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Finding A Way Forward

A message from Dr. Renée T. White, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Our university is at a crossroads. We have faced a period of tumult and discord that feels to me like the fabric of our university has been torn apart, but hopefully not irreparably. This is an opportunity for us to be courageous in building a vision of The New School that works for everyone: all part-time and full-time faculty, students, and staff. As President McBride shared, university leadership is committed to applying critical and rigorous thinking to develop creative solutions that bring equity and repair trust, and this must include deep input, involvement, and understanding from our entire community.

I am learning more every day about how our history and past experiences shape our present moment. There is a widespread need for reparative work that is grounded in care. Engaging in public dialogue is an important part of building a path forward together.

We have two important goals at this point: to find a way through to the end of the semester and to consider what comes next. I want to speak to each briefly here, and will follow up with more details in future messages as well as ensuring opportunities to meet in open forums.  

The Present

One of my priorities is to have the ACT-UAW 7902 and the university reach an equitable, inclusive and progressive agreement. It is essential that we reach a new contract with the practitioners, artists and scholars who make up our part-time faculty, and I am actively involved in the work needed to achieve that result. The information included in this compendium reflects where we are today.

I am also committed to finding the most productive way for students to complete the semester. We are responsible for our students’ learning and I am focused on that outcome. It is my hope that our plans will be understood in that context.

In the remaining weeks of this semester, we will follow one of two paths forward. If a contract is ratified, faculty will complete the semester. It is my hope that we will be able to reach agreement but in the event that we do not, we will ensure that students continue to make satisfactory academic progress. Under Department of Education regulations, students must make satisfactory academic progress to continue to be eligible for financial aid and visa status. I recognize and will honor the fact that we all feel the urgency to provide input to inform what options meet our values, align with our mission, and can be implemented. More details will be made available on Thursday.

The Way Forward

The past few years have laid bare a number of significant areas of concern that must be meaningfully addressed. Apart from the many issues associated with the current negotiations with ACT-UAW Local 7902, others are the result of ongoing systemic, institutional, and policy challenges. If we are to imagine and create a future New School that is a place for all of us, we have to acknowledge our current reality.

We must rethink and reimagine what The New School can and should be as a place of possibility for all of our faculty, students, and staff. This will require revisiting how many areas are managed at the university going forward including the following: curriculum and pedagogy, EISJ, a holistic student experience, shared governance, faculty development and research, cultivation of creative practice, plus community continuity and engagement. To build a truly inclusive and equitable institution, it is important to recognize the varied experiences of our faculty, staff, and students through our policy, practices, and ultimately everything we do daily.    

In my “First Year Reflections” I made a series of observations that I wish to reiterate. “There is a pervasive sense of hope and expectation, but I have found that cautious optimism and mistrust coexist, albeit uneasily. What remains the common thread in my meetings and conversations is that you care deeply about The New School and have elevated expectations of its leadership and one another.”  

It is within our fabric to engage in radical honesty and compassionate critique. Like you, I deeply care about The New School, and I want to reiterate my commitment to our faculty, students, and staff by listening closely to your concerns, aspirations, and ideas. We will need to work carefully and collaboratively to build spaces and forums that can repair harm, rebuild trust, and enable us to hold ourselves accountable for our shared future. I believe the way forward must reflect what we are hearing and what we have learned with empathy and honesty.

To facilitate dialogue and share information, forums will be held for students, faculty, staff, and parents this week; the schedule will be announced shortly.

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