Mass Firings of Faculty at Parsons The New School for Design

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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”

PLEASE SEND EMAILS TO:

  • President Bob Kerrey: KerreyB@newschool.edu
  • Provost Tim Marshall: MarshalT@newschool.edu
  • Parsons Interim Dean Sven Travis: TRAVISS@newschool.edu

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.

UPDATE 1:

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.

CityWatch from the belly of the beast is a watchdog for social, economic and cultural issues in New York City in post-democratic Amerika

UPDATE 2:

Tons more info at: artcritical & EAGEAGEAG

12 responses to “Mass Firings of Faculty at Parsons The New School for Design”

  1. people riot when a sports team wins a championship, but when real shit hits the fan, apathy takes over.

  2. It wasn’t just Parson’s, teachers throughout the New School were told there were no classes for them to teach. I’m one of them.

    I don’t think it’s clear how reprehensible this is.

    The New School will pay me $6000 this year. This is without health insurance, despite that I have a 6 month year beautiful (and healthy, thank god) baby boy.

    I wince at tooting my own horn, but am an Ivy League graduate and published, respected author.

    More importantly (and again wincing), my students love my classes. I have yet to see ANY negative feedback whatsoever. We watch La Jette, go see Andy Goldsworthy exhibits, we have cannoli’s together (at my expense), we read James Baldwin, we laugh, we cry, we learn, etc. Many of my students have gone on to publish and have used me as a recommendation source to go on to PHd programs. I spend more than twice my average class-time (nonpaid and without an office), emailing students, giving them feedback, designing fun classes, emailing librarians, guest lecturers, maintaining a community blog. . . .

    I love to teach. I only do this because it’s what I love to do.

    Last year I taught 17 classes (in various NYC universities). Total pay, $22,120. No vacations, no going out, nothing but paying the diaper bill. How much have universities MADE from my classes? About $260,000 gross. Please look at that math.

    Since I started teaching, I have gone into debt about $12,000 a year.

    This all sounds like just so much whining.

    But how is it that the New School cannot afford to keep me, or many of the other adjuncts, around? I cost $6000! TOTAL! That’s not a problem with me, it’s a problem with management. Or it’s just plain asinine. Any company in the world would find a good use for me at (dare I say?) quintiple the salary.

    We were also given this news during Spring Break, when other schools had filled in their teaching position for the next semester. So no chance of finding new work.

    This is a bad business decision. Bad for me, bad for the school, bad for the students.

    I feel awful for myself, let down by the University and very, very sad that I’m not going to be able to help the students of Parson’s and The New School. I miss them already.

    Andrew Zornoza

  3. I hope that this action can be reversed…
    But if it can’t, what are the options? If we have this group of qualified and and respected teachers now without a job, what do we (as not the teachers) do to support them? And what do the teachers do to support each other?

    I have a fantasy of new schools being established. Could this happen? Could there be a new, unseen location for these out of work teachers to take part in? Is there (conceptual) space somewhere for a new teaching community?

  4. Not to nitpick, but it was not 1/3 of the Fine Art department’s faculty, it was 1/3 of the department’s part-time faculty.

  5. Not to nitpick, but it was not 1/3 of the Fine Art department’s faculty, it was 1/3 of the department’s part-time faculty.

    b you are correct, nitpicking is good in this case.

    It was only the part-time or adjunct faculty. But in this department there are only 3 or 4 Full time hires. So the majority of this departments classes are taught day to day by the adjuncts. When 12 get notices they are not coming back into to the Fine Arts department out of 28 part time teachers that seems like a big cleaning house. Really disappointing that a past healthy and progressive dept. is choosing to treat the long and short term teachers with such disrespect. Go figure?

  6. I have 40 jobs for adjuncts. Please call me at my cell 646 707 2882 or before 11:15 any morning at 718 474 4994 if you are interested in details.

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