Bronfman Center Welcomes Voting Rights Activist Rabbi Saul Berman ’63

Written by Gabriel N. Slamovits

This weekend, The Bronfman Center: Hillel at NYU will be hosting an extraordinary NYU Law alum (1963), Saul J. Berman. He is an activist, widely published scholar, and Orthodox Rabbinic leader, and is currently a professor at Columbia Law School and Yeshiva University’s Stern College. He was active in voter registration drives in Selma in 1965, where he was twice arrested.

On Friday evening, Prof. Berman will be speaking during NYU’s Orthodox Jewish Shabbat services on the topic of “Prison in Selma 1965: Implications for Today.” The talk itself will be approximately 25 minutes and the total service time will last a little over an hour.

Services will begin at 4:55 PM and the talk will be at approximately 5:30 on the 5th floor of NYU’s Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life (GCASL), 238 Thompson St, 5th floor – between Washington Square S and W 3rd St.

Law School Community Mobilizes in Defiance of Donald Trump

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

There is one topic of conversation dominating the halls of New York University School of Law – the hectic first days of President Donald Trump’s term in office. Following through on his campaign promise to impose a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslim immigration into the United States, Mr. Trump ordered a “travel ban” on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). While much of the law was stayed by multiple federal court rulings, thousands of protesters, including many NYU Law students and alumni, are crying foul.

Posted on Salon.com, 50 members of the Class of 2007 sent an open letter to their classmate, Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, raising “serious concerns regarding Mr. Trump’s stated policies and policy proposals.” Citing Mr. Kushner’s status as the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, the alumni encouraged their classmate to “use his deep sense of compassion to influence the Trump Administration in a positive way.” According to the posting, an earlier version of the letter sent last December received no response.

The Muslim Law Students Association released a statement condemning a policy that they felt unfairly, and unconstitutionally, targeted individuals based on their faith and country of origin. “This order is very clearly a ‘Muslim Ban.’ During his campaign, President Trump repeatedly promised that he would ban Muslims from entering the United States. The President’s intent to establish a Muslim ban was corroborated by top Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani in a recent interview with Fox News, where he remarked that President Trump asked how to make such a ban legally possible,” said Nealofar Panjshiri.

In a letter to the Law School community, Dean Trevor Morrison raised objection to Mr. Trump’s travel ban, pledging to support the students, faculty members, and their families who hail from the affected countries. “We are committed to doing all we can to keep them safe,” said Dean Morrison. When reached for comment, Law School Public Affairs Director Michael Orey confirmed that no NYU Law students, faculty, or administrators have been refused entry to the United States as a result of Mr. Trump’s executive order.

Although no members of the Law School community have been directly impacted by the travel ban, appeals for students to volunteer their legal services or to participate in protests have proliferated across the campus in recent days.

Freshly returned from a regional meeting in Boston with over 20 chapters of the National Black Law Students Association, where responses to the Trump Administration were discussed, Kayla Vinson of the Black Allied Law Students Association released a statement calling on students to join protests and make their voices heard. “Implementation of this Executive Order will only lead to further harassment and racial profiling of marginalized communities. BALSA strongly opposes the Administration’s attempt to spread fear, racism, and Islamophobia.”

Frances Hartmann of Resisting Injustice and Standing for Equality (RISE), a student advocacy group founded by alumni from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last December, encouraged students in need to make use of resources available at the Law School. “Students and staff seeking immigration legal advice should contact NYU’s Immigrant Defense Initiative (IDI) at 212-998-6640 or immigrant.defense@law.nyu.edu for a free consultation. The IDI is being coordinated by NYU Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic in partnership with WilmerHale.”

Professor Alina Das, director of the NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, is providing legal services to those who have been detained at airports and other points of entry, according to Dean Morrison’s statement. Professor Das will also join colleagues Adam Cox and Nancy Morawetz for a forum discussing the impact of the travel ban on Wednesday.

