Welcome to the Start of the Semester
A message from Dr. Dwight A. McBride, President and University Professor
Welcome to the spring semester! I hope the New Year is off to a great start for you, and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on Zoom in the weeks and months ahead.
Yesterday’s holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an opportunity to reflect on our values, our progress, and the distance we still have to go to become a more equitable, just, and inclusive society. We know that The New School has a tremendous contribution to make to this work through our distinctive academic and creative strengths, our orientation to inclusive excellence, and the abundant passion and commitment that are so much in evidence here.
That is why it is especially gratifying and motivating to start this semester with the recently announced major support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Most notably, the largest grant the university has ever received from the Mellon Foundation will enable us to significantly increase the demographic and intellectual diversity of our professoriate in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences. Beyond providing critical resources to undertake this exciting initiative, this recognition from the Mellon Foundation affirms our work and commitment to advance racial justice and inclusive excellence through scholarship.
Recent events in Washington, D.C. have done much to focus our attention on the central principles of democracy and justice, perhaps too long taken for granted. Many of us have been riveted to the developing news since the horrific assault on the Capitol on January 6, and we are deeply concerned about the implications for the U.S. and its democratic principles. Tomorrow, we will witness the ceremonial transfer of presidential power—an occasion we hope will proceed with the dignity, respect, and peace it deserves. As time moves forward, we will learn more about the historic events of January 6 and the aftermaths. We will come to know more about those involved and the depth and reach of that involvement. We will also continue to examine the ideological differences and deep partisan and racial divisions that so clearly thread through these recent events. And we will begin to advance ways of rebuilding our democracy, along with the forums for necessary civic and civil discourse, which are key to its strength. I anticipate that many New School class discussions, research initiatives, projects, programs, and forms of creative expression will engage these broader themes. We can be proud of how we actively connect our educational mission with the issues of our time, connect with the world around us, and strive to contribute to the greater good.
We also begin this semester with much of the world still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. The progress of vaccinations offers hope and optimism but will require continued patience as the supply chains and delivery systems rapidly develop to meet the enormous need. Please keep abreast of changing guidelines and take steps to receive the vaccine as soon as you are eligible. We’ll continue to share updates that have a direct impact on the university community. Until more people are vaccinated and the spread of COVID is under control, the virus continues to pose grave danger. That is why we must continue to rely on the vigilance of everyone in our community to do everything possible to minimize risk to ourselves and others. I thank you all for the incredible maturity, flexibility, and consideration you are demonstrating.
We are beginning to look toward the fall with cautious optimism and focusing on the questions, needs, and challenges to be addressed as we prepare to significantly reopen our New York City campus. We have learned a great deal this year through urgent and necessary adaptation. For example, we understand more about the capacity and potential of online learning. We also have seen in some areas the advantages and possibilities for remote administrative work. Our goal is to take what is best about these adaptations and use them to create an even better overall university experience—one that first and foremost values and centers our academic mission by fostering personal interaction, offering flexibility, and providing excellent support and service to our students.
The work to address the financial impact of COVID on the university will be ongoing. Last year required difficult and wrenching decisions. There were divergent views in our community about some of the steps taken, and there was a desire expressed by many to more fully understand and participate in planning. What emerged very clearly was the need for us, together, to continually improve how we collaborate and communicate.
I have listened carefully and heard clearly that there are strong views, values, and aspirations we share for our university. There is a collective desire for equity in the way we operate and humanity in how we serve. We all want to foreground, connect, and support what is great about a New School education and the distinctive research, design, creative work, and achievements of our faculty, students, and alumni. There is also a firm understanding that we need to strengthen and further develop mechanisms to expand resources that better support and elevate this work and amplify the contributions we are making.
It is these aspirations I would like to bring more fully into focus this semester. Moving toward a strategic planning process will help us to articulate, prioritize, and make our shared goals actionable, in ways that will make a significant, positive, and lasting difference. We have not yet laid out the framework for our planning process, but a few things are clear and certain: we will take the time we need to do it well, avoid rote or expedient approaches, and use this process to invite participation, build community, and advance what’s best about The New School. You’ll be hearing more about this work in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe, productive, and happy semester. I look forward to our work together.
Onward and upward!