Messages to the Community

The New School Response to Recent National Policy Actions

Our country is experiencing a level of division and discord not seen in generations. It seems that almost every day, there is a new development that threatens the core values of inclusion and openness exemplified by The New School. As a consequence, we are witnessing the highest level of engagement and social activism by our community and across the country that we have seen in decades. Your commitment to open, truthful, and respectful dialogue and intense debate about the issues facing our country, and your actions in support of justice for all, not only align with the history of The New School but, perhaps more important, provide direction for our future.

The unconventional operating style, rhetoric, and actions of the new administration have fueled confusion and concern on a number of issues that directly affect our community, from the rights of transgender people to immigration policies. I want to assure you The New School is committed to our policies of inclusion and respect.

New, more restrictive immigration policies are an area of particular concern, given the large number of international students enrolled at The New School. I want to take this opportunity to update you on the actions we are taking to protect them as well as undocumented students and faculty.

  • As stated in the recently passed resolution from our Board of Trustees, we will not disclose any person’s citizenship or immigration status, nor will we cooperate with immigration authorities unless forced to by a court order or warrant.
  • International Student and Scholar Services has been staying abreast of changes, communicating with affected individuals, and offering free workshops and sessions with immigration lawyers.
  • The university will make individual legal consultations available without charge to students from the seven countries named in the recent executive order and, when necessary, will make appropriate referrals.
  • Our admission team is reaching out directly and individually to all prospective international students and their families to offer reassurance that we are undaunted and remain committed to global diversity and inclusiveness.
  • In addition, students, faculty, and staff have taken the initiative to write me about additional ways the university can protect undocumented students, and I am meeting with a representative group next week to collaboratively prioritize and act on as many of their suggestions as we can.

We are also working hard to safeguard intellectual, academic, and personal freedom by ensuring that the university’s voice is heard at the highest levels, including by policymakers and government officials.

  • The New School is among 600 universities that have signed a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly expressing concern over the executive actions on immigration taken by President Trump’s administration.
  • In solidarity with more than 630 other university presidents, The New School has signed this statement in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
  • I recently wrote about these important issues in The Huffington Post.

In addition, our faculty are addressing the changing political landscape from an academic standpoint. Each week, as part of our Post-Election America lecture series, faculty members are discussing the most pressing issues facing our nation. Scholars from The New School and all over the world have been submitting work at an extraordinary pace to Public Seminar, the curated online forum hosted by The New School for Social Research.

Many members of our community have participated in rallies, marches, and other forms of public demonstration taking place outside of The New School. We understand that more public protests are being planned in the weeks to come and some may occur while the university is open and classes are in session. The administration continues to support participation in these events, given their personal and academic value, and asks that students and faculty respect our standard policies for class attendance and that staff do so in consultation with supervisors and in accordance with policies for absences and leave.

I am inspired by the commitment and compassion of the New School community. You should all feel empowered to express your opinions about political and social issues and to act on them. A variety of cultural, political, ethnic, racial, and religious perspectives — and diversity in all its forms — add immeasurably to the level of our scholarship, creativity, and ability to engage effectively with the most complex issues. Whether or not you choose to participate through writing, public events, rallies, or other activities, each of you should be guided by your own personal values and beliefs, with the reassurance that all are welcome and valued at this university.

David E. Van Zandt, President

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