During this first week of Black History month, The New School’s portrayal of itself as a bastion of social progressivism and a safe haven for BIPOC students is proven false once again. Quick to post pictures on Instagram applauding the achievements of our Black community members, The New School’s actions couldn’t be farther from their words.
On January 25th, Eugene Lang student Amaechi Kofoworola posted an Instagram slide on his account @reallyamaechi with anonymous accounts from students, bringing to the forefront a conversation about the blatant discrimination and injustices perpetrated by TNS against BIPOC students. Kofoworola received stories from BIPOC and international students, but the vast majority of the financial and academic discrimination was targeted at Black students. The posts quickly spread between TNS students, more and more stories of the school’s mistreatment of its community members rolling in as the days passed. At the time of writing, over 50 accounts from students have been posted on Kofoworola’s Instagram, with more coming in each day.
Most of the student stories share the common thread of financial inequality when compared to White TNS students in similar situations. Black students are having previously granted loans or aid taken away, higher rates of FAFSA “verification” processes, and surprise financial holds placed on their accounts. The financial aid office hangs up on students or tosses them around from office to office, plating a game of email tag. Financial holds will be terminated then reinstated a week later with a new, additional charge. These issues disproportionately targeting BIPOC students lead to major issues with registering for classes or receiving academic support.
On January 28th, MixGen and TNS’s BSU sent an open letter to Provost and President McBride in support of the BIPOC students who are having difficulties with the financial aid office and ultimately having their education withheld due to discrimination. The letter garnered a lot of attention, resulting in Provost sending out a mass email. This mass email was an acknowledgment of students’ concerns in relation to Financial Aid holds and the contract information for Financial Aid & Student Accounts. As per usual, The New School’s lack of accountability shines through these small emails.
Last Friday, the University Student Senate (USS) demanded that the add/drop period be extended, so students experiencing financial strains would be able to register this upcoming semester. Provost met this demand on February 1st by extending the add/drop period a week and expanding the hold threshold to $5,000 instead of $2,000.
MixGen & BSU discussed the Provost’s latest email on the financial situation on Instagram live with multiple students in the comment sections saying, “We are sick and tired. So we’ll do as much as we have to.” When Kofoworola recounted his hold preventing him from registering to be a full-time student before the start of the Spring semester, another student noted, “I didn’t have my final class until the weekend either”.
With the work lead by Kofoworola and supported by MixGen & TNS’s BSU, it’s become clear to White people in our school community that this is one of the many issues facing Black, Indigenous, and POC students that have existed right under our noses without our noticing. As a group, White students have failed in supporting our BIPOC peers. Now is the time to begin taking steps to remedy our harm and take an active role in calling on The New School for accountability and justice.
On the base level, White students must rally behind our BIPOC peers and support them in their demands for justice from TNS. A joint letter from the Black Students Union and MixGen writes “You operate as a (failing) business, putting profits over the quality of education. We demand that you correct this issue, release these unfair holds on your BIPOC students and allow them to get an education”. White students must hear and listen to these demands — acknowledge the issues they may not see are deep-set and impact our community intensely. Tangibly aid our peers with financial support, and as Kofoworola says: “What I need a lot of non-Black or White students to do is speak up. Because a lot of … specifically White allyship is people just sharing [a post] once, and that’s it. Not even donating, not even sharing twice, not even keeping up the increased outreach, not trying to actually help. They just want to seem like they’re being allies. And it’s disingenuous…so, mobilization. Just mobilize and actually try to put in work to advocate for us,”
As for the school itself, the major demands from BIPOC students call on The New School to lift unfair holds that are currently on BIPOC students’ accounts and to allow for USS members to have a spot on the board of trustees. Until any accountability is taken, Kofoworola notes that “This institution – at the end of the day – doesn’t want people like me here, genuinely. They want people like me here so that they can profit off of us, and try to get as much money as they can from us…that’s how they use us…I don’t think this is a safe place for BIPOC people to come”.
For updates on BSU & MixGen’s effort to advocate for BIPOC students at TNS, follow them on Instagram @bsutns and @tnsmixgen. Access a spreadsheet of mutual aid requests from local BIPOC students here.