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On the May Day Protest and How The New School Markets Itself

Note: this article is based off the research of our staff writer India Roby’s research as well as photo and video coverage of the May Day protest

Every college has a brand. The same way influencers and corporations spend time carefully cultivating a certain image, higher education now does the same. It’s just part of attracting prospective students these days and raking in those increasingly high tuition dollars.

The New School has spent years branding itself as a school for socially active students. To quote the school website’s About Our Progressive University page, the school is supposed to be “committed to developing students who will have an impact on the world and solve the most pressing social issues of our time.” Last week, on May 1st, that’s exactly what students did with the May Day protest. They hauled resources, social media reach, and organized to address a pressing social issue: The New School’s constant greedy capitalist cash grabbing fees and rises in tuition.

On March 25th, The New School announced that there will be a 3.8% increase in tuition for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year. This is all while according to CollegeCalc, The New School is already one of the more expensive schools, sitting at around 66% more expensive than the national average tuition costs of private universities. Along with this rise in tuition comes a reduction of medical services and even more fees, namely one put on international students.

Protesters holding signs demanding better Health Care 

The May Day protest, in many ways, is exactly what The New School claims to welcome. It was very much a cross-disciplinary collaboration for social action between students. There were creative posters, a prominent one being the “Found Dog” flyer pinpointing all the problems with exiting school president David Van Zandt. The protest even made use of the diverse campus The New School markets, New York City, with passing tourists even joining the protest. The protest even crossed over to other schools with an array of speakers from neighboring universities, like SVA and NYU, during the gathering outside of the University Centre.

The famous ‘Found Dog’ poster plastered around campus

Maybe the most active part, that speaks most to how The New School avoids accountability, came when protesters marched into Van Zandt’s office looking to confront the capitalist lapdog himself. To no one’s surprise, he wasn’t there. Because of course he wasn’t. He doesn’t have to be, he has the privilege of walking away from all the problems he’s caused whenever he wants. Protesters didn’t leave without making their mark though, video footage shows protesters plastering posters on walls and taking Van Zandt’s office plant.

Students marching together on May Day

The students made their last stop at the Financial aid office, making clear that their issue is not with the staff (who are also largely underpaid) but the administration. In response to this collaborative social action, The New School has only said, “In an effort to lessen the direct impact of the increase, we have allocated more funding for financial aid for current students in the upcoming year.” But that’s not enough.

The New School is still an incredibly expensive college in an already insanely expensive city. So many classes demand extra spending on things like art supplies and textbooks. The cost of living as a student at The New School is too high and causes way too much stress. Our own writer India Roby, who was there the day of the May Day protest, says she’s still “worried that I won’t be able to afford the upcoming semester. Tuition increase is bound to happen, but The New School should respond to students and faculty by informing us what these fees are for and where money is being allocated.”

Protest sign demanding DVS finally cut his crap and fees

As much as The New School loves to use activism of its students as a marketing tool, it doesn’t care enough to actually implement the change students demand. Actually, it’s not accurate for me to keep writing The New School as “it” this or “it” that. There are people behind this – people who sit back and make student life here harder, more expensive, and exclusive. Van Zandt is one of the many capitalist lapdogs that shouldn’t be enjoying so much tuition money when there are clearly areas that are in need of more funding. So, in the spirit of the May Day protest and what The New School’s aim is supposed to be, please keep organizing. Keep writing, creating, and speaking out – demand that Van Zandt be the last of his kind and The New School stop with the grossly overpaid school presidents.

Isabelle Fang

New School '21

Isabelle is a Literary Studies major at the Eugene Lang School of Liberal Arts at The New School. Originally from Toronto, she's still working on using the imperial system and reading weather forecasts in Fahrenheit. Isabelle mostly writes about pop culture, Asian American representation, and profiles on all kinds of people.
India Roby

New School '21

India is a Journalism + Design student at The New School in NYC. Aside from binge-watching Netflix and being in a constant state of fear for the future, she spends her free time writing, reading self-help books, and missing her cat.
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