Barnard-Columbia International Socialist Organization

December 18, 2008

New School Students Occupying their School!

Filed under: Solidarity — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 1:38 pm

The students at the New School (NYC) are currently occupying their cafeteria to demand greater student democracy, more scholarships and an end to the school’s investment in the military. Some ISO members went down there last night and it was a very dynamic, exciting situtation! The ISO will be joining them again today at various times – contact us if you want to come: columbia.iso@gmail.com

The students’ Open Letter of why they’re occupying, from their website: www.newschoolinexile.com

An Open Letter: Come Occupy a Building with Us…Now

Dear Friends,
We are writing to you from the inside of the New School Graduate Faculty Building on 65 5th Ave. We are occupying it. Right now. Literally.
Students of the New School University, along with our partners from other universities and groups – like NYU, Hunter College, City College of NY, CUNY Graduate Center, and Borough of Manhattan Community College, have organically risen up to demand the resignation of President Bob Kerrey, Executive Vice President James Murtha, and Board Member/torturer Robert B. Millard (he multi-tasks). We have come together to prevent our study spaces from being flattened by corporate bulldozers, to have a say in who runs this school, to demand that the money we spend on this institution be used to facilitate the creation of a better society, not to build bigger buildings or invest in companies that make war. We have come here not only to make demands, but also to live them. Our presence makes it clear that this school is ours, and yours, if you are with us.
The outside doors have been closed now, so we can’t exactly invite you in…sorry… We know you wanted a piece of the action, but we’ll be around for quite some time. Join us at 7 AM tomorrow when the doors open again, or come now to stand outside with a sign in solidarity. You are cordially invited to join us in any way you can. We are not going anywhere. In the meantime, check out our Web site: www.newschoolinexile.com. We have all night to make things interesting, and the website will continue to be updated. Stay tuned for the musical pieces, doctoral dissertations, and creative finger-paintings that seem to be the natural result of 150 students locked into a building together for a night.
We are here, making decisions collectively, doing teach-ins, listening to music, studying, singing. We’ve got an upright bassist, guitarists and vocalists (If anyone can volunteer a drum-set we’ll be well on our way…). We’ll be here until this university changes, or until the party gets boring (but it doesn’t seem likely that will happen). We’re not going anywhere. We hope to see you soon, and if you really can’t wait a few hours – what the hell – occupy your own universities or work spaces.
Come use your voice to declare loudly that this school and this world are yours. Come use your mind to think up a better world. Come use your body to create it, one all-nighter in the university cafeteria at a time. Come stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff of this university. Come to write letters of support to the people of the village of Thanh Phong whose parents were murdered by the current President of the New School during his service in Vietnam. Come join the struggle with the people of Iraq who are being tortured and killed by a company funded by this university and represented on the New School Board of Trustees. Come here to join the uprisings and outpouring of passionate resistance currently taking place all over this country, and all over the worlds – from factory workers in Chicago to students in Greece. Come for yourself. Come for all of us.
In solidarity, The New School in Exile

HERE is their statement from last night explaining more of their demands:

Dear New School Community,

As you may well know, the Radical Student Union (SDS, SEAC, UFPJ) organized a demonstration and sit-in at the Board of Trustees’ meeting last Wednesday, December 10th. Initially this demonstration was planned around our own issues with the Board regarding Robert B. Millard and his role as treasurer, yet after distributing flyers and vocalizing our disputes with Millard the end result was over 60 students who came to not only protest Millard, but Bob Kerrey as well. Upon hearing the faculty vote, we tailored our demonstration in solidarity with the faculty concerns as we saw an appropriate connection.

We strongly support their vote of No Confidence in President Bob Kerrey and Executive Vice-President James Murtha. They have systematically denied our rights as students to have any say in our own education. This is but one area in which their attempts to control and shape all aspects of the University in their own interest has stifled cooperation, democracy, and self-governance at the New School.

Can students honestly say that we want Bob Kerrey to be the president of this university when we are given no choice but to force him to simply hear our concerns, which he continually refuses to do? Should we not have a president who is democratically accountable to everyone in the university, who represents the interests of those whose efforts make this university run on a day-to-day basis? What trust can we have for an administration and board that not only supports him lock-step, but has
the audacity to assert that our concern with their role in the university is simply “misplaced anxiety over the state of the economy”?

Our country is indeed in a severe economic crisis — and meanwhile the costly occupation of Iraq, an unpopular and illegal war, rages on. The people of this country have chosen President Elect Barack Obama because he said he stands for hope and change in these times of need. Do we want a university president who not only believes that democracy can be militarily imposed on another nation, but also believes that he is accountable to no one when imposing his will on the academic curriculum, despite the fact that this university was founded in opposition to war and the strain it always puts on the academy?

If he believes in democracy, then why does he maintain a Presidential autocracy? Why did he organize a conference on “Free Inquiry At Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times” when he has proven himself to be the biggest threat to our university? Does Kerrey not remember that the New School was founded as the University of Exile, and posed as a haven for radical academics and activists who had to literally escape the possibility of death in Europe? We need a university president who can work to build solutions during these times of need, not one who is part of the problem. We need to make this university into a symbol of change for a world desperately in need of substance, and not just a brand created by the Offices of Finance & Business and Communications & External Affairs.

We in the Radical Student Union believe in a democratic university where we have a say in university decisions in proportion to the degree we are affected by their outcomes. As such, we believe deans, faculty, and students should not be denied the right to be involved in the decision-making processes that Kerrey and Murtha consistently keep us out of. We have the right to voice our opinions in regards to the future of this university and how it could be run under such freedoms.

If the faculty chooses to continue its efforts, they have the full and active support of the Radical Student Union. We have come together and have formulated a plan of action to build a more democratic university throughout the spring. Removing Kerrey and Murtha is a central concern. We will also continue to pursue Millard’s removal, transparency and accountability for the general budget and the endowment, and the creation of a committee on Socially Responsible Investment and University Self-Management. All of this is detailed in our booklet: “The Project for a Socially Responsible University.”

What We Want:

• The removal of Bob Kerrey as President of our university

• The removal of James Murtha as Executive Vice President of our university

• Election of the president, EVP, and Provost Students, faculty, and staff.

• Students as voting members of the interim committee to hire a provost.

• The removal of Robert B. Millard as treasurer of the board of trustees.

• Intelligible transparency and disclosure of the university budget and
investments.

• The creation of a committee on socially responsible investments.

• The immediate suspension of capital improvement projects like the
tearing down of 65 fifth Ave.

• Instead, money towards the creation of an autonomous student space.

• Instead, money towards scholarships and reducing tuition.

• Instead, money for the library and student life generally.

The Radical Student Union (SDS, SEAC, UFPJ)

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