A Marginalized Electorate
The university community generally ignored the University Student Senate’s Town Hall on Social Justice, held on December 1 at Tishman
Auditorium. The event was plagued by poor attendance, which could only be explained by a lack of public interest in its message. Regardless,
the initiative taken by the USS was still an example of how our student government at the New School does attempt to raise awareness about
issues that pose real consequences for the student body. As we head into the Spring semester, it would be encouraging to see student
representation continue to take similar measures that would aim for the betterment of the university community as a whole; measures benefiting
both the student and academic experience at our school. But from what we’ve seen so far, don’t hold your breath. A glaring lack of
organizational will at the university to propel such efforts forward make this look unlikely.
A lot of the responsibility for this shortcoming falls on the students themselves. Not only are we the ones who elect our representatives, but
we’re also expected to work with them in addressing matters that relate to our educational experience at the New School. If the public response
to the USS’ town hall was anything to go by, such student involvement has been absent for the most part. Common criticisms against the
university leveled by the student body are unwarranted if the students themselves don’t have the motivation to bring about change. More
students should attend USS meetings, Lang Student Union meetings, and the different gatherings taking place around the university’s multiple
divisions that influence and improve school policy in a variety of areas.
Increased student involvement would go a long way in altering an atmosphere of dissatisfaction from students toward the school’s function
and organization. This, of course, is not likely to happen. We’re far too concerned with our own individual preoccupations, not to mention our
studies, to bother; but it’s not entirely our fault. The perceived lack of cohesion amongst students across all divisions of the New School is
very real, and when any institution is unable to foster an air of inclusiveness in its community, you get results like a town hall on
social equity held in a near-empty Tishman Auditorium.
The importance of this lack of community cannot be overstated; it undermines efforts to garner support for positive measures, like an
effective diversity initiative or reform of the New School’s sexual assault policy. It is a sense of collective momentum which enables the
realization of such efforts, something we desperately could use as a student body. We’ve seen it before throughout the history of the New
School, with occupations and sit-ins used as a method to exercise student power and get the desired outcome. While such drastic measures
may not always be necessary, the same motivation that fueled these ideas is much needed in the university’s present climate.
The USS, the Lang Student Union, and our other bodies of student representation have power; they have size-able budgets and motivated
leaders who are more than willing to hear what students have to say about our experience at the New School. So maybe we shouldn’t be asking
what our student government can do for us in the coming months, but what we can do for our student government, and indeed, for our university.