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New School Students Hold Sit-in

New School for Social Revolution
Organizers at the New School in New York City recently formed a Radical Student Union there, and all signs point to them really knowing their shit; from what I've read and heard, they're doing all the right things. I got this press release via email:

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW SCHOOL STUDENTS HOLD SIT IN – DEMAND TO ADDRESS BOARD OF TRUSTEES

NEW YORK, NY – At 2pm this afternoon, New School students part of an organization called the Radical Student Union (RSU) along with members of the War Resisters League held a demonstration to demand university investment disclosure, the implementation of a committee on socially responsible investment, and removal of the treasurer of the Board of Trustees, Robert B. Millard. The demonstration started at L-3 Communications headquarters at 600 3rd Avenue and ended at the New School’s Arnhold Hall at 55 W. 13th Street where the Board of Trustees was having their last meeting of the semester. At about 5pm, after the request of the students for five minutes to present their demands to the Board of Trustees was denied, the protest became an impromptu sit-in when about 60 students entered the building and proceeded to fill the lobby demanding their requests be met.

Students were protesting the treasurer of the Board of Trustees, Robert B. Millard, because of his position as chairman of the executive committee of the military contractor L-3 Communications. L-3 Communications provides a large percentage of the “intelligence personnel” employed in illegal detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, and is currently facing four lawsuits from Iraqis tortured at Abu Ghraib. L-3 subsidiary, Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) also armed and trained both sides during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s and armed and trained the Georgian army prior to and during their attack on Russia.

Last semester, the RSU brought these demands to the attention of the university’s president, Bob Kerrey, when they held a demonstration against L-3 and Millard and attempted to attend a Board of Trustees meeting. At the demonstration they were granted a meeting with Kerrey—it was here where they fist brought their research and demands around investment disclosure, Millard, and the Socially Responsible Investment committee (SRI) to the attention of the President. However, Kerrey refused to disclose the university’s investments to them or anyone else and made it perfectly clear that he had no intention of ever letting students know what the university is invested in. He also made it clear that he had no intention of ever letting students sit as voting members of the board of trustees. The Radical Student Union believes this denies students an important right to have a say in their own education. Ironically, Kerrey hosted a conference on "Free Inquiry" and threats to academic freedom in late October while he is clearly the biggest obstacle to the free inquiry of students who care about the future of their university.

The students participating in the sit-in remained patient, relatively quiet and un-confrontational while they waited to see if the Board would grant their requests. Other students brought pizza and coffee to those participating in the sit-in. After about an hour, students realized the Board was not going to meet with them and they pushed into the blocked off area, passed the security guards and attempted to climb the stairs that led to where the Board was meeting. The security guards prevented the students from entering the meeting and the students began to lead chants around investment disclosure and the removal of Millard. The meeting, which was happening directly above where the students were chanting, was forced to move because of the demonstrators. The trustees’ coats and personal items at the coat check next to the students were passed up one by one to a staff member on the stairs. The students moved outside around 6:30pm when they realized a car was waiting at the basement exit of the building—the only alternative exit to the front door. The group disbanded around 7pm after most of the Trustees had left the vicinity. A security guard informed one RSU member that the Board of Trustees meeting, which was scheduled to end at 8pm, ended an hour and a half early, at 6:30pm.

“On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the university chose to hide itself instead of being accountable and open about its connections to human rights violating corporations like L-3,” said Slim Lopez, RSU member and University Student Senate Representative. “The New School markets itself on being a “progressive” institution with a commitment to social justice—yet its Board of Trustees includes members who are in direct opposition to this mission.”

“The fact that the board of trustees had to sneak out of the freight door entrance instead of talking to the students is very telling of their need to keep students out of the decision making procedures of the university,” said Kate Griffin, another RSU member and University Student Senate representative. “They know they are in the wrong and they know our demands are legitimate.”

“The demonstration today has proven that students in the United States are not passive and apathetic,” said Ronnie Almonte, another RSU member. “The students at the New School will be an example to both public and private universities, city and nationwide, who demand legitimate decision making power in the management of their schools.”

The proposed SRI Committee on Socially Responsible Investing and University Self-Management would allow students, faculty, staff, and alumni to oversee the university trustees’ investment decisions and make sure that the university’s investments are in alignment with the ethical and social values of the New School. The committee would make decisions regarding whether or not an outside corporation meets the ethical criteria required for a contract with the University.

RSU is an education and social action student organization dedicated to restoring democracy in all phases of our common life. It seeks to promote the active participation of young people in the formation of a movement to build a humane and self-managed society free from poverty, ignorance, war, exploitation, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and all forms of oppression.

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For More Information:
Contact New School RSU via email:
NewSchoolForRevolution@gmail.com
Or visit us on the web:
RadicalStudentUnion.blogspot.com