Mass Firings of Faculty at Parsons The New School for Design


I received the following about the surprise mass firings at Parsons in New York:

A call for support to overturn the mass firings of faculty at Parsons The New School for Design

This past week approximately one-third of the Fine Art department faculty at Parsons the New School for Design received email notices that there were no classes for them to teach in the coming academic year. This action was taken just before spring break so that there was no way to mobilize the Parsons community. This was done in an atmosphere of complete secrecy.

The teachers who were fired all have excellent reputations and exceptional student evaluations. Teachers who were vulnerable because their union status was probationary appear to have been targeted by the administration regardless of performance. However, some of those summarily fired have served as a distinguished and devoted faculty who have given their time and energy to Parsons for many, many years (in some cases as much as twenty two years). The adjunct faculty fought hard to unionize in 2005 and the Kerrey administration fought hard to prevent it. We were successful and the UAW now represents the adjunct faculty at Parsons. To varying degrees this protected a good number of the faculty –or so we thought.

This would be ugly under any circumstances but it is particularly ugly in this economy. It is also particularly hypocritical –and socially irresponsible– for an administration and a school that prides itself on its progressive history to take it upon itself to undermine a union so capriciously.

Some background:
You may have heard or read about some of the chaos that surrounds President Bob Kerrey’s stewardship of the New School. The New York Times and The Village Voice (see links) have written about it extensively. There have been multiple firings of Provosts, a vote of no confidence in the president, student occupations of campus sites and overall considerable unhappiness amongst the students and faculty.

[links: NY Times (1, 2), Village Voice (1)]

Despite all this the Fine Arts Department enrollment has been consistently increasing these past five years. The department has been healthy and the community of students and faculty has been lively and progressive.

These firings are part of a larger restructuring of the Fine Arts program aimed at moving away from a focus on art making and contemporary art theory. These curricular changes were arrived at without consultation of part-time faculty and in an atmosphere of fear and secrecy, similar to the nature of the initial reasons for the full-time faculty’s December 2008 vote of no-confidence in President Bob Kerrey. The firings are paired with demotions of senior faculty who have distinguished reputations and many years of service at the New School and Parsons, and the promotions of faculty with less seniority, against union rules.

We wrote a letter condemning these actions and more than 90 percent of the Fine Arts faculty signed it. (Some could not be reached precisely because this was all done during the spring break) As the present administration fears more additional negative press it is our hope that you will join our efforts to reverse these actions by writing an email to the addresses listed below. We have included the original text that our Fine Art faculty sent as its petition. Please feel free to cut and paste from it for your email.

We would also be grateful if you pass the word on to any other concerned academics, artists, union members or –especially– members of the press.

Please identify your email in the subject line: “We stand opposed to the mass firings at Parsons”


  • President Bob Kerrey:
  • Provost Tim Marshall:
  • Parsons Interim Dean Sven Travis:

Transcript of original petition:

We the undersigned hereby affirm our opposition to the summary firing of our valued colleagues from the Parsons Fine Arts department. These fellow teachers and artists have given their time and energy to Parsons for many, many years. They, like all adjunct faculty at Parsons, have worked many hours beyond their contractual commitments and have provided scholarship, skill and guidance to countless students. Furthermore to not rehire faculty in this economic climate is both cruel and socially irresponsible.

While we support the innovations of the school of Art, Media and Technology we cannot do so at the expense of our colleague’s livelihoods. We therefore insist upon an immediate reversal of aforementioned summary firings.


On CityWatch tomorrow (Wed. Apr. 1) on WBAI of New York (99.5FM) at 10 -11 am — The Crisis at the New School with Profs. Peter Drake and Laurence Hegarty.

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Tons more info at: artcritical & EAGEAGEAG