The New School takes seriously its responsibility to be a good neighbor. In that spirit, I am writing to respond personally to the issues that have put The New School in the news recently and to inform the public about how our university is weathering the economic downturn Addressing the economy first, I am pleased to report that, despite the current economy’s negative impact on fundraising and investments, The New School’s financial position is secure. We expect to meet our enrollment and revenue goals this year and next. I want to assure everyone that the administration and faculty remain committed to building our university’s future and providing an outstanding education to our students.
The New School Will Increase Institutional Financial Aid
As a bright spot in the economic gloom, the university plans to increase institutional financial aid by nearly $9 million to help current students remain in school. Likewise, we will target additional funds to help new students come to The New School. We will also increase stipends to graduate assistants and teaching fellows.
The New School is partnering with Questbridge, a non-profit program that links low-income students with educational opportunities at some of the nation’s best colleges. We are also working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide full scholarships as part of the new GI program to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
I am also very gratified that the economic stimulus bill just signed into law by President Barack Obama provides significant new funding for Pell Grants to compensate for state budget cuts.
The New School’s Endowment
While our endowment income has suffered a decline similar to other institutions of higher learning, The New School depends on its endowment for just 4 percent of annual expenditures. Our students and faculty have reminded us that our investment choices matter. At their request, I have recommended to the board of trustees that an ad hoc committee of trustees, faculty, students, and staff be set up this semester to work toward establishing a Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee on the university’s endowment.
Shared Governance and Open Communication
I take seriously the vote of no confidence issued by the faculty in December. My office has responded quickly and strongly to address the concerns they voiced. With the goal of improving the shared governance and open communication within the university, I am meeting regularly with the deans, the student body and student senate, and the general faculty and faculty senate. At the request of our student senate, a committee of trustees, faculty, students, and staff will be set up this semester to explore the possibility and protocols for adding a student and a faculty non-voting representative to the board of trustees.
Strengthening the Role of the Provost
The faculty and students have expressed concerns about the role of the provost—a relatively new position in The New School’s history. Recently, the deans and I agreed to strengthen the authority of the university’s academic leader, and we have begun a search to find the best new provost for The New School. We expect the search to take approximately 18 months. During that time, we are agreed that an internal candidate should be made interim provost, and I look forward to announcing that appointment soon.
Expanding Academic Offerings
The New School will continue to develop and extend its academic offerings, in particular making new connections between and among graduate and undergraduate programs in design, liberal arts and social sciences, and the performing arts. We recently launched a new major in environmental studies and expect to begin an undergraduate program in international studies in fall 2010. Many other new academic programs are in planning stages.
The university has steadily grown its online curriculum. Crain’s New York Business has reported that our online learning program is “fast becoming a national model.” In the past two years, two degree programs were launched that can be completed entirely online, the MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and the AAS in Fashion Marketing. Enrollment in our online programs increased more than 27 percent in fall 2008.
Faculty Growth and Tenure
The New School is justly proud of its faculty. I am pleased to note that we will continue hiring additional full-time faculty members to support new and existing programs. We began this effort in earnest six years ago and have seen the number of full-time faculty members double to 340. The number of tenured faculty members has nearly tripled since I first came to The New School, and we continue our effort to extend tenure to all academic programs.
Building for the Future
The growth of our community places increasing demands on our facilities. To meet these demands, we are moving forward with plans for a new building at 65 Fifth Avenue. This building will join the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center and our newly opened Welcome Center to create a New School crossroads at 13th Street and Fifth Avenue. I understand that plans for any new building are of interest to our neighbors in Greenwich Village, and I will continue to keep the community informed.
As we improve our campus, we remain committed to lessening our environmental impact. The New School has signed up for the Mayor’s Challenge to Universities, which encourages local universities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. By the way, at the start of the challenge, The New School had the lowest levels of any institution.
The New School has been an innovative, creative and lively fixture of our Greenwich Village neighborhood for almost 90 years. We are committed to being a socially and environmentally responsible and supportive neighbor today and for years to come.
Thank you for your continued support of The New School.
Bob Kerrey is president of The New School.
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