Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From Where We Stand: A Statement from The New School in Exile

"This is the hour for the experiment; and New York is the place, because it is the greatest social science laboratory in the world and of its own force attracts scholars and leaders in educational work."
--New School founding text (1918)

The New School is now at a critical point. Our ability to do the very thing we came here to do—receive a quality education—is at risk. The obstacles we face as students are diverse and different based on our academic programs and departments, but we are united by the impacts of decisions made by the university. To resolve these diverse problems we must address the root causes, namely the guiding priorities and academic policies of this institution. Unfortunately, the administration has shown time and again that they are more interested in maintaining power than in open dialogue or serious structural change. The senior administration is no longer accountable to the students or faculty they are ostensibly here to serve. Because of this, we call for the immediate resignation of Bob Kerrey and James Murtha no later than April 1, 2009.

The struggle for an emancipatory education, and against the influences of subjugation and homogenizing tendencies in society writ large, is not new. Students all around the world are struggling with these same issues. We also recognize that this is part of a much larger struggle, one that has at its root the very understanding of what it is to be free. And as students we have an obligation, because of our privilege, to push the envelope and construct a new vision of how the world could be. Formerly our school was driven by calls for open deliberation, anti- authoritarianism and critical and direct engagement with social problems. Now—under the present leadership—decision-making is secretive and closed. Power is consolidated, abused and wielded as a weapon against academic inquiry and critical skepticism. Our “brand” is now more important than our ethics, and students have been reduced to economic units--like cogs in a
corporate machine.

We want an education that enriches our lives while challenging us to grow as both an academic community and as individuals. We want a university we can be proud of, where new theories and ways of being in the world are the very foundation of what we do. A school with a mission of engaged scholarship focused on solving real problems. We desire radical praxis--thought and action--not simply navel-gazing or status-quo reproduction. In short, we want our institution
to reclaim the critical and engaged tradition on which it was founded.

As faculty and students simultaneously rose up in opposition to the administration, the thinly constructed veneer of Kerrey's "success" as President was shattered. The more light we cast on the dark recesses of this administration, the more we see its ugly sides, its exposed myths, its abuses of power and outright lies. We have a Board of Trustees that is not accountable to the university community. Our student government bodies have negotiated with the administration
in good faith, only to find that decisions are made and promises broken from one semester to the next. Even a majority vote of no confidence by the faculty has no meaning or weight given to it by the administration. Long before the current recession, we have faced financial hardships. As students we are now worse off than ever when it comes to resources. Class offerings at the graduate and undergraduate level are shrinking and departments are stressed from bloated tuition and teacher shortages. Computers and printers are consistently broken or occupied.
There are major deficiencies in teaching and research opportunities for graduate students. Our library resources, if one can even speak of them, are an academic disgrace and virtually useless for serious research. Those of us attempting to receive an education and help support families have no opportunity on campus to earn enough to live even at the poverty line while our spouses and partners receive no health insurance from the school. Salaries for research assistants and student teachers have not been raised in over ten years. Our study space is essentially non- existent. Campus buildings are run in such a way that students often go elsewhere to actually study, yet our Graduate Faculty building--the building we fought for and occupied to keep as a student space, the building that was supposed to be closed and torn down--now sits open and off limits. Floor after floor of quiet study space where students could be working, meeting and studying is denied to us for no reason other than the administrative whims of Kerrey and Murtha. And we reject the continued harassment of students by university security-
-apparently taking their cues from James Murtha—acting as though they have carte blanche to intimidate, coerce and assault students.

The underlying forces that brought forth the occupation at the New School are still manifest, and our views on the crisis at our university are unchanged. We still call for the resignation of President Bob Kerrey and Executive Vice-President James Murtha. Both represent the way this administration has become out of touch with our academic, philosophic and political roots. The administration has been implicated in abuses of power great and small. President Bob Kerrey
oversaw the execution of civilians in the Vietnamese village of Thanh Phong, and continues to be a staunch supporter of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Executive Vice President James Murtha acts like a petty dictator who prefers to threaten--and punish--those in the university who speak out against him or challenge his attempts to further consolidate power. The Board Treasurer Robert Millard presides over L-3 Communications, a corporation that is being sued for torture and human rights violations in Iraq and is one of the largest war profiteers in the nation. These are not men of honor or vision, and they are not appropriate leaders for the New School! To address these varied problems we will continue to apply pressure on the university administration until the April 1 deadline. We will continue to organize the New School community against the present administration while exposing their incompetence and their attempts to stifle criticism. But ultimately a line must be drawn in the sand, a point where we say, this far, and no further. That line is April 1. If, on that day, the current leadership remains in place, we will shut down the functions of the university. We will bring it to a halt. We will make it stop. Through our civil disobedience, we will reclaim the university as a center of academic and political action. In short, we will continue to struggle until we have restored the legacy and integrity of the New School!

--The New School In Exile

1 comment:

  1. Right. Shut it down! Yawn. How 60s. How radical. How ineffectual. This will do wonders for your already tenuous relationship to the student body as a whole, for whom you appear to lack legitimacy. Go ahead and destroy your movement. Then the lunatics will win. But at least there will still be art.