Protest at the New School Turns UnrulyBy Colin Moynihan
Updated, 5:05 p.m. | Security guards and police officers collided with students at the New School on Thursday morning in a shouting and shoving confrontation, after an overnight sit-in at a university cafeteria organized to protest the leadership of Bob Kerrey, the university’s president, among other issues. The sit-in has continued into the afternoon.
What began as a placid protest with the tacit permission of university officials became chaotic shortly after 10 a.m. as the students tried to expand their occupation to other areas of the building at 65 Fifth Avenue, just south of 14th Street, which includes administrative offices. City police officers removed some students from the building, and students rolled metal Dumpsters into the hall to block the police, who eventually moved back outside. The police said one person was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Mr. Kerrey, the former governor and United States senator from Nebraska who was given an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the university’s faculty this week, showed up at 11:30 a.m. asking to address the dissident students, but they voted not to hear him out.
The demonstration began Wednesday evening in the ground-floor cafeteria, with about 50 students staying overnight citing a list of grievances with the Kerrey administration, dating back to his early support of the Iraq war. They adopted a list of eight demands including a greater student voice in university affairs and the resignations of Mr. Kerrey; James Murtha, the executive vice president; and Robert Millard, treasurer of the board of trustees, who students said was connected to a private security firm working in Iraq.
“Once the faculty vote came out, we thought now is the time,” said Jacob Blumfeld, a graduate student in philosophy.
On Wednesday night, the students pushed wooden tables against the cafeteria’s front door and blocked a rear corridor to the street with heavy recycling bins. Marcus Michelson, also a graduate student in philosophy, said the sit-in was meant to show that the students were serious about having a seat at the negotiating able. “This is about starting a dialogue, and to do that you have to be seen as an equal,” he said. “People just don’t give equality, you have to take it.”
As the demonstration began, a university official told the students, “You’re going about this the wrong way.” Later, after the building’s official closing time of 11 p.m., a university security official, Tom Iliceto, warned them they were “here without authority” but said they could stay.
“Anyone who leaves will not be permitted to re-enter,” Mr. Iliceto said. “However, no one’s safety has been threatened and no property has been damaged. So long as this remains the case, we will permit you to remain in the building this evening.”
The students spent the night painting banners with slogans like “Books Not Bureaucracy” and “New School in Exile,” a reference to the university’s origins as a haven for European intellectuals fleeing fascism.
Some students debated tactics; others gazed at computer screens or studied. Mr. Michelson read “On the Genealogy of Morality” by Nietzsche. Somebody else paged through “Early History of Rome” by Livy. A boombox blared music. Students alternated between catnaps on the wooden cafeteria floor and munching snacks delivered by supporters.
On Thursday morning, about 50 students who stayed overnight were joined by dozens of new arrivals. However, guards denied entrance to students from a consortium of colleges, including New York University and Cooper Union, who are normally allowed inside.
Shortly after 10 a.m., the students voted to expand the area they occupied. They entered a rear corridor at the back of the cafeteria and opened a door to East 13th Street. About 20 students who been stuck outside rushed into the cafeteria, and security guards ran into the hall in an effort to halt them.
Over the next 30 minutes, that cramped and crowded corridor was the scene of repeated shoving matches and loud shouting interspersed with pleas for peace by both sides. At one point, guards charged through the hall, thrusting students against a balustrade and banging a camera belonging to a newspaper photographer into a wall.
Students surged past the guards and attempted to block their path with pieces of plywood and trash containers.
Mr. Kerrey appeared in the building lobby around 11:30, standing in a knot of university officials. Students declined to meet with him and reiterated their demand that he resign. Cries arose from the corridor to East 13th Street, where police officers grappled with students, grabbing some and pulling them from the building.
After the skirmish, Damon Tavano Peters, a doctoral student in politics, approached Mr. Iliceto and asked for assurances that the city police would not be allowed back on university property. Mr. Iliceto countered by proposing that the students move the wooden tables from the cafeteria entrance.
“You keep asking for an agreement,” he said. “I’m not making a contract. I’m asking you very nicely to move the tables.”
By 2 o’clock, the tables had been moved a few feet, but students stood near the door. The crowd in the cafeteria swelled to more than 100, and the students held a meeting to discuss their next moves.