Library Committee's Controversial Move for Independence

The Room of Requirement Facebook page was alight with debate this past week in response to a post by freshman Maisie McCormack, the former Chair of the ...

Apr 11, 2015

The Room of Requirement Facebook page was alight with debate this past week in response to a post by freshman Maisie McCormack, the former Chair of the Library Committee that Student Government has recently dissolved.
McCormack posted on the page, a popular university forum for frequently asked questions, to inform students that she had been asked to resign from her position as Chair. She said that members of the dissolved committee had established a newly-independent group called NYUAD Library Committee, and included a link to the new group's public Facebook page in her message.
The students on the new committee, who refer to themselves as an alternative voice for the student body, had initially tried to promote their news on the Student Life Facebook page, which is managed by Student Government, only to find that their post was subsequently removed.
After another unsuccessful attempt, McCormack turned to Room of Requirement, where her post soon became a site for debate and eventually spiraled into what students commonly refer to as a typical NYU Abu Dhabi Facebook fight. Commentators expressed a wide range of opinions, from concerns over the post's tone to expressions of support for the new group.
The decision for members of the former Library Committee to establish an independent committee can be traced back to the 24-hour library campaign, which had been enacted by the former Library Committee and then halted before spring break for investigations, after it was alleged that the campaign had gone against administration and Student Government orders.
The former committee claims that it had started the poster campaign after discussing the idea for a 24-hour library with Library Director Virginia Danielson. Official minutes of the discussion reveal that library employees had been concerned about a perceived lack of funding for such an initiative. With the goal of demonstrating support for the idea and therefore possibly increasing funding, the committee had decided to start a campaign that would invite students to voice their reasons behind wanting a 24-hour library.
Several days after the posters were put up, the committee received warnings from a Student Government member not to proceed with the campaign. McCormack said that the committee decided to go ahead because they had discussed the campaign with Danielson and had received funding from Student Government for the campaign prior to its launch.
The committee hung posters on the glass walls outside the library, and the campaign was mentioned on the official NYUAD Library Facebook page. After half a week, however, the posters were taken down by Student Government Vice President Alex Nyikos, a senior who had been working closely with the Library Committee since internal conflicts began. Nyikos had acted with the support of the Executive Board of Student Government.
The Library Committee said that they did not accept the reasoning behind Student Government’s decision to remove the posters, 200 of which had been received from participating students.
“Primarily, [Student Government] disagreed with the poster campaign due to the misalignment of student opinion and Student Government opinion. It became clear … that there was a difference between the two,” wrote McCormack to The Gazelle on behalf of the former Library Committee.
“We were advocating both on behalf of students and the library to improve services on a macro perspective,” added McCormack.
Earlier this week, members of Student Government had been unable to respond to allegations from the former Library Committee, despite repeated student requests on Facebook to do so.
Student Government's silence on the matter may not have been solely the result of a Student Government decision; a source close to Student Government said that university administration had told members not to comment because of an unresolved student life issue between individual community members involved in the incident.
In a later statement to The Gazelle, the Executive Board of Student Government provided a perspective counter to McCormack’s, denying that the posters had been taken down because of their content. Members added that the Executive Board in fact supports the possibility of extended library hours.
According to Student Government members, the posters were taken down because the library had not agreed to the campaign.
“The library did not support the poster campaign,” wrote the Executive Board. “The Chair of the former Library Committee misrepresented the library’s position on the campaign to Student Government. The campaign was perceived as a challenge to the library, our working partners.”
Yet McCormack refutes Student Government's perspective.
“We did not launch a campaign against the library, as has been suggested. Indeed we discussed it openly with them, even being offered a spot inside the library to do it,” she wrote.
When directly approached, library employees chose not to comment on their stance towards the 24-hour library campaign.
In the aftermath of the incident, Student Government cast a vote of no-confidence on McCormack and dissolved the Library Committee. According to Student Government, McCormack had expressed that she was no longer able to work with the administration advisor from the library.
Student Government’s Executive Board wrote in its statement that it had not wanted to dissolve the committee, but that given the circumstances, members had seen it as the appropriate response to the conflict.