Claudia Carvajal and Nicolas Duque-Franco, co-chairs of the Latino Law Students Association (LaLSA) were concerned that the “travel ban” did not appear to undergo enough scrutiny from within the Trump Administration before it was signed.

“We are appalled that the President would issue a categorical ban on travel, or any such policy based on race or national origin, that violates the Constitution. Reports that (1) [Customs and Border Patrol] officials have, in certain places, ignored Judge Donnelly’s stay, and (2) that the travel ban was issued without [Homeland Security] or [Justice Department] review, are alarming to say the least. This raises serious concerns about the legitimacy of future policies issued by the White House.”

 

Law School Statement on President Trump’s Immigration Executive Order

The below statement was sent from the Office of the Dean to members of the Law School community earlier today. It is reprinted in full below.

Dear NYU Law Community:

As you are all no doubt aware, on Friday, President Trump signed an executive order that temporarily bars all refugees into the United States and indefinitely bars all Syrian refugees, and that temporarily bars nearly anyone from seven specified countries (all of which are majority Muslim), regardless of visa type.  On Saturday night, amidst swelling protests at airports around the country, a number of federal courts issued orders temporarily suspending certain aspects of the executive order, pending further litigation.

The leaders of institutions of higher education across the country—including NYU’s President Hamilton—have raised alarms about the executive order and its potential impact on our students and our schools.  I share that concern for the NYU Law community, which includes students and scholars from the listed countries or who have family there, and Muslim students who feel that the order is hostile to their religion or who fear that their countries of origin may be targeted next.  We are in touch with members of our community who may be immediately impacted to offer our support.  These students and scholars are all full members of the NYU Law community, and we stand behind them.  We are committed to doing all we can to keep them safe.

We at NYU Law know that our strength lies in our diversity, in our promotion of the free flow of ideas, and in our provision of a welcoming intellectual home for all of our members, without regard to religion or viewpoint.  Openness is the heart of our enterprise.  While this may be true at any institution of higher learning, it is especially so at our Law School, whose commitment to global engagement is deep and longstanding.  Having grown up outside this country before coming to the U.S. for graduate school, the potential repercussions of this executive order resonate especially powerfully with me.  Speaking for myself, I simply cannot square it with our core values.

I am proud that members of our community, led by Professor Alina Das, are providing legal assistance to people detained at airports and others whose immigration status is now in doubt.  Our students and alumni likewise are organizing to offer legal assistance to those impacted.  Together, these members of the NYU Law community are helping to ensure that any new immigration policy is consistent with our constitutional values and is implemented lawfully.  We will also provide opportunities to discuss these issues on campus.  This Wednesday’s Forum will focus on the executive order and will feature analysis and commentary by Professors Adam Cox, Alina Das, and Nancy Morawetz.

This is a time of uncertainty and fear for many.  For the time being, we recommend that members of the NYU Law community from the seven countries named in the order who are in the United States on a visa, or who are lawful permanent residents here, do not travel outside the country.  If you have any concern about how the executive order could impact you, please contact our Immigrant Rights Clinic’s Immigrant Defense Initiative or NYU’s Office of Global Services.  Our Office of Student Affairs and Office of Graduate Affairs can also offer guidance and support.  And, as ever, please feel encouraged to call the Wellness Center for counseling if you need it.

Sincerely,

Trevor W. Morrison
Dean

 

Benefits of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Written by Natasha Goss

The high cost of attending law school is on many students’ minds. While some seek out jobs at large law firms to pay down six-figure debt, others enter public interest work and find themselves navigating complex payment assistance programs. Law Students for Economic Justice (LSEJ) recently produced a primer on NYU Law’s loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) that is meant to demystify the process.

When members of LSEJ realized they were uncertain about exactly what the program covered, they realized that the general student community could use guidance. LSEJ members developed the guide—an effort spearheaded by Hugh Baran (J.D. ’17), Heather Stoloff (J.D. ’18), and Audrey Winn (J.D. ’18)—in order to clarify the options available to NYU Law students exploring public interest work. While the Student Financial Services department does an excellent job providing one-on-one assistance, says Mr. Baran, an editor-in-chief of the NYU Review of Law & Social Change and coauthor of the primer, students who don’t seek in-person guidance are often left in the dark.

