As skirmishes over curriculum changes at Parsons continue between part-time faculty and administrators, two of The New School’s other divisions are experiencing changes of their own.
On April 16, The New School’s adjunct faculty union met with Provost Tim Marshall and other members of the administration in a two-hour closed meeting to discuss university-wide curricular changes that will come into effect in 2013. The proposed changes include the addition of an undergraduate program at The New School for Drama, as well as fiscal cuts at Mannes College.
The faculty at The New School for Drama returned from winter break to news from the school’s administration that the MFA program will shrink in size, and that an undergraduate division — the first in the school’s history — would be added in 2013. The New School for Drama currently enrolls around 36 first-year MFA students each year. According to Laura Maria Censabella, who teaches in The New School for Drama’s playwriting department, the MFA program currently plans to enroll a class roughly one-third of that size in Fall 2013.
“A lot of faculty feel disenfranchised,” Censabella said. “A top-down approach never works. Faculty will have to implement the changes that the administration dreams up, and if we are not on board, they are destined to fail.”
In an email to the Free Press, Pippin Parker, director of The New School for Drama, wrote that administrators had met “over the last few months, either individually or in groups, with about half of the part time faculty members to get their insight, assistance and expertise in curricular planning.” Parker said he plans to meet with the remaining members by the end of the semester.
Censabella noted that the chairs and directors of the program have shorter contracts than faculty members. “They introduce new changes then leave, and the part-timers are left to pick up the pieces,” she said. “Then a new administrator is hired and he or she wants to change everything again.”
In light of the changes, Censabella submitted a recommendation to create a curriculum committee at The New School for Drama, where part-time faculty would be elected to ensure their say in the process. Parker told the Free Press that the administration has agreed to the formation of the committee, which will be composed of 10 percent of the part-time faculty. “We anticipate formalizing and implementing that representational structure by the beginning of academic year 2012-13,” he wrote in an email.
Meanwhile, on the Upper West Side, instructors at Mannes College have raised their own gripes. Mannes Dean Richard Kessler has decided to eliminate private lessons for non-matriculated students within the Mannes Extension Division. At present, these students are able to take lessons at Mannes without having to be enrolled at The New School.
“In a recent town hall for Mannes faculty and staff from all three divisions, we spoke of the necessity of cutting the Mannes budget as part of overall cost reductions across The New School,” Kessler wrote in an email to the Free Press. While conceding that private lessons will no longer be available for non-matriculated students, Kessler noted that “lessons for Extension Division diploma students will continue as in the past.”
Mannes instructor Mary Barto expressed her disappointment at the administration’s elimination of music lessons for non-matriculated students. “Most of the students at Mannes who are currently taking private lessons are not taking them for credit,” she said. “They are fabulous students and we are going to lose them all.”
Barto estimated that 20 percent of part-time faculty at Mannes Extension may lose income, health insurance, and even employment as a result of the changes. She said that budget cuts are counter-productive, since many students who come to Mannes for private lessons end up wanting to enroll for more courses.
Reporting by Kayla Monetta