FAQ: New School reoccupation

A set of frequently asked questions (and answers) on the New School reoccupation of 2009.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 10, 2012

Q: Wait, what’s going on?
A: 65 5th Avenue has been occupied. This time, the entire building has been taken and the doors locked shut. As of the last count, there are at least 60 students inside with many more planning to join.

Q: Whose idea was this? New School in Exile? RSU?
A: Neither. It was a collective decision by a group of students who may or may not be involved in either, but the planning was done outside the context of any group.

Q: Isn’t this dangerous!?
A: This is civil disobedience, the occupation is intended to be safe and non-violent. No one wishes any physical harm to any university employees or security. Inside there is a trained medic, and everyone’s health and safety is being provided for. Anyone who wishes to leave will be able to leave. The NYPD is, of course, a wild card. Its up to everyone outside the occupation to make sure the administration does not resort to violence as they did in December.

Q: What do you want? What are your demands?
A: This is an occupation without a list of demands, besides the obvious. Kerrey and Murtha need to go. After that a new system needs to be set that accounts for student authority over how our money is spent and how our school is operated. As of now we have been systematically eliminated from that process. Sick of not having a library? Sick of high tuition? No space to do your work? Are there a hundred things you’re pissed about? Look at what we won at the last occupation. This time we’re going all in.

Q: Are you trying to shut down our classes and studying space?
A: The action at 65 5th Avenue is not interrupting any classes, as the administration has rendered the building mostly vacant in preparation for demolition. Come join us to study inside.We have opened up two more floors, and there is ample space. If you are not able to come inside it is because the administration and police are stopping you. At the December occupation it was a priority to let students and consortium use the building until security unilaterally decided to block access in an attempt to turn students against each other. Don’t be suprised if he uses the same tactic he used at the last occupation: shutting down the entire school to turn students against each other. Don’t let Bob fool you: We’re not fighting each other, we’re fighting him!

Q: So, you’re not shutting down the entire school? Why not? Whimped out?
A: This occupation specifically is not intended to shut down the school, but is meant to be a catalyst for escalating action to reclaim our school. See: What can I do to support?

Q: I understood the last occupation was a response to the no-confidence vote against Kerry, why is this happening again?
A: The most important demand from that occupation was not met. Bob Kerry and Jim Murtha did not resign – in fact, they were able to save some face by agreeing to some of the demands. Unfortunately, Kerrey is trying to dodge these commitments. One example: the creation of the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) committee, which will make the New School’s investments public with the ability to override what the school supports financially (Iraq contractors, the military, etc) is being intentionally dragged through bureaucratic red tape. Kerrey is resorting to a tactic that he has used for years: letting students graduate before they can get anything done. We need a structural change at the New School so the we can have authority over the space we use to learn, study, socialize, and live. In a sense, the occupation achieves this immediately. In January, the New School in Exile promised mass action on April 1st unless Bob Kerrey resigns. We have the power to do this, but only with mass student support. Ultimately, it is only up to you (and Bob Kerrey) if the school remains functional on April 1st. This is a moment for all students to seize the space we all pay for and occupy, with a mass student support for the occupation there is no way this administration can continue.

Q: Haven’t the faculty, deans, and board regained confidence in Bob Kerrey?
A: The faculty and board are and have clearly been separate. First of all, the board has been stacked by Bob Kerrey in the years he has been in power. They don’t give a fuck if Bob Kerrey is good or bad for the New School, they’re his fatcat elite friends. As Jim Miller said: They’re starfuckers. As for the faculty, there’s yet to be another meeting of the faculty senate to voice their opinions of Kerrey since he appointed Tim Marshall as interim provost, although it’s clear from the last meeting that there’s a widespread sentiment that nothing will change into this administration is gone. The letter the deans sent out urging an end to action against Kerrey does not speak for the faculty, it was merely a sign of good faith so Tim Marshall can go through what every Provost under Kerrey has gone through, a futile struggle that will end with Marshall’s shift in just over a year. We don’t need a new Provost, we need a new system. Our struggle doesn’t end until we get it. As one faculty member said at the February Faculty meeting: “The students are way ahead of us. We need to catch up.”

Q: Why don’t you seek change through the proper channels?
A: The normal channels are structurally set up to drag us through red tape. The pressure we’ve put on Kerrey has been enough for him to make many concessions but the power-structure remains firmly in place. If you think the Student Senate has any authority just ask any Student Senator: they have none.

Q: Do you think you speak for everyone? I feel alienated!
A: We don’t speak for everyone. The idea that a group of students can only take action if they fully represent every other student is absurd and unrealistic- if this was the case, no one would ever take action at all. We speak for ourselves, and we believe our interests to be in line with a large amount of students and faculty, but in no way do we claim that our voices stand for anyone else’s. However, we do believe in solidarity. We are all students and workers and even if our politics may differ we’re all in this together. The least we ask of you is your solidarity, here’s how: If you feel this action alienates you then take your own action. Start a discussion in your classes, write a letter to Bob Kerrey or a publication of your choice. Or take space yourself! If direct action didn’t get the goods, we wouldn’t be doing it.

Q: So what? I still don’t care.
A: If tuition hikes, lack of resources, diminishing student space, and a dozen other pressing university issues are inconsequential to you, that’s fine – irrational, but fine. But just as our action doesn’t speak for you, your apathy doesn’t speak for us.

Q: I don’t feel alienated! What can I do to support the occupation?
A: Come to 65 5th Avenue. Right now, if you can! We have no idea how this action is going to pan out. At the last occupation Jim Murtha recommended force and arrest against the occupiers. But a large group of students outside supporting are stronger than any chair barricade. Bring food and supplies and demand they let them in. Come hang out and party in the streets all night like kids did last time. Try to get into the building. And failing all these, take more space, get creative, celebrate the fact that this is a historic week at New School. Celebrate Bob Kerrey’s last days!

Originally posted: April 10, 2009 at New School Reoccupied