Reclaiming the University: The New School Occupation Continues

Posted on December 18, 2008 by

[Further update: stay in touch with events at the New School with the Radical Student Union’s blog]

[Further update 2: stay in touch with events at the New School with the New School in Exile blog]

[more addenda follow below]


In response to the last post on the New School occupation now underway, Chelsea writes from the New School:

The students of the New School would like everyone to know that the occupation is still going on. We are working hard to create and foster a space that is conducive to studying (this is finals week for all of us) and reinstates the academic and intellectual dynamism and integrity that we feel has been leeched out of our institution by President Kerrey, Vice President Murtha, and our Board of Trustees. We would like to continue to extend the invitation to JOIN US in protesting the corruption of our institution and in actively creating change and fostering a socially conscious academic community. In Solidarity, The New School is in exile again….

Photos from the occupation, courtesy infoshop:




The following message was received this morning from Rachel Singer, a student in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research:

I am occupying The New School firstly, out of respect for history and tradition.

When my grandfather was expelled from the City University of New York for leading protests against fascist movements in Europe, the New School for Social Research had just begun offering adult education courses. Thanks to these, my grandfather and grandmother were able to educate themselves with the likes of Hannah Arendt in a place where their political convictions were valued and even supported. In later years, my grandmother was employed by the New School as a secretary, and my grandfather went on to put his knowledge to use as a writer for The Daily Worker. The New School for Social Research helped my grandparents and many others in their generation connect to the European roots their ancestors had left behind when they migrated across the Atlantic. In addition, the New School provided an undiscriminating place to study and critique some of the serious social problems that confronted post World War II American society.

Secondly, I am occupying The New School out of concern for the present.

I came to the NSSR because I knew I would receive an intensive, worthwhile academic training by dedicated and passionate faculty. In this respect, I have not been let down. I have, however, been dismayed and shocked by the lack of institutional support for academics. Students here are crushed by the weight of loans, full-time jobs, and pathetic stipends which are actually difficult to get. It appears that these problems are part of a broader crisis in higher education that is the result of a world consumed by profit-making enterprises–such as manufacturing commodities, extracting oil, and occupying impoverished “terrorist” countries with billion-dollar death squads–rather than the goal of building a cooperative, educated, and skilled worldwide citizenship.

Finally, I am here because I am truly worried about the future and what it holds for future students and our children.

Unless we act here and now on these systemic, worldwide problems, the future generations will bear the burden of our mistakes. In order to truly achieve any sort of moral progress in our society, and to build the sort of global community that works cooperatively toward the betterment of all people, we must act today. Our schools and institutes of higher education are desperately in need of serious restructuring; many, like the New School, are on the brink of collapse due to mismanagement of finances and heavy bureaucratization. This problem will only get worse if we do not dedicate ourselves to fixing it.


Rachel Signer

NSSR, Anthropology

Addendum #1:

From New York Indymedia,

New School demands from the Radical Student Union

The New School Radical Student Union issued several demands prior to the start of the occupation yesterday (Dec. 17)

On Wednesday, December 10th, the Radical Student Union issued several demands at a demonstration and sit-in at the Board of Trustees meeting for the New School University. With a student occupation underway in the New School cafeteria, the same demands are being brought to the fore with greater force:

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
  • Students, faculty, and staff elect the president, EVP, and Provost.
  • Students are part 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 as defined in our booklet.
  • 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)

By kilroy

Addendum #2:

From for Dec. 18, 2008:

Statement from the students occupying New School University in NYC

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 Jim 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 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 website: 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 condolences to the people of the village 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

Addendum #3, Dec. 18, 2008, 5:23pm, courtesy IndyMedia NYC:

New School occupation press conference, 10:30am, Thursday 12/18!

Press release from CUNY students at The New School in Exile announces a press conference at 10:30 am

We write this statement from an occupied New School University. (WHAT WHAT)

At 8pm, December 18th, over 75 students reclaimed the cafeteria at the New School University as an autonomous student center. Students from several Universities commandeered this space. Students of City College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center are here participating in this struggle. This is every student’s occupation.

If this can happen at the New School, through the organized activity of 75 dedicated students, it can happen at CUNY. And we certainly have reason to be upset: On the first day of the Fall 2008 semester, the CUNY budget was slashed $50.6 million. Massive layoffs plague all our schools. We are now being told of a looming $600-per-year tuition hike and more colossal budget cuts to CUNY students and teachers, in a school that was once FREE.

We will continue this campus occupation until our demands are met. While the demands tonight are specific to The New School we will not be satisfied until the students and faculty of CUNY, NYU, all the consortium schools and beyond, have control over their universities. Education should be free, student debts should be cancelled, students and workers should work together to achieve our goals, and we start here.

Please, come out to the New School and support us! Join us! We are at 65 5th avenue (between 13th and 14th St.). The building will be open to all consortium students at 7:30am, we invite you to come any time tomorrow, but particularly at 10:30 when there will be a rally and press conference. The morning hours will be crucial, and the student-occupiers need to know that we are not struggling alone!

Our next stop? CUNY.

CUNY students at The New School in Exile


Frank at 718.314.2328, fmanning[at]

Conor Tomás Reed at 979.204.9253, cocoreed[at]

Support is also coming from Mexico and around the world.

See also: Antioch College Action Network: Statement of Support for Occupation of the New School


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