[Marxism] Report on the New School sit-in

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 19 06:28:57 MST 2008


December 18, 2008, 4:30 pm
Protest at the New School Turns Unruly
By Colin Moynihan AND Trymaine Lee
Steven Zimmermann, 19, was ejected from a New School building occupied 
by students. He was not arrested. (Photo: Yana Paskova for The New York 

Updated, 1:26 a.m. | Protests at The New School, where a student 
uprising over the leadership of the university’s president, Bob Kerrey, 
led to clashes with the police and at least one arrest on Thursday 
morning, took another wild turn later in the day.

A little after 11:30 p.m., Mr. Kerrey emerged from a university building 
on Fifth Avenue south of 14th Street to a sea of a few hundred 
protesters chanting for his resignation. As Mr. Kerrey walked down Fifth 
Avenue toward 12th Street, about 30 protesters began following him, some 
of them shouting insults.

As the crowd’s pace quickened, so did Mr. Kerrey’s. Then, Mr. Kerrey, 
who lost a part of his leg in Vietnam and wears a prosthesis, broke into 
a run. The protesters gave chase. Mr. Kerrey turned left on a cross 
street and ducked into a brownstone.

At some point in the confrontation, a protester threw a tomato at Mr. 

It was another day of protests at the Greenwich Village university, 
where an overnight sit-in and occupation of a dining hall that began 
Wednesday night stretched into early Friday morning.

On Thursday morning, security guards and police officers got into a 
shouting and shoving match with students after the sit-in at the dining 

What began as a placid protest with the tacit permission of university 
officials became chaotic shortly after 10 a.m. as the students tried to 
expand their occupation to other areas of the building, which includes 
administrative offices.

City police officers removed some students from the building, and 
students rolled metal Dumpsters into the hall to block the police, who 
eventually moved back outside. The police said one person was arrested 
for disorderly conduct.

Mr. Kerrey, the former governor and United States senator from Nebraska 
who was given an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the 
university’s faculty in recent days, showed up at 11:30 a.m. asking to 
address the dissident students, but they voted not to hear him out.

The student demonstration began Wednesday evening in the ground-floor 
cafeteria, with about 50 of them staying overnight citing a list of 
grievances with the Kerrey administration, dating back to his early 
support of the Iraq war. They adopted a list of eight demands including 
a greater student voice in university affairs and the resignations of 
Mr. Kerrey; James Murtha, the executive vice president; and Robert 
Millard, treasurer of the board of trustees, who students said was 
connected to a private security firm working in Iraq.

“Once the faculty vote came out, we thought now is the time,” said Jacob 
Blumfeld, a graduate student in philosophy.

On Wednesday night, the students pushed wooden tables against the 
cafeteria’s front door and blocked a rear corridor to the street with 
heavy recycling bins. Marcus Michelson, also a graduate student in 
philosophy, said the sit-in was meant to show that the students were 
serious about having a seat at the negotiating able. “This is about 
starting a dialogue, and to do that you have to be seen as an equal,” he 
said. “People just don’t give equality, you have to take it.”

As the demonstration began, a university official told the students, 
“You’re going about this the wrong way.” Later on Wednesday, after the 
building’s official closing time of 11 p.m., a university security 
official, Tom Iliceto, warned them they were “here without authority” 
but said they could stay.

“Anyone who leaves will not be permitted to re-enter,” Mr. Iliceto said. 
“However, no one’s safety has been threatened and no property has been 
damaged. So long as this remains the case, we will permit you to remain 
in the building this evening.”

The students spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning painting banners 
with slogans like “Books Not Bureaucracy” and “New School in Exile,” a 
reference to the university’s origins as a haven for European 
intellectuals fleeing fascism.

Some students debated tactics; others gazed at computer screens or 
studied. Mr. Michelson read “On the Genealogy of Morality” by Nietzsche. 
Somebody else paged through “Early History of Rome” by Livy. A boombox 
blared music. Students alternated between catnaps on the wooden 
cafeteria floor and munching snacks delivered by supporters.

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