The guide explains the coverage offered by the NYU LRAP alone as well as by an integrated LRAP available to those whose employment makes them eligible for both federal and school-based loan repayment aid. “Back in the day, there was only one LRAP,” Ms. Stoloff notes, “and NYU makes more employment options available than under the federal LRAP program.” Although the coauthors would like to see these two programs offering more similar benefits, they agree that NYU Law “does leaps and bounds more on the program than other law schools.” The standard NYU LRAP expands assistance to those working for organizations not covered by federal assistance programs, including overseas NGOs, foreign governments, labor unions, and public-interest law firms.

Some students are concerned that savings or an increase in salary over time will make them ineligible for the program. Recipients may have other savings and assets up to $20,000 in excess of total debt, including non-loan debt such as mortgages and car loans. Retirement savings are exempt from this calculation.

LSEJ hopes that the guide will help inform students about LRAP and empower them to take fuller advantage of the loan assistance programs the school provides. In addition, they believe that students will be better able to advocate for changes in the program to serve their career goals. The LSEJ authors see room for improvement in one measure, however: they believe that the expected student contribution should be reduced or eliminated. Beginning with the class of 2018, that contribution increased from $1,700 to $5,000 for each year spent at the law school. Although the contribution is intended to make NYU Law graduates feel invested in their education, Mr. Baran feels that “students shouldn’t have to prove their commitment to public interest by taking out less than the loans they are eligible for.” Ms. Stoloff chose NYU because she “wanted to go to a school where being public interest was a viable option even without a scholarship” and knows many others who feel the same way.

One young lawyer taking advantage of NYU’s LRAP is Jehan Laner (J.D. ’15) who works for Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto. Although she received a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholarship, she still took out loans for housing while in law school. Ms. Laner noted that NYU’s LRAP covers her entire monthly payment entirely because she makes less than the salary cap, currently $80,000 under the integrated LRAP. She was also able to obtain repayment assistance for her bar exam loan. (Both the integrated and NYU-only LRAP cover bar loans of up to $10,000; because the program assumes on a ten-year repayment period, the process is simplified if applicants receive ten-year loans.)

Ms. Laner says she is “delighted that [LRAP] exists and that NYU covers monthly payments.” At the beginning of her participation in the program, she was required to transfer her loans to Fed Loan Servicing, and recalls that “the process was a little long, but the office is very helpful.” When delays led to her making one month’s payment out-of-pocket, she was reimbursed retroactively.

Generally, NYU disburses assistance to LRAP recipients semiannually; students pay their loan provider directly. Recipients must reapply to the program each year to confirm their eligibility.

LSEJ is working with the Office of Financial Services to integrate public interest education, including more frequent sessions on student loan strategies, into the annual schedule of student events. The coauthors emphasize that the guide is meant to provide students with a basic orientation to the types of assistance available, and encourages students to contact Student Financial Services for assistance in their particular situations.

Fall Ball Bigger Than Ever

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Last Thursday, October 27, Fall Ball, the annual New York University School of Law student costume party, went off without a hitch, with more students attending than ever before. Held off-campus for the first time, over 1,300 law students and their guests made the trek to Terminal 5, a multi-level concert hall in Midtown Manhattan, filling two levels of the trendy venue to capacity, according to event organizer Marissa Prieto ‘18 of the Student Bar Association (SBA).

Sponsored by the SBA and the Office of Student Affairs, Fall Ball is generally the most widely-attended social gathering at NYU Law. Because of its popularity with students, planners were initially hesitant to move the event away from Law School facilities. However, with mounting concerns about liability and requested attendance outpacing available space, then-SBA Social Chairs, now SBA President and Vice President, Evan Shepherd ‘17 and Samantha Coxe ‘17 began exploring external options, eventually identifying Terminal 5 as a prospective location last spring.

