As More Students Express Anger at Occupiers, Van Zandt Tries to Resolve Occupation
The mood was tense in Kellen Auditorium on November 22, as President David Van Zandt and Provost Tim Marshall held an open forum for members of the university community to discuss the ongoing occupation at 90 Fifth Ave. Speaking one by one, a large number of students expressed anger about the vandalism done to the occupied space and complained about the loss of a valued student study center, while many faculty members urged Van Zandt not to bring in the police or forcibly remove the occupiers.
A large number of students echoed this sentiment, many stating their anger over how the occupiers have vandalized the Student Study Center. Many were especially displeased that the administration has allowed the occupation in the first place, since they feel that their tuition dollars pay for the space, which is now inaccessible and damaged.
“Fuck peace, it’s boring. Let’s fuck shit up,” said one.
“If you want we can discuss this outside,” he said, which caused some rumbling amongst the crowd.
At one point, the occupier who smirked stood up to speak, declining to give his name but saying that he is a philosophy student at NSSR. He was the only occupier to speak during the forum; when he stood up and introduced himself as an occupier, a student in the crowd shouted, “Get out!”
The faculty members who spoke at the meeting were less angry and, although some expressed disappointment with the reports of graffiti, seemed more concerned with the possibility of police action.
“I’m pleading with you not to call the police and forcibly remove the students,” said Leah Weich, director of advising, in an emotional voice. “The New School is one of the last venues for open political discussion. This is about the absence of a future for this generation.”
As the meeting wore on and students became angrier, a few faculty members tried to quell the emotion and speak rationally. Nidhi Srinivas, an associate professor of management at Milano, said that it would be a “moment of shame for the university” if the police showed up.
“Look, everyone is invited to go in there, including faculty — provided they’re not senior leadership,” he said, to some laughter. “Let’s all go there tonight and persuade them to climb down so we can resolve this.”
“I went in there on Thursday, and it was the most uncomfortable situation I’ve ever been in,” she said in a shaky voice. “I was in tears. It’s an experience that frightens me. They’re unwelcoming to other students.”
Others made similar statements, stating that, despite the occupation’s “open” status, they did not feel comfortable when they went to visit. These comments contradicted the occupier’s statement; he had asserted that the occupiers were welcoming students to come join in discussions and engage.