Potentially Controversial Diversity Discussion Draws Little Interest, Less Attendance
Only about 40 people attended the event in the 500-seat auditorium
The University Student Senate’s town hall discussion on December 1 was undermined by poor attendance and a lack of interest from The New School community, dealing a blow to efforts to foster and promote social and academic diversity at the university.
The event came two weeks after the USS leaked “Desegregating Diversity: From Myth to Mandate,” a report commissioned by the provost but never intended for release. The report, put together by a committee of faculty, staff and students, criticized the university for neglecting to foster academic and institutional diversity.
“The New School, renowned historically for its openness and ideological ties to the Greenwich Village neighborhood,” the report said, “is not generally celebrated as a space where the battles, histories, and contributions of people of color or LGBT or queer people are held in high regard.”
Only about 40 people attended the event in the 500-seat auditorium. Other than Linda Reimer, vice president of student services, no senior administrators were present.
“I think this was a terrific event,” Reimer said. “I only wish that there had been many, many, many more people.”
Chris Crews, NSSR senator, said that students are generally apathetic toward social justice issues, but the event may have also been under-attended because it fell between Thanksgiving break and finals.
Anna-Karin Loureiro, USS co-chair and a member of the report’s working group, remained optimistic. “I am more focused on how excited I am about the people who did come and forming new alliances with those people,” Loureiro said.
Israel Scott, a second-year Drama student, called the event “a good step in the right direction,” but bemoaned the lack of administration presence.
The USS showed videos of student and faculty testimonies from the report. They described the difficulties of fostering a diverse and equally representative academic infrastructure. Coco Fusco, a Parsons professor, said that hiring minority faculty members does not necessarily translate to a more diverse learning environment or curriculum.
In his video, Lang student Andre Singleton said that institutional diversity is key at all universities.
“At the end of the day, you’re looking at someone who shares the same aesthetic and you’re like, ‘I can do that, that’s tangible,’ versus someone telling you, ‘You can do it,’” Singleton said in his interview.
Afterwards, members of various student organizations, including the Queerocracy, Students of the African Diaspora, and Project Palestine, discussed their commitment to social justice at The New School.
Participants were then asked to break into groups and discuss “what social justice at The New School looks like.” By around 8:00 p.m., an hour before the event’s scheduled ending time, the discussion ended.
The USS praised the administration’s appointment of Jesse Villalobos to the newly-created position of associate director of social justice initiatives, where he’ll be working from within the provost’s office. The appointment addresses the report’s first recommendation to “hire and charge a senior academic officer to coordinate, oversee and evaluate efforts for representation, social equity and excellence within the New School.”
Villalobos, who also co-chaired the report’s working group and was present at the event, said that while the agenda on social justice and academic diversity promoted by the USS was “broad and, in some ways, disjointed,” he believed that the administration, the provost’s office, and the social justice committee would continue to move the university’s diversity initiative forward.