[Marxism] New School activism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 3 07:54:46 MDT 2009

(This is great stuff about the New School, where I got my masters 
degree. I should add that I have been contacted by the Radical Student 
Union at Bard College to help them prepare the same kind of material. 
Furthermore, this is the kind of groundbreaking research that was done 
throughout the 60s radicalization and I am very happy to see it being 
revived. I got a big kick out the revelation that fucking Lehman 
Brothers had 2 members on the New School board of trustees. Bard has 
finance capital representatives on their board as well. Someone should 
do a study of the way in which finance capital has gained such a 
preponderant influence on the boards of major universities since the 
1970s. My guess is that banking deregulation and the corporatization of 
the university go hand in hand.)

New School Activism and April 4th

April 03, 2009 By Dave Shukla

What Bob Kerrey and Jim Murtha and their administration have done to the 
New School is no joke. What remains after the Fools Day is a University 
with a profound crisis of vision, governance, and worst of all, identity.

Consider what the New School is now connected with. On September 15th, 
2008 Lehman Brothers Financial Holdings declared bankruptcy, and the 
world knew a serious crisis was on hand. Lehman Brothers was making over 
$1 Billion a month in after tax income from investing around the world 
in cheap labor, environmental degradation, torture and war. One of their 
subsidiaries, L-3 Communications, is one of the largest war-profiteers 
in the United States. They are currently facing multiple federal 
lawsuits by Iraqis who were tortured at Abu Ghraib. Two of Lehman 
Brother's executives are on the New School's Board of Trustees. The 
former executive director of L-3 communications, Robert Millard, is the 
Treasurer on the Board of Trustees. In June 2008 the New School 
endowment was over $230 Million. As of March 2009, it is at $169 Million.

Consider what Kerrey himself has brought to the New School. As a member 
of the US Senate in 1999, he voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, the 
primary regulation of risk in finance. At the time he said "the concerns 
that we will have a meltdown like 1929 are dramatically overblown." 
Kerrey was also one of the authors of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act and 
was a founding member of the Committee to Liberate Iraq. He worked 
closely with the neoconservatives on the Project for a New American 
Century as a chief architect and advocate for invading Iraq, arguing in 
2002 that democracy could be created through the barrel of a gun, but 
not on the cheap. This consummate neoliberal is the man who was 
installed as President of the New School in 2001 to do two things: grow 
the endowment and raise the profile of the University.

But the problem with Kerrey is that it's not about Kerrey. It is never 
about any one person. Over the past eight years, there has been a 
near-complete corporate makeover of the New School. It is an entire 
administration that has exploited the task of combining the eight 
divisions of the University to enrich and empower themselves alone 
through a corporate business model. We all know and suffer the effects 
daily - from the lack of financial aid or a functioning library, to the 
substantial cuts to academic departments and materials, to the complete 
lack of study space, to the frustratingly labyrinthine bureaucracy, to 
the months-long backlog of important work in the Provost's office. Power 
and control over all functions of the University had been centralized 
under Chief Operating Officer James Murtha and the Office of the 
Executive Vice-President and prior to the recent establishment of the 
Minimum Requirements of the Provost's office.

At its inception, the New School was a model for shared governance and 
democratic decision-making, and since the founding of the University in 
Exile the New School has enjoyed an international reputation of academic 
freedom, critical inquiry, and above all, a strong institutional 
commitment to social justice. How is it then that the entire New School 
community is prevented from having the basic information it needs to 
make informed democratic decisions? From administrator job descriptions 
and roles to university finances to building plans to how decisions are 
made, why does the administration operate without any transparency or 

Installing a new President or Executive Vice-President or other 
administrators will not be enough to move forward. It will not be enough 
to rewrite their job descriptions, or create open search committees with 
decision-making power that include faculty, staff, and students. What 
the New School needs is a fundamental transformation of our institution 
and the values that it embodies. We need to create a more democratic 
university where everyone equitably manages their own affairs. We need 
to take seriously how our university is part of its community. The 
entire nation is moving beyond the horror of the past eight years. 
Providing substance to our mission and legacy today will be more 
powerful than any marketing campaign or rebranding of our school, and 
certainly any pawning off the history of the New School or the 
University in Exile.

