New School Protesters Claiming Victory, Occupation Ends

In the third day of their protest occupation, the New School in Exile is claiming  victory over the administration of President Kerrey. Among the demands they say have been met are the following:

  • an agreement not to press charges or impose academic punishments for students involved in the protest,
  • the implementation of a Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) committee within the university,
  • more autonomy and power for Student Senate to communicate with the student body,
  • more representation on the Board of Trustees for students and faculty,
  • and finally the creation of more student study space on campus.

According to a list of demands posted earlier on this site, the original demands were:

  • 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 demands marked in red above were not met in the agreement signed by President Kerrey with the students. It is unclear whether the demand marked in grey was met. The agreement by Kerrey to allow the University Student Senate to communicate freely with the student body (hardly a dramatic proposition), and that the USS should have a member on the Board of Trustees, does not seem to appear in the early list of demands.

According to the City Room blog of the New York Times, the aims of the protest began to change:

At the beginning of the protest, students had said they would not leave the cafeteria unless Mr. Kerrey and other administrators resigned. But as the occupation grew in size and stretched into a second day, a new consensus seemed to emerge, with some students saying it was it unlikely that Mr. Kerrey would agree to such stipulations and instead advocating goals that they said had a better chance of success.

According to Mr. Dugan, student mediators announced around 2:30 a.m. that Mr. Kerrey had agreed to the four terms. Those inside the cafeteria held a lengthy discussion before voting to leave, he said, emerging onto side streets whooping in jubilation.

It is not clear that Kerrey is acting in good faith. On the blog of the New School in Exile, a post that went up at 9:25am, several hours after the agreement was reached, stated that the Graduate Faculty building on 65 5th Avenue was shut down and barring access to students, counter to the agreement. This despite the fact, as the blog clearly states, the student occupation has ended.

It is fortunate that the occupation has ended without the students suffering any assault by the authorities or any punitive retaliations, which is always a risk that students face when they take direct action. They showed great courage in doing what they did, they set an example for other students elsewhere, and they took the protest as far as they decided they could go. What the extent of the victory claimed really is, and what real changes this will bring to the New School and whether they address the fundamental problems raised by faculty, is something that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the students have gained invaluable direct experience, knowledge, developed connections, and established a presence and a momentum that can serve them well in either future negotiations or future confrontations.

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