NYU Needs to Rename Bobst
November 20, 2017
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Every day, thousands of NYU students and faculty head to the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library to write papers, study for exams and browse the book selection. Bobst first opened its doors on Sept. 12, 1973. It was named after the longtime NYU trustee who donated a hefty $11 million toward the completion of the library. Yet for all his monetary contribution to support NYU and its academic vision, Bobst, a known anti-Semite, failed in modeling the type of tolerance and social acceptance that define the NYU experience. With bigotry so rampant throughout the United States and around the world, it is time for NYU to rename Bobst in exchange for something more reflective of the university’s stance on inclusion and diversity.
Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, Bobst was a friend of former president Richard Nixon, and the two kept up correspondence through letters. In his letters, Bobst often revealed his anti-Semitic sentiments and in one letter wrote, “Jews in our country are tolerated, but on the whole are not liked … Israelis are a nasty, lousy group, acting like uncivilized people.” In addition to such remarks, Bobst has also been accused of incest. Following the opening of the library, Bobst’s granddaughter came forth and filed a lawsuit against him, accusing him of incest beginning when she was four years old. The case was ultimately dropped when Bobst settled with his granddaughter out of court for $700,000, so there was no further investigation into the accusation.
In my experience here at NYU, there is little tolerance for closed-mindedness and hatred toward a group of individuals. Both the student body and the school administration share a commitment to accepting people of all religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds. It seems unethical to me that the library, a central NYU building, would tout the name of an individual with such heinous anti-Semitic beliefs and who has committed such atrocious actions such as those Bobst allegedly committed against his granddaughter.
Bigotry seems to be enjoying a new heyday in the United States, with groups like the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists growing in popularity — emboldened by Trump’s election. Now, in the face of such horrors across the nation, NYU must be deliberate and thorough in its message of tolerance. It is time to rename Bobst Library to better fit the vision and values of this university.
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A version of this appeared in the Monday, Nov. 20 print edition. Email [email protected]