Our country is in need of a new financial system, one that is 
accountable to the communities that fund it. The New School could be a 
pathbreaker and leading light in building that system, by using a 
portion of its endowment to invest in Community Development Credit 
Unions. These institutions have been the most stable financial 
institutions during the crisis, and have suffered the fewest losses, 
precisely because they are tightly regulated and are accountable to 
those from the community that deposit their earnings and savings there. 
Many in New York City have above-market rates of return, despite the 
crisis. Such institutions also provide the financial backing to more 
democratic and participatory projects elsewhere in the society. For 
example, the proposal put forth by the Right to the City Alliance for 
New York City-wide legislation to renovate city-owned vacant properties 
for low-income and homeless people - the very same people who have lost 
their homes due to the predatory lending of Lehman Brothers subsidiary 
Aurora. The workforces required to do these renovations could be trained 
by such local democratic workplaces as Sustainable South Bronx or Green 
Worker Cooperatives. The university itself could save tremendously on 
building and operating costs for new dorms by creating cooperative 
housing, and students would directly benefit through the vastly reduced 
costs and the shared experience of living cooperatively.

These are but a handful of examples that highlight the kind of recovery 
plan this country needs, and specify particular ways in which we can 
play a part. There is so much the New School can do to embody its 
mission and its historical inheritance. There is so much, quantitatively 
and qualitatively, that we can do to improve our own lives as students, 
faculty, staff, deans, and trustees, if we work together and be the 
change we wish to see at this crucial turning point for the New School 
and for the nation. What will be the deciding factor is whether those 
interested in change have the courage, and discipline, necessary for 
their convictions to become the political reality.

We in the Radical Student Union believe in a more democratic and 
participatory economy and society, and we work to support those 
movements and organizations with similar ends and means. A thoroughly 
American radicalism that has roots going back further than Port Huron or 
the Wobblies, past Dewey or Veblen or other New School founders, past 
Frederick Douglas or the Quakers, all the way back to Thomas Paine and 
the Iroquois. We are an open group that welcomes any member of the New 
School community in agreement with our points of unity. We sign our 
names to what we do. Making change for us, from the smallest reform up 
through "revolution" is not a passing college-age fancy or vogue, but an 
imperative that justifies itself each and every time we help make 
peoples lives better in the here and now. We believe there are more 
effective ways to fundamentally transform our society and economy than 
mere confrontation for its own sake. We believe in organizing to build 
power on our campuses and in our communities. In truly American fashion, 
what we care about is results.

April 4th is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 
Riverside Speech, where he spoke out against the Vietnam War and 
presented a broader vision of a world with poverty, war, and racism. He 
was assassinated exactly one year later to day, April 4th 1968. We are a 
member group of United for Peace and Justice, the nation's largest 
anti-war coalition, and on April 4th, this Saturday, we will be holding 
events at the New School as part of their national mobilization on Wall 
St. April 4th will also mark the beginning of the national campaign, 
Beyond War: A New Economy is Possible, for the reduction in military 
spending of 25% by 2010, and the redirection of those monies to 
community needs, such as housing and education. Amy Goodman of Democracy 
Now! will be giving a talk in Tishman Auditorium at 10am that morning, 
and we will be hosting a teach-in from 3-5pm in 65 Fifth Avenue, with 
talks by New School Economics Professor Duncan Foley, Stockholm 
University Economics Professor Jonathan Feldman, and the NYC-based 3R's 
education coalition. We invite everyone serious about making real change 
on our campus and in our communities to attend.

Dave Shukla is an active member of the RSU and is a graduate student in 
economics at the New School for Social Research.

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