President David Van Zandt and Provost Tim Marshall hosted their third University Town Hall in the Eugene Lang building on Tuesday,
the latest in a series of discussions that Van Zandt’s administration has held in the hope of increasing transparency and communication within The New School community. Faculty, students and staff packed a standing-room only Wollman Hall for the event.
Van Zandt expressed optimism in the face of a $17 million shortfall in the university’s operating budget this year that has forced the university to take cost-cutting measures and reevaluate its expectations for institutional growth.
“The New School is not in a financial crisis. Financially, we’re very sound,” Van Zandt said, adding that the “most important thing in planning for the future is moving away” from the university’s previous growth model as implemented by former President Bob Kerrey’s administration.
Rather than make wholesale cuts across the university’s operating budget, Van Zandt said the university has “embarked on a strategic planning process” meant to address its financial constraints. He said that 75% of The New School’s budgetary cuts targeted administrative operations and that the university will keep cuts on academic operations to a minimum.
Van Zandt added that tuition wouldn’t suffer from the financial restrictions. The 2 percent tuition hike slated for the 2012-13 academic year is down from last year’s tuition increase of roughly 5 percent.
The town hall also touched on a number of student issues – particularly the arrest of NSSR student Cecily McMillan, which has made headlines around the world this week. The NYPD arrested McMillan at Zuccotti Park on Saturday evening for allegedly elbowing an officer in the face. McMillan, a student activist who attended an Occupy Wall Street rally at the site, was reportedly brutalized upon her arrest and suffered a seizure.
Van Zandt said the university had “reached out” to McMillan, and urged student protesters at The New School to be “as safe as you can possibly be.” However, when one student asked him if he would take a stand against the NYPD’s tactics used in McMillan’s arrest, Van Zandt remained noncommittal and said that the university was “still gathering information” regarding the situation.
Representatives from the University Student Senate and the University Faculty Senate briefly addressed the town hall, with USS senator Katherine Towell announcing long-term plans to turn the student study center at 90 Fifth Ave. into a student union.