Friday, April 17, 2009

The New School - Occupied!

Last Friday, 19 students broke into one of The New School's buildings and occupied the space for several hours. Outside, news vans, police helicopters, and an army of NYPD police gathered. Earlier that morning, New School President, Bob Kerrey called the NYPD and requested the students be removed from the building and that "we still remember 9/11 around here." By the end of the ordeal, 22 people were arrested and a rather incriminating tape made it online showing obvious NYPD brutality against students.

This is the second time students occupied 65 5th Avenue. The first time was back in December when students were demanding the same thing they're demanding now - the resignation of President Bob Kerrey and Vice President James Murtha. President Kerrey came to The New School nine years ago and has from day-one stood in direct odds with this institution's founding principles of progressive and leftist politics. His comments equating the student protesters to 9/11 terrorists is only one such example of his out-of-touch leadership. A bloody history of murdering civilians in Vietnam is another. However, the primary reason students want change at The New School (andCUNY and NYU) isn't just to change the narcissistic decision makers in power, but to change the corporatization of academia itself.

It should be noted that the building students occupied has been at the center of Univerisity contention for the past year. It was initially shutdown so as to begin construction of a new "signature building"; unfortunately, construction of this new building has been delayed (likely, because of the current global economic downturn) but not before the Administration had decided to move faculty offices, student study spaces, the library, and classrooms to scattered (less comfortable) locations around the original building's vicinity. Thus, 65 Fifth Avenue has become a symbol of the Kerrey Administration's preference to put ambitous capitalists' goals before more pragmatic academic needs. There are even rumors floating around campus that the new "signature building" will have the same amount of space as the original and that much of the ground floors will be used for retail stores and condos.

As someone who is both an alumnus of The New School and now works here as an administrator, I feel at odds with this situation. I understand the complicated decisions that must go into running an institution the size of The New School (and obviously, those decisions aren't always going to make everyone happy); however, another part of me is extremely frustrated by the heavy administrative overhead and wasteful excess I see around me everyday. I believe more resources should be directed to the students than to the administration. After all, higher education is far too expensive; thus, students are correct in demanding to know where their money is going.

Universities should be more transparent with their budgets. Academia is a unique place where students are taught to become active, educated, and democratic citizens. Thus, a higher education should not be designated for the elite alone. There are certainly larger issues these students are bringing-up, I think now is a good time to hear such issues out and discuss them as we begin charting-out our academic futures.

Keep on....

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