After the vote of no-confidence, members of the former Library Committee decided not to resign, and kept working until the committee was officially dissolved. Members have since formed the now independent NYUAD Library Committee, unaffiliated with Student Government.
“The lack of transparency we experienced, and refusal to engage in a dialogue made this the best solution for the student body, in the sense that there was still a committee to engage with on issues surrounding the library,” McCormack wrote. “Being independent offers advantages too, in the sense that we can reduce the bureaucracy surrounding facility improvement and engage more directly with the student body, the library and administration.”
Student Government has returned the campaign posters to the members of the former Library Committee. Photos of the posters have now been uploaded on the Facebook page of the independent NYUAD Library Committee.
Members of the independent NYUAD Library Committee claimed that their freedom of speech had been compromised when the group's April 6 post had been deleted from Student Life.
In response to these allegations, members of the Executive Board said that the post had been taken down because it had been in direct violation of the page’s guidelines.
“The post advertised a Facebook page that inappropriately used the title NYUAD Library Committee and the university logo to appear to be a legitimate university group. This violates published university standards that all NYUAD community members are responsible for upholding,” the Executive Board wrote, in reference to the NYUAD Brand Guidelines.
Initial lack of clarification on why the post had been removed resulted in much speculation among students as to Student Government’s reasoning. Some believed that the post was removed because of a perceived aggressive tone towards Student Government, allegations which freshman and committee member Dylan Kava responded to on the Room of Requirement thread.
“I think the fact that this got aggressive began with the administrator of Student Life restricting Maisie from posting on it,” wrote Kava in his comment. “And [p]ersonally, if I was being restricted from posting on Student Life regarding getting students’ general stances on the library, then I would have been a bit hot-headed as well.”
“Even if we are not an official committee,” he added. “We are a bunch of students interested in matters of the library and should still be allowed to post on Student Life. And it was just a post asking people to join the group.”
Other student commentators brought up various issues: the possibility that Student Government abused its power, whether a Library Committee was necessary in the first place and why the 24-hour campaign was taken down. Some said the campaign had been in violation to the university’s poster policy, but McCormack rejected these claims, stating that during the time of the poster campaign, bulletin boards had not yet been made available and therefore the poster policy had not been in effect.
Other commentators pointed out inconsistencies in narratives among members of the former Library Committee, some of whom claimed that the campaign had administration backing, while others said it didn’t.
Sophomore Vladislav Maksimov commented on the Facebook thread saying that, while he was lacking context due to being abroad, he felt the need to add to the conversation because of the different issues it raised.
“[R]egardless of how you feel about the poster policy and the controversial 24-hour campaign, I think this mess brings us back to the issues of freedom of speech and explicit, implicit, passive, active, real or imagined forms of repression the students experience,” said Maksimov. “I think what this group of freshmen students are doing deserves applause.”
“They might not be going through the [so-called] appropriate channels,” added Maksimov. “However ... in my personal opinion and experience, these channels are called into force to delegitimize genuine student action, something I feel our university is beginning to lack. As complicated as this issue is, I do not doubt for a second that they want to take action. Genuine action. In fact, interpreting it any other way is insulting.”
Maksimov expressed frustration over a perceived lack of transparency from Student Government, saying students abroad were not being informed about community issues like this one.
While Student Government did not support the campaign itself, the Executive Board said that it will continue to advocate for extended hours in response to student voices.
Freshman Class Representative Max Eckert and senior Treasurer Yuqi Sun were recently appointed to serve as the new Student Government liaisons to the library. They welcome comments from all students, including former Library Committee members. Meanwhile, the independent NYUAD Library Committee said it will continue to be active online and will gather feedback from students in order to make policy recommendations for the library.
There have been issues of miscommunication between the former committee’s members in the past. Former Chair of the Library Committee, freshman Tom Klein, had resigned over January Term because of these conflicts.
“This is the library; this isn’t a controversial topic,” said Klein. “So I [decided], I’m not dealing with this and I left the Library Committee.”
Correction: 12 April 2015
A previous version of this article claimed that members of the Library Committee decided to resign after the vote of no-confidence. 
Melinda Szekeres is news editor. Email her at
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