Exam-week insanity=no time for a real post, but the crazy upheavals and uprisings going on at my school while I’m sequestered here in my room with my head in the books is a little hard to ignore. Essentially, as I understand it, a rather complicated and long-building set of circumstances having to do with dissatisfaction with New School president, Bob Kerrey, vice president, Jim Murtha and other high ranking members of the school administration reached a point of critical mass last week, resulting in an almost-unanimous vote of “no confidence” from the school’s tenured faculty, and this week from the entire faculty of the university, a move modeled after actions taken by Harvard against its former president and current Obama appointee, Lawrence Summers. To make a long story short, students have been protesting publicly all week–there have been town hall meetings, a blog started by administrators to create another forum for discussion, etc. Kerrey, backed by a stacked board of directors, has refused to step down, despite obviously overwhelming public sentiment against him. Last night at 8:00 PM, a large group of students took over the graduate student center and as of now continue to be barricaded inside. New York City police have been brought in to try to disburse them, and there were reports of some students being forcibly removed from the premises and one girl being attacked by a New School security guard.
One thing that struck me immediately in looking at the coverage of these unfolding events, and something that I think is pertinent to the kinds of issues I’m interested in exploring on this blog, is how interesting it is to see the ways in which modern technologies have changed the face of protest. Looking at pictures of the event, it calls to mind the kinds of images everyone has seen of student protests from generations gone by–students holding hand-made banners and looking defiant, students standing on tables and shouting out strategy. Yet, the web presence of this movement reveals how different modern protest movements are. The first thing is the real-time coverage…there are students inside that building who are live blogging updates for those on the outside. Furthermore, students have continued calls on the internet–through their hastily constructed website and through email and comments on other blogs, to try to mobilize other students to come and join them as well as to try to mobilize greater news coverage, seemingly with some success. As I say, I unfortunately don’t really have the time at this point to fully explicate what the implications or significance of these changes are, but it’s just interesting to think–if these technologies had existed in the 1960s and 70s, a heyday of the “student protest/sit in”, how would that have changed things, altered outcomes, etc? Marshall McLuhan famously said that “the medium is the message”, so how do the changing media of communication and activism change the message and, by extension, the movements producing the messages, if indeed they do at all?
Links to coverage:
New School In Exile Blog (Protesters’ Blog)
New School in Exile Website (Protesters’ Website)
Protest At The New School Seeks Kerrey’s Ouster (New York Times)
New School Students Protest for President’s Ouster (US News & World Report)
New School Students Stage a Sit-In (Gothamist)
New School Student Occupation: Day Two (Gothamist)