November 18, 2011
As I informed you a few weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street has engaged many members of the university community. I would like to update you on a situation that has occurred over the last several hours.
On Thursday at about 5:00 p.m., a group of protesters left the Student Week of Action rally in Union Square headed down Fifth Avenue for Lower Manhattan. When the NYPD blocked Fifth Avenue at 14th Street, a group entered 90 Fifth Avenue, a privately owned building on the corner of 14th Street that houses our Student Study Center. After the crowd dispersed and the majority of protesters continued their march downtown, the group at 90 Fifth remained and posted signs on the window in support of OWS.
Tim Marshall and I entered the building to speak with the protesters. While they were clear that this is not an action against The New School, they refused to give up the space. In a courteous exchange, we reached an agreement that The New School would not have the protesters forcibly removed at this time. In turn they agreed that they would not disrupt classes, interfere with other tenants in the building, or violate its legal occupancy limit. I reiterated my expectations that they make theirs and others' safety a priority, that damage to our property would not be tolerated, and that there should be no disruption of other students' access to any of our educational programs (other than studying in the Student Study Center). The lines of communication between us remain open; so far we have been able to resolve satisfactorily the issues that have come up.
I recognize that this is a considerable inconvenience to our students and others who work in and use the Student Study Center; our primary responsibility is to our students and maintaining unimpeded access to education. We have arranged to extend access to the Fogelman Library second floor reading room tonight and tomorrow night. Beginning on Sunday, the end-of-semester schedule begins with more broadly extended hours.
While the university takes no position in this or any movement, The New School supports free expression and the right to protest. Communities around the world are responding in sympathy to those who feel that their voice has not been heard. While it is not without cost, providing a space for those voices is part of our unique mission.