Way before the cool kids started doing it, New School students were into this whole occupy thing. So no surprise, really, that in the wake of the cleaning of Zuccotti Park they're at it again. Students at the school have gone and occupied 90 Fifth Avenue, a privately owned building on the corner of 14th Street that houses the school's Student Study Center. And unlike the last time this happend when Bob Kerrey was running things, the school seems to be okay with it. With a few caveats.
For now New School President David E Van Zandt is letting the occupation proceed, even letting non-New School students with valid ID join them, but he does note that the school does not own, only leases, the building in question. If the building's owners feel threatened it can call the police. But for now, Van Zandt says that "As long as they’re not disrupting the educational functions of the university they can stay. It’s a tough time for students right now, and we’re aware of that. These are big social issues."
In a statement on the the new All City Student Occupation website the occupiers explain their MO:
Today, the university is a supreme symbol of social and economic inequality. Skyrocketing tuition costs at public and private institutions deny us access to higher education and saddle us with crushing debt. We will reclaim this elite space and make it open to all. We will foster dialogue and build solidarity between students, workers, and others excluded or marginalized by economic and social inequalities. We will build community through the commonality of occupation. We will offer free education - this is systematically forbidden. We join a long tradition of student activism and struggle. We the indebted and the future unemployed and underemployed stand committed to this movement for our collective lives. We invite all to join us in this open occupation.
And, for the record, here's the letter Van Zandt sent out students today:
As I informed you a few weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street has engaged many members of the university community. I would like to update you on a situation that has occurred over the last several hours.
On Thursday at about 5:00 p.m., a group of protesters left the Student Week of Action rally in Union Square headed down Fifth Avenue for Lower Manhattan. When the NYPD blocked Fifth Avenue at 14th Street, a group entered 90 Fifth Avenue, a privately owned building on the corner of 14th Street that houses our Student Study Center. After the crowd dispersed and the majority of protesters continued their march downtown, the group at 90 Fifth remained and posted signs on the window in support of OWS.
Tim Marshall and I entered the building to speak with the protesters. While they were clear that this is not an action against The New School, they refused to give up the space. In a courteous exchange, we reached an agreement that The New School would not have the protesters forcibly removed at this time. In turn they agreed that they would not disrupt classes, interfere with other tenants in the building, or violate its legal occupancy limit. I reiterated my expectations that they make theirs and others' safety a priority, that damage to our property would not be tolerated, and that there should be no disruption of other students' access to any of our educational programs (other than studying in the Student Study Center). The lines of communication between us remain open; so far we have been able to resolve satisfactorily the issues that have come up.
I recognize that this is a considerable inconvenience to our students and others who work in and use the Student Study Center; our primary responsibility is to our students and maintaining unimpeded access to education. We have arranged to extend access to the Fogelman Library second floor reading room tonight and tomorrow night. Beginning on Sunday, the end-of-semester schedule begins with more broadly extended hours.
While the university takes no position in this or any movement, The New School supports free expression and the right to protest. Communities around the world are responding in sympathy to those who feel that their voice has not been heard. While it is not without cost, providing a space for those voices is part of our unique mission.