Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Kimmelman Center

It's not every day NYU grad students get sneered at in the paper of record, but Michael Kimmelman has a go at it, complaining about, of all things, "iPod-engrossed graduate students" taking up precious space in Greenwich Village. Poor Michael Kimmelman! I never realized that listening to music or a podcast while shuffling between the library, department, and classroom buildings  (and don't forget the taco place!) while in the process of getting a PhD was so aesthetically off-putting to those with delicate sensibilities. I ought to be more careful. What would be much better than a doctoral candidate is a park, in which Michael Kimmelman and his folksy Village roots can celebrate their true ownership of the 'hood. I mean, why stop there? Why not a right of return for anyone whose ancestors hung around with Edith Wharton back in the day?

Kimmelman, who evidently went to graduate school in euphemistic Boston, and in the pre-iPod age, is simply better than us peons. When he was a grad student, his mere presence inspired epic poetry.

But this type of argument isn't new, just the anti-grad-student insult. The Village person's anti-NYU argument (to be distinguished from the various grad-student-quasi-union and other internal clashes with the administration) seems to be essentially that Village residents - a few lucky beneficiaries of rent control, plus those in finance who are the few who can afford the area at market rates - are these quaint, quirky individuals, whose charming, "Friends"-esque existence suffers when kids whose crimes are being young and more creative-seeming than Ivy-serious, at least to outside observers, do such things as walk down the street in their presence.

And it's all a bit nuts. If the popular image of NYU is a wealthy, spoiled undergrad, the reality is plenty of undergrads on scholarship or from wealthy families but not the least bit entitled, along with a whole bunch of grad students, staff, and professors, who are simply... working, middle-class-give-or-take adults, doing our small part to keep something of a middle class in New York. Whatever you think of NYU-the-institution, it seems a mistake to pick on those affiliated with it. NYU is too many things to really sum it up. Almost everyone I know in New York, friends from childhood up through college, ended up with some or another connection to the university. It's a million things to seemingly a million different people. The only reason to dislike the NYU 'community'-such-as-it-is is that we're not buying $30 million townhouses, or, for the most part, of the class that spends its time protesting travesties involving pretty neighborhoods getting muddied up by the presence of non-financiers.

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