General Studies Students Form Union to Push Reforms
Two students at The New School for General Studies who are fed up with common problems at The New School have formed a new divisional student government along the lines of the Lang Student Union.
Vanessa Maruskin and Hannah Arnett hope that an organized student government will have enough clout to see some changes made. On February 25, they held the first meeting for the General Studies Bachelor’s Program Student Union.
The meeting took place in a small classroom in the 66 E. 12th St. building. Though the crowd wasn’t spectacular — only about 10 students attended — all seemed eager to play an active role in establishing the group.
Last semester, David Scobey, dean of NSGS, held an open forum for students to voice concerns and acquaint him with the school during his first semester as dean. At the forum, Maruskin and Arnett met and quickly realized they were both concerned about many of the same issues affecting the bachelor’s program and determined that they would not be fixed unless students initiated the change.
“I feel like a door is open right now for student involvement that hasn’t been open before,” Arnett said. “It’s a really good environment to see something done.”
Before calling the student meeting, Maruskin and Arnett had met with Scobey, President David Van Zandt and other university administrators to discuss their concerns. The pair also submitted two proposals to university administrators: one to form the student union (which had been approved) and one requesting more student space, which seemed to be their primary concern at the February event.
At the February meeting, Maruskin and Arnett said they were also skeptical of administrators touting the new university center as a fix-all for space concerns. Even if a space will be provided in the center, they said they didn’t want to have to wait until the 2013 completion date for adequate study space. Their demands for the immediate future were rather modest; they would be content with a classroom and a bulletin board.
The attendees agreed that a physical space would be ideal, but that even some sort of social networking website for students in the bachelor’s program would be a big improvement. The type of networking envisioned seemed to be as much, if not more, for practical reasons (jobs, etc.) as social ones. Specifics were consigned to the next meeting.
Despite having called the meeting, both Arnett and Maruskin emphasized that they did not see themselves as the de facto leaders of the group.
“Hannah and I don’t want to own the group,” said Maruskin. They envisioned a collective rather than a typical student union with centralized leadership. Some attendees were skeptical, fearing that the lack of executive power could result in very little getting done.
Soon after, attendees voted to elect Maruskin and Arnett temporary leaders of the student union until a more specific leadership structure was determined.