I was very busy today and could only glance at the news between classes and meetings. The coverage has been astounding: 22 stories on google news this morning, 39 stories in the afternoon, and now 145 news stories come up on the New School protests on google news, including major outlets like the AP and the New York Times! So I'm sorry if this has been diaried a lot already; if it's been on the rec list let me know, and I will take it down. But for the moment, we have a genuine student movement in New York, with 22 students of the New School pepper sprayed, assaulted, and arrested to face suspension and possible expulsion. Surprisingly, The AP has done as good a job as anyone getting the facts straight.
Follow me below the jump for a discussion on the New York city student movement, in which I've participated actively this year as a Columbia student.
Here's what happened. The New School is run by Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. Senator, and a navy commando in the infamous B company in Vietnam, who executed 6 innocent civilians in order to avoid giving away their position. The only demands of the occupation today were that Kerrey and his appointed executive vice president Jim Murtha should resign for poor management of the New School. In December, there was another occupation that I attended, and these resignations are the only demands left over from that largely-successful action. The students and Kerrey negotiated an end to that occupation, including a socially responsible investment committee and total amnesty for the protestors, among other things. The students left the building claiming partial victory, but vowing to fight on until Kerrey and Murtha agree to step down.
Kerrey has presided over the New School for several years, and many wonder why this is becoming an issue now. As the AP article points out (and most news sources don't), the real issue is a vote of no confidence taken in December 2008 by 72 of the 74 tenured professors of the New School after Kerrey appointed himself provost of the University (Kerrey doesn't hold a PHD, and Provosts have the final word on all academic policy), the fourth such reappointment he'd made in 5 years. It's also worth noting, from the students' perspective, that the New Shcool is outlandishly expensive. It's also gotten a reputation for being a cutting edge social science laboratory, and has very radical roots. But in recent years that reputation has been declining, thanks largely to President Kerrey, who since being appointed, has stacked the board of directors with defense contractors and finance moguls, and has been a very vocal supporter of Bush's war in Iraq, going to far as to debate it publicly. This abrasive behavior has alienated the staff and led to resignations and weak morale among professors and students.
The reaction so far has been mixed on the The New York Times story. I haven't read all 519 comments yet, but I can tell you that the response from readers there improved dramatically once the Times added an amature vidoe of the Police pepper spraying students as the tried to exit the building, and assaulting a student while making arrests on the sidewalk of non-occupying supporters.
The Nation's Richard Kim gets at the crux of the issue: we have a genuine student movement in this coutry that is fighting for socially responsible, transparent universities. The parallels to the 2006 protests in France are indeed stunning. Instead of losing a guarantee to a job, what students today are facing is a job market that is in shambles due to a Financial coup that happened under the Clinton Administration, the Graham-Leach-Bliley act; they're facing rising tuition costs as a result, even as real income per capita decreases in America. In the end, they're part and parcel at the heart of the battle for the waning middle class. And you know what societies are like without a strong middle class. Corrupt, opaque, undemocratic, unprosperous, and oppressive.
So support these students, and start your own campaigns on your own issues. It's time to really fight for the ideals that we voted for on Nov. 4th, 2008. President Obama can't do it alone.