Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Continue To Hold The New School (3:35)

It's 3:35pm, and we've been here for over 20 hours.

The entire GF building is closed.

We took the cafeteria around 7pm last night, and we have held it.

In the morning, the administration told the security guards to lock down the entire building. That fortunately did not last.

Students who would have to get in the building - to study, take finals, meet with professors, go to the cashier or registrar - they would suffer.

Don't blame us. We took over the cafeteria with the very clear goal of reclaiming student space. Space to study, to hold events, to share with our fellow students. Space to be students.

Space that will soon be gone.

The New School's president, Bob Kerrey, wants to tear down the GF. They want to start next week. The building has been near-empty all semester. Meanwhile, there is virtually no common study space - certainly not enough for over 9000 students. We have no library. Only 10% of the book collection is actually on the stacks at Fogelman library - everything we need is in storage, and the new library will not be built this year. The money has run out. Students priorities have been put last.

Who did this? Bob Kerrey and his administration.

What does Kerrey want to replace the GF with? A building that he and his administration have designed and planned and replanned and made sure that no students, no faculty, no staff - none of the people who will use the building or be affected by what it does or doesn't include - have had any input or review or oversight of whatsoever. The building and the grounds of 65 5th ave were bequeathed by Vera List to the New School for Social Research, and it has carried it's name - the Graduate Faculty - ever since. True, the "new building" at 6 E. 16th st. has the name "Albert and Vera List Academic Center", and it does have some NSSR departments - but this is not the building Vera List donated to the graduate faculty and students. How many times has the name of the New School been changed? Was this a ploy to remove the requirement that 65 5th ave be the grounds for NSSR as per Vera List's donation, and was it even legal? How many times and in how many ways has Leah Gartner (head of Grounds and Buildings) prevented students from having any input on the process of their own building? How many of us are happy with the job she did with squeezing 6 graduate departments into 4 floors of 6 E. 16th, shared with Parsons classes and Global Finance trading labs (now mostly empty), while there are 3 floors with spacious administrative offices above? When undergrads at Lang don't have anything in their own building beyond a cafe to use for common space? When the GF has only a cafeteria and a reading room that will soon be demolished - with monies taken out away from student and academic programming?

If you think student space issues are anomalies of an otherwise harmonious Kerrey administration, think again. For nearly 8 years, we've had 5 provost changes. The lead academic officer of the university is replaced each time Kerrey's yes-man has not been up to snuff. Kerrey's last appointment - himself - was not at all out of character. It is emblematic of a concerted drive to centralize all key decision-making in the university under his command. "Reorganization" of the university has come to mean centralization of power for Kerrey, not making a workable master-plan for the 8 schools that comprise "the New School University". Meanwhile departments can't hire new faculty, offer the courses graduates need, or do any kind of long-term strategic planning. Sociology has 2 faculty on over 80 dissertation committees. The teaching and research fellowships for graduate students are the lowest in the nation. The investments of the New School are managed by Robert Millard, on the board of L3 Communications, and managing director of its parent company Lehman Brothers - at least until it wasn't bailed out. We don't even know how Millard's mismanagement of the university's endowment has affected the long term security of the endowment. The operating budget of the university - over 80% of which is made up of tuition and student fees - is tightly controlled by the shadowy JIm Murtha - who announced upon taking the post of Chief Financial Officer that he would never meet with students, and he hasn't. We have an administrative bureaucracy as large as that of the University of Chicago - over 4 times our size - and most of these people have been chosen by Kerrey and are paid in six figures. Yet Kerrey announced an immediate spending freeze for department and student group programs - cheap corporate skimming while wine and shrimp are hors d'oeurves enough for 500 people are splurged on for the 75 attendees of Kerrey's "Free Inquiry at Risk" conference. Over $10 million has been spent marketing the new brand of this brave "New School".

The New School needs real change, and we're developing proactive plans for broad institutional changes that not only make decision-making democratic and accountable to the students, faculty, and staff that actually run and use the university for its intended purpose - a different sort of academy. One that lives up to the ideals that Beard and Dewey and Johnson and other founders intended for truly free inquiry not mired by rampant militarism and profiteering. One that does not shame and brand "the university in exile" into a business model squeezes out students and basic academic priorities.

Right now, we are developing actionable plans and programs for creating pathways to real change. We are going to continue to make it happen.

There's a change gonna come. We are here. Now. Making it happen.



  1. the "free inquiry at risk" conference was not "kerrey's." it was organized by our journal, social research, which is a very important part of our institution. the journal has a worldwide circulation and does a great deal to maintain our reputation as an important research institution.

    kerrey moderated one of the panel discussions, but it was certainly not "his" conference.

    we should be critical of many aspects of our own institution, but i think we're misdirecting our efforts if we start attacking something like social research. as students at the new school at this time in its history, we have many legitimate grievances, but we need to focus on them without becoming confused about what it is we are attacking. if you (the students doing the blogging) agree, i would suggest that you edit the above post accordingly.

  2. Space is an issue, there is no question about that. However, new space cannot be built without old space being torn down. It's unfortunate that common space is so lacking, yes, but keeping new space from being built is not the answer.

    Yes, it will be a crunch for the 5 years of construction, but it is incredibly selfish to keep small space now at the cost of large space in the future.

    It sucks, yes, but how else can space be gained?

    On another note: when organizers were quoted as saying that you are trying to start a dialogue, how exactly is refusing to speak with administration when they show up doing that?

  3. alexander's points are very good ones.

    plus, i asked the same question in an earlier post and it went unanswered: why refuse to speak with kerrey when he arrived? it wouldn't seem to imply any weakness or backing down on the part of the students. why no dialogue?

  4. I think it's great they refused to speak with Kerrey. Since they do not recognize him as part of the administration, it was a perfectly logical move. They delegitimized him.


  5. I am curious about the desire to keep the GF open. I did my undergrad at Lang ('01), and MA ('03) and PhD ('08) at the NSSR. While in school I was full-time unionized staff while also RAing, TAing, and teacher "fellowing." All of that is just to say to that I know 65 Fifth very, very well. And it sucks. There are fist holes in the artwork, the classroom lighting gives people headaches, and the fishbowl "reading room" is tiny and uncomortable. Kerrey sucks too, and I hope that you really keep your efforts focused on ousting him. I protested his hiring, I protested his war crimes, I protested his position on Iraq, and I protest his continued appointment. I

  6. I am curious, in what respect do you actually think your occupation shows any substantial solidarity with the insurrectionaries taking themselves far more seriously in Greece?

    "This space will soon be gone", there is none of that advance resignation over the atlantic.