Messages to the Community

Welcome to the Spring Semester

A Message from Dr. Dwight A. McBride, President and University Professor

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to the start of a new semester. A special welcome goes out to the faculty, staff, and students who are new to our university community this term. May your New School experience be filled with exciting intellectual and creative challenges, proud achievements, and meaningful relationships.

For continuing members of our community, I hope that each of you had a restful and restorative holiday break. For me, and perhaps for many of you, the break provided an opportunity for reflection on last semester, particularly the difficult contract negotiations with our part-time faculty union, whose members are a valued and vital part of The New School. That experience surfaced long-standing, deep-seated issues and impacted all of us at the university. The university community as a whole suffered setbacks in terms of an erosion of mutual respect, rapport, trust, and confidence, including confidence in leadership.

Members of this community navigated a shared experience in many different ways and from different perspectives, and, regardless of where we stand, there is an opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow stronger together.

A large part of our work this semester will be to listen, understand issues and concerns, and find ways to strengthen shared participation in university planning and governance. Guided by a shared commitment to dialogue, we want to build on active interest in creating a more equitable and fair New School, willingness to question the status quo, and boldness to rethink aspects of the university higher education writ large.

Among the ways we will begin:

  • As the Faculty and Staff Senates expressed in their joint message last week, they will be bringing constituencies together for dialogue.
  • University leadership will be reaching out to all of the senates (faculty, staff, and student) to invite conversation about how we might do some of this work together.
  • I will also be asking the deans to help convene small groups of faculty to discuss issues that surfaced and how we can work together to address them.

These conversations will examine not only the experience of last semester, but also broader structural and cultural histories at The New School. We will also be taking a fresh look at processes such as strategic planning and annual budget planning that engage the university, and how we can improve upon those processes in ways that build more trust and confidence.

These conversations will also rely on open and respectful dialogue. The issues and ideas raised last semester were important; however, the tenor and style of engagement did not always reflect the university at its very best. At its worst, some of the messaging on social media even promoted racist and threatening imagery and rhetoric. And, while some individuals expressed feeling energized and empowered through protest and demands, others expressed a desire to engage differently and find common ground.

Every member of The New School community has unique contributions to make. And each of us brings particular histories and contexts to our work. Honoring and talking openly across differences is the only way to make progress that is inclusive. Indeed, in the politically contentious and divided times in which we live, universities, as spaces for robust critical thinking and dialogue, are beacons of hope for creating positive change.

Here’s to a semester that lifts up and moves forward what’s best about The New School.

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