Asked for his thoughts after the event, Shepherd said, “[Samantha and I] believe the event was a success! We first want to thank [SBA Social Chairs] Neesha and Marissa for all of their hard work planning and executing Fall Ball. There are kinks that will be ironed out, but that comes with hosting an event for the first time.”

untitled

Following their election as social chairs in March, Neesha Chhina ‘18 and Marissa Prieto ’18 worked with Dean of Students Jason Belk and Assistant Director of Student Affairs Sarah Bowman to finalize the details, signing a contract with Terminal 5 earlier this fall. In an email to the Student Bar Association obtained by The Commentator, Belk praised the efforts of the SBA, calling Fall Ball “amazing” and saying how “incredibly proud” he was of the way the event was executed.

Said Belk, who attended Fall Ball along with Director of Student Affairs Israel Rodriguez, “From what I gathered, students enjoyed themselves and appreciated the enormous amount of time and thought [the SBA] put in to the event.”

To expand on this year’s success with students at the helm, the SBA has plans to create a social committee to work with the social chairs to improve upon the event and incorporate more student input.

“I think the venue was the biggest highlight for sure. The atmosphere was way more of a party than when it was in [Vanderbilt Hall]. I also think one of the highlights was the fact that people were able to bring more guests, and the event didn’t feel supervised by NYU administrators/staff. We’re also really proud of the fact that our event was safe and had no major mishaps. Thankfully everyone was able to have a good time and do so safely,” said Chhina.

 

Editor’s note: Naeem Crawford-Muhammad is the current Law School student senator and a member of the Student Bar Association.

Sakhi’s “Our Bodies, Our Stories”: A Night of Intersectional Feminist Performance

Written by Katrina Feldkamp, Co-Chair, South Asian Law Students Association

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, NYC-based organization Sakhi for South Asian Women hosted “Our Bodies, Our Stories,” a night of feminist poetry and performance bringing awareness to violence against women. Sakhi, Hindi for “woman friend,” united performers to illuminate both individual female experiences and the wider feminine narrative with a focus on the voices of women of color and women silenced by domestic violence. Outreach and Communications Advocate Senti Sojwal opened the night, stating that “domestic violence does not occur in a vacuum.” Accordingly, artists ranging from musician and activist Kiran Gandhi to spoken word artist Nicole Shante White explored the topics of race, violence, class, sexuality, and identity through poetry, comedy, music, and storytelling.

The night was hosted by Kiran Gandhi, best known for running the London Marathon while menstruating to raise awareness of the stigma surrounding menstruation. Standing before an intimate crowd of Sakhi supporters at The Bell House, she reflected that “[talking about] domestic violence in the South Asian community has been taboo since the dawn of time.” Ms. Gandhi believes that the South Asian community’s silence on issues of gendered violence is magnified when other cultures embrace the cultural-relativist idea that “we can’t tell people what to do.” She thinks that a better approach to the issue is “how do we respect another culture while still making sure that members of that culture are safe?”

Theatre maker Riti Sachdeva performed a recently-developed piece that combined spoken word, singing, and dance to touch on themes of youth and growth in India and the U.S., curiosity and exploration, and first experiences with violence. The piece was designed to juxtapose the beauty of the feminine experience with the darkness and heaviness of trauma. Sachdeva noted that this juxtaposition is unusually risky, especially given its intersectionality with the South Asian experience. She describes theater as a “traditionally white, very bourgeois scene” in which moderate views often pass for very progressive. However, she hoped that this piece and those of the other artists who performed throughout the evening could expand those boundaries.

Sachdeva is a community organizer as well as an artist. In the early 1990s, she formed a network of South Asian women in Boston organized around immigration and domestic violence, and has continued through her current work with South Asian Youth Action. This work, she says, has contributed to a lack of “rose-colored glasses about the issues” of gender, ethnicity, and violence in her art.

