A Conversation with the President
The Free Press staff recently had an opportunity to meet with President Van Zandt to talk about some of the most pressing issues facing The New School.
Van Zandt laid out three immediate priorities: bridging the gaps between divisions, improving “customer service” (ensuring that students, faculty and staff get the help they need from the people who are supposed to be able to help them) and finally, strengthening the office of career services for students and alumni.
Now, while plans for achieving these broad goals are still being formed, it is the time to let it be known where we stand. This is the students’ chance to say what we think most urgently needs development, and what, if anything, should be left untouched.
In recent years, the university has outgrown itself. Integrating the divisions could help solve the problems this has caused, or it could make them worse. If it makes it easier for students to take classes across the university, the benefits of cross-divisional integration will be worth the potentially awkward transition. We are concerned, however, that if not handled well, it could exacerbate the problems wrought by such rapid growth, like seminars becoming lectures and too many students graduating without ever having formed mentoring relationships with faculty. Not to mention the unique characters of the individual colleges, and the question of how important it is to maintain them.
Many students were drawn to The New School because of the allure of the small-college intimacy backed by the resources of a university. If we integrate the divisions we may lose half of that equation.
As for customer service, we doubt anyone would argue with the fact that The New School’s bureaucracy could use cleaning up. The financial aid office is rarely helpful, advising is so disjointed it’s almost comical, and it’s hard to get a smile from the registrar’s office, much less the forms you went in search of.
And career services: while a place like The New School has less ability — and therefore less responsibility/pressure — to place all of its graduates in jobs, simply because of the nature of the kinds of things we study here, (jazz music, literary criticism, drama, fine arts, etc.,) that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. We don’t expect every student to walk out of here with 20 job offers. But a place to turn for help in the search, a way to contact alumni who might be able to offer guidance or maybe even a job, and access to the resources and connections our professors have in their fields shouldn’t be too much to ask.
The president wanted to speak with us at the Free Press because we, theoretically, understand student desires and needs. We conveyed our own concerns, but the next step is for all of you to let us know what you care about so we can put it out there to be addressed.
While students look to us for information about what’s going on around the university, administration looks to us for an indication of what students care about. So let us know what you see as missing from the administration’s plan as it stands now. We’ll cover it, and hopefully, together, we can point the university in the right direction so that five, 10 and 50 years from now The New School will be a place we can all be proud to be associated with.