Remarks at Convocation
September 9, 2004
It is an honor to be part of my first Convocation, as Provost, and to be in such wonderful scholarly company. We begin this academic year with high hopes, strong plans and exciting ideas. The University has made tremendous strides, under the leadership of Bob Kerrey and his senior staff, in growing our non-tuition revenues, in improving the size and quality of our entering classes, in strengthening our management systems and in focusing our vision for becoming truly a single University.
We have as strong an academic leadership team as we have ever had in the history of the New School. Of the eight persons who lead our academic Divisions, three have been with the University for some time and bring us the benefit of their experience and their advice as we deal with a number of important changes. The five other Deans, whom Bob has also introduced to you, constitute a stellar range of new talent.
The Deans are a critical part of the leadership of this University. They assure that the diversity of the Divisions is maintained and renewed and they make sure that their faculty is in touch with the best work in their fields. They balance difficult and elusive budgetary priorities and help to make sure that our curricula remain dynamic. They work to balance the needs for cooperation across divisions with nurturing the growth of their own disciplines and departments. They also work with their faculty and students to identify what is best about their programs and what needs changing. They are the eyes and ears of our academic leadership, and they have to be multi-talented. In this regard we are blessed with an exceptional group of leaders.
With the support of this team, the Office of the Provost hopes to make a series of important changes that will strengthen our academic planning, create a richer mix of full-time and part-time faculty, make more effective use of our classroom and public spaces, recruit the strongest new students and hire the very best faculty possible.
One specific goal of the Administration is to increase the incentives for joint hiring of faculty between and across Divisions. The Office of the Provost is currently working closely with the Deans to find the best ways to increase the number of faculty with homes in more than one Division. Since the faculty is the most precious resource of the University, increasing the number of joint appointments increases the likelihood that our curricula will truly reflect the rich interdisciplinary possibilities that exist across the Divisions.
We have set the basis for these joint hires by identifying a series of Bridge Themes - involving art and design, environment and market, cities and democracy, citizenship and the arts, which build on the strengths of our Divisions and make the riches of one program available to students from another. Thus our joint hires will be based on academic synergies, and at the same time they will assure the best use of our valuable resources in space and endowment.
President Kerrey has also made a major commitment to opening our doors to the wider world, by improving our intake of students from overseas, by hosting and stimulating public debates about global issues and by encouraging the faculty and students to see the world in New York and New York in the world. It is not easy to become a truly global University but we intend to do just this, by making more of our classes responsive to global dilemmas and debates, by looking internationally for faculty talent and by seeking students from around the world. In this way, we hope that the New School, which has always been oriented to the wider world, will remain a home to new ideas, new blood, new debates and new energies. We live in a world where ignorance of the world is a danger. We are committed to reducing that danger as far as we are able at this University.
Likewise, we hope to strengthen the natural sciences at the University, notably by building our interests in the environment, urban, national, regional and global. We recognize that we may not be able to build major research strengths in all the basic sciences. But we do believe that we can greatly improve the scientific literacy of our students, thus assuring that they are able to participate intelligently in the great debates of our times, such as those which surround genomics, intellectual property and the right to life, to name just three examples.
The aims I have just outlined in broad strokes are deeply consistent with our traditions of experiment, dissent and debate. They will let us take John Deweys idea of creative democracy into the 21st century and to find new resources for our imagination in it. We also remain fully committed to the great traditions of the University in Exile, now in the care of the Graduate Faculty. These traditions made us a haven for maverick intellectuals, for scholars fleeing totalitarianism and racist violence, and for some of the great thinkers of modern times. The New School is still known around the world for its courage in combining social action with serious teaching and research, and for its boldness in finding homes for thinkers and teachers at political risk in their own homes.
We seek to carry on these great traditions in this most exciting neighborhood in the worlds most fabled city. In this city, in the heart of Greenwich Village, each of our schools brings a special dimension - to the arts, to creativity, to social criticism, to continuing education, to cosmopolitan values, to public policy. Today we are taking on an even bigger question: can we continue these great traditions by becoming a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts? To rise to this challenge, we will need to be more creative, more clever with our resources, and even more adventurous than we have been in the past.
To these lofty aims the Office of the Provost promises to bring the standards worthy of this great University: a commitment to experiment and inquiry, tempered by a deep respect for knowledge, data and information as they already exist in our many disciplines; a commitment to making Lang College one of the truly great colleges in the country and beyond that to making all undergraduate education in this University attractive, disciplined and innovative. We also plan to bring the arts and design, already our great strength, into a stronger dialogue with the liberal arts, the social sciences and public policy. And we will assure that the research strengths of our graduate programs continue to enrich our reputation and the ideas that our faculty bring to the classroom.
But underlying all these aspirations is our commitment to great teaching. A great University can be neither more nor less great than its teachers. And we are blessed with many great teachers, among them those we are proud to honor today. The classroom is where we compose the symphonies that bring together ideas, methods, curiosity and discipline. Our great teachers are great composers and great conductors too, for they bring great scores to life. In celebrating and honoring our faculty, we also renew our commitment to teaching and learning as our central reasons for being.