How would he know, when Agyemang’s original complaints failed to make it up NYU’s chain of command or effect change? It is curious to ponder how shunting of the needs of a black immigrant to the back burner of NYU administrative concerns fits in with Beckman’s rosy presentation of the school. This was an action that reminds one of a time in the south when blacks had to sit at the back of the bus — a dismissive gesture that perpetuates racism by turning a blind eye to demeaning behaviors.
NYU, a lauded institution and one of the top-ten employers in the city, might have diversity and tolerance as ideals — and want to continue being seen that way. But in daily operations we all know that high ideals are often the first “luxury” to get cut in the name of efficiency and expediency. Institutions of higher learning are run more like hard-nosed businesses today than ever, which are known more for exploiting the weak than serving righteous causes.
By speaking up, Agyemang has forced NYU to truly examine the ideals it claims to hold. The settlement NYU reached with him and the EEOC will force the school to do a better job at upholding them. Much more meaningful than an NYU spokesman’s empty words.
Just like the recent case of the African man who is suing after being jailed for trying to cash his own check at a Chase, these efforts to fight the power are necessary. These cases prove time and again that institutions, however much they believe they can operate idealistically, cannot be trusted to police their own ideals regarding racial equality. Unfortunately, for now law suits are a critical tool in our nation’s arsenal against continuing race-based inequality.
And people wonder why we need affirmative action in education. NYU’s settlement with Osei Agyemang demonstrates why even a liberal college cannot break free of racist influences without policy-driven assistance.