Update: From the New School Fine Art Dept. Protest Organizers

53-the-police-post-themselves-at-the-school-of-fine-arts-the-fine-arts-students-poster-the-streFrom the 1968 revolution in Paris, it reads “The police post themselves at the school of fine arts, the fine arts students poster the streets.” I think the New School protest needs a cool protest poster, social action & protest is always more than a battle of ideals particularly in our media-obsessed world.

This is the latest from two of the New School Fine Art Dept. protest organizers [all emphasis mine]:

To the un-misinformed from the not-yet-fired

We are responding to the responses of the Parsons administration to our many supporters from a broad spectrum of academe and the art world

While it is true, as the administration has pointed out in its response to your valued support, that The New School employs some 1,700 part time faculty throughout its eight schools, the Fine Arts Department employs only 28 part time faculty members.

This has been a reasonably steady figure for 18 years. The administration has offered alternative numbers in an attempt to obscure and minimize the impact of what it has done. To do this it has included the faculty members of the printmaking department in its tally. The printmaking department while technically a part of the fine arts department is a unit that is housed in a separate building and provides serves to eight colleges within the New School including the fine art department. Furthermore, in 2000 the Parsons administration attempted to close the entire Printmaking department and summarily fire its entire faculty. This prior attempt at mass firings was directly instrumental in the part time faculty seeking to unionize: we had seen the future. They have tried this before, they are trying it now, there is no reason to suppose they will not try it in the future.

In the current purge of adjunct faculty, 3 grandfathered faculty with anywhere from 22 to 34 years of experience at Parsons have been told there are no classes for them to teach in the Fine Arts Department, 9 unprotected faculty were told there were no classes for them to teach, only one left voluntarily and 2 grandfathered faculty had their hours drastically reduced. The 5 grandfathered faculty who either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced have been forced to accept a “look around” whereby you are placed in whatever slots might be available in other departments at the time assuming they are available at all. This process doesn’t guarantee continued employment in these departments and you lose whatever seniority you accrued in your previous department. It is also insulting to have to accept being placed away from your primary discipline. Furthermore it is preposterous to expect someone who has spent more than two decades teaching painting to be able to teach –what– Spanish guitar at the music school?

As reprehensible as this behavior is, it pales once it becomes clear that the Fine Arts Department is actually growing next year. According to Deborah Kirschner, Associate Director of Arts Communications, “No cuts are being made to the number of faculty in the Fine Arts programs at Parsons; in fact, the faculty body is growing.” How then do you justify the firing and drastic reduction in hours of such a high percentage of the Fine Arts faculty in such a dire economic environment? When the President of The New School, Bob Kerrey states in his February 19th open letter that, “Even in this downturn, our applications for admission remain strong in nearly all programs. Spring 2009 enrollment and revenues are up over last year and ahead of target” it is difficult to accept the capricious disregard of so many lives.

This may seem like a small story because it affects so few lives but it is emblematic of a larger problem at The New School. A school that was once a haven for progressive thinking risks becoming an educational mill where faculty and students alike are burned and churned. Recently the Chairman of the Board of trustees, Julien J. Studley stated, ”The New School was founded on protest and we are grateful that the New School spirit continues to focus on issues which must be addressed in our joint effort to make the university all that it can be.” Shouldn’t one of the addressed issues be the devaluing and firing of our esteemed colleagues?

- Peter Drake and Laurence Hegarty