Speaking after the show, Sachdeva explained that her experiences with organizing have shaped the way she approaches art. “I come from a place of not having easy answers and I think that’s important for creating.” She was struck by the event’s ability to “move in a progressive direction when nonprofits are getting more conservative.” Such spaces, she said, allow women of color to unite as both creators and audience: “We are a part of this broader community and we also benefit from the work we do.”

Diana Oh, a punk rock artist and the vocalist in{my lingerie band}, put on a show that addressed everything from “celebrating your slutty phase” to tearing down catcalling and other forms of “degradation that come along with women expressing their sexuality.” Oh bares all, wearing nothing but lingerie throughout a show that, she says, “puts on stage the experience of a woman’s relationship with lingerie and confrontation of her sexuality, and of the language people use to discuss women’s sexuality.” She began combining lingerie and feminist activism with {my lingerie play}, a 24-hour public street installation designed as a “public in-your-face way to combat the system [of oppression and control of the female body].”

Speaking backstage before the show, Oh discussed the importance of authenticity, accessibility, and allyship. “You can’t fake the flow,” she says. “If [my art] is not reflecting a mirror back into the world the way that I want it to be reflected, I don’t want to do it.” Her artistic goal is “to take up space to make space for other people,” opening social movements to wider audiences. She also emphasized the importance of allies such as her bandmate Ryan, who doesn’t identify with the queer Korean-American experience that she brings to the table. He feels that “It’s not just enough to not be part of the problem, you also have to be making a difference.” Ryan, who donned glitter and whimsical makeup with Oh for the performance, “is constantly reminding me to keep going and keep making my art,” Oh says.

The night concluded with a performance from Kiran Gandhi, who performs as Madame Gandhi, and her collaborator sound designer Alexia Riner. The two combined electronic music, drumming, dancing, and a lights show with lyrics that describe the feminine experience. Their work celebrates female leadership and includes feminist ideas, at one point even incorporating an excerpt from The Feminist Utopia Project into their performance. Between songs from her existing body of work and her upcoming Voices EP, Madame Gandhi described her mantra: “the future is female.” “A world that is female is a world that is emotionally intelligent,” she said, “a world in which are all linked, and not ranked.”

What’s in a Name: How Mercer Became Hayden

Written by James Yang and Natasha Goss

When law students moved into the dormitories at 240 Mercer Street this August, their new home had a new name: Hayden Hall. The residence, which was once simply “Mercer”, received a rebranding along with a remodel this summer.

Many returning residents were caught by surprise. One 3L who lived in the residence hall last year recalled: “I didn’t figure it out until they put the residence hall sticker on my ID.” A Hayden Hall front-desk employee also learned of the new name when he saw the signs. He felt it was “just a name change,” and said that the building’s function and culture hadn’t changed.

Indeed, even the name has not changed in some students’ minds. According to second-year student Jordan Chafetz, “all the 2Ls I know still refer to it as Mercer, partly out of stubbornness and partly out of habit.”

New residents also knew the building as Mercer. Throughout the housing application process this spring, NYU referred to the dorm by its former name. In fact, it was not until mid-June that students received housing assignments in Hayden rather than Mercer. At the time, law school administration did not explain the reasons behind the change.

This change arose from the decision to rename a neighboring undergraduate dorm from Hayden to Lipton. The Hayden name was then transferred to Mercer. Lipton Hall was originally named Hayden in recognition of a gift from the Hayden Foundation. Thus NYU’s transfer of the Hayden name was made to show continued recognition and appreciation.

Martin Lipton, a 1955 graduate of NYU Law, is the new Lipton Hall’s namesake. He has long served as a trustee of both the University and the Law School, and is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a prominent New York law firm. As a law student, Lipton lived at the newly named Lipton Hall, which was then a law school dormitory. Nowadays, Lipton Hall is primarily reserved for first year undergraduate students and is known for its delicious cookies. Lipton Hall’s new name reflects its heritage as a law school building.