl;dr, a summary of the what the post about in a short paragraph or sentence. This can be put before the post begins, or the after.)