Friday, April 24, 2009

Parsons Pink Slips Responds to Provost Marshall message of April 22, 2009

Message from the Provost on Parsons Fine Arts Faculty

Peter and Laurence boldly respond – i.e. our response is in bold face

NEW YORK, April 22, 2009 -- The following is a message from Tim Marshall, the Provost of The New School regarding recent events in the Fine Arts program at Parsons:

I am writing to you with an update on the situation in the Parsons Fine Arts program. Since our letter of April 8, 2009, we have heard from many people on the changes that are being enacted in the program. While there is considerable enthusiasm for the general direction we are moving in, there has also been concern voiced by some valued members of our faculty community. Our failure to consult and communicate adequately as we strive to broaden our Fine Arts program is simply that: a lack of communication and participation. I am committed to improving the former and working to create the conditions to enable the latter.

Except it was not quite that "simple". Under cover of a failure to consult and communicate adequately the administration managed to deprive 12 faculty members of their jobs and without consultation to turn the curriculum on its head. Thus it is hard to believe that the failure to communicate wasn’t by design.

All annual faculty who were not assigned teaching in the Fine Arts program due to the curricular changes will be offered alternate teaching assignments appropriate their expertise. In addition, we will make every effort to offer appropriate teaching assignments to non-annual faculty. This intention was not made clear in the original memo that was sent out, which followed a more standardized protocol. We should have personally engaged the faculty about these pending changes. I want to offer my sincere apologies for these shortcomings and the discord it has caused. I will be working with Human Resources and all the New School divisions to improve this communication process so that all faculty members are properly acknowledged for the positive contributions they make to our academic community. Out-of-context quotes implying that we see these kinds of changes as "business as usual" are inaccurate.

The apologies of the Provost are most welcome but appropriate teaching assignments for Annual Faculty should be found in their own departments first as per the union contract. Less senior faculty should not be offered teaching assignments over equally or more experienced faculty. Additionally, the removal of three senior faculty from teaching assignments that are still being offered may ring of ageism. We welcome a serious effort to replace course loads for all of our colleagues however difficult it is to believe that this was the intention of the administration all along. No hint of such intention existed prior to the press coverage and valued support offered by academics, students and artists all across the country. Could there be, we wonder, a connection between press coverage and the administrations clarification of intentions? We believe that our valued colleagues should not have lost their jobs in the first place. The "business as usual" quote can be found in The New York Times article from April 3rd and judged on its own merit.

In order to transparently remedy the situation in a timely manner, we have established a faculty taskforce (including full-time and part-time members) led by Sven Travis, Dean of the School of Art, Media and Technology (AMT). This taskforce will engage in a fuller conversation about all curricular changes within the Fine Arts program that were approved by the Parsons Curriculum Committee earlier this year. They will review both the content and implementation of these changes.

As of this moment there isn’t a task force in place. There are reservations on the part of the faculty and the union because of the suggested presence of both Print Department faculty (a transparent attempt to boost the number of faculty in the Fine Arts Department and thus minimize the significance of the numbers fired) and the embattled Chair, Coco Fusco. It is also unclear whether the task force will be empowered to reverse the firings and make curricular changes or will simply be a PR stunt to give the appearance of engagement.

I am convinced that the Fine Arts community at Parsons is poised to become stronger than ever. We are deeply committed to enrolling the most talented and diverse incoming class possible, and have made great strides toward that end in this past year. In a delicate economic climate like the one we currently face, it is imperative that we all do everything possible to succeed on this front. The good news is that the MFA has seen an upswing of interest, with applications at historically high levels and with more accepted students depositing earlier than in the past.

The " upswing in interest" and "the historically high levels" of applications should be the final argument for the success and superiority of the existing program. What excuse could there be for displacing the very teaching assets who made this success possible especially given the "delicate economic climate" we all face? The "good news" also applies to the BFA program whose extraordinary students continue to succeed and represent Parsons admirably in graduate programs, residencies and the larger art world.

As Fine Arts expands its influence across Parsons, we envision many possibilities for new cross-disciplinary, curricular, and extra-curricular models. To support these ambitions, we will be creating a new Inter-Media Initiative within the School of Art, Media, and Technology to assist in the development of these projects in the years ahead. In order to enable AMT to undertake this work, we will soon be announcing a new administrative structure for the Fine Arts program moving forward.

The existing faculty of The Fine Arts Department have embraced change and look forward to the expanding role of fine arts at The New School. We hope that new initiatives are not a Trojan horse to create a design-centric curriculum which is both at odds with the unique qualities of the Fine Arts department and a limited view of the larger art world. In keeping with your commitment to open communication and participation any new initiatives should include the full involvement of the faculty. The absence of any specifics in your announcement of a new Inter-Media Initiative and a new administrative structure makes these proposals seem less than transparent – indeed hollow.

In sum, we can and will learn from our mistakes, and we appreciate the time and energy many faculty have invested in working to better the situation. I ask that you join us in building the best possible program to welcome a great incoming class in Fall 2009.

No argument there.

Tim Marshall
Provost, The New School

Peter Drake and Laurence Hegarty


Rebecca Curry, Parsons MFA 2009 Graduate

“I'm interested in power and institutional structures, and for me I often like to direct attention to them in different ways. This project was a light way of emphasizing the competitive spirit to artschool, along with the division and Parsons' specific structure of different educators and their students. This is for my wonderful educators and also, teachers in general, who deserve to have a bit of cheerleading and support, just like us.” - Rebecca Curry

GO TEAM was presented on April 24, 09, the final class day of CORE at Parsons Fine Arts MFA.
All the teachers/coaches currently are Core Faculty this semester.

For additional information:

More...Parsons Fine Arts Rally Day

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


School Wide Rally to Save Parsons Fine Arts Dept.

Support Our Union!
Support Parsons Fine Art Faculty!

When: Thursday, April 23, 12-1 pm

Where: Directly in front of the New School administration building at 66 West 12th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York City)

What: ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union of part-time faculty at NYU and the New School, will sponsor a rally protesting mass dismissals of arts faculty at Parsons the New School for Design.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Upcoming Parsons Fine Art Student Shows

Come out and see the great work of all these
"soon to graduate" artists.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pre Rally Prep (before Thurs. April 23)

Your chance to help, your chance to show support.

Along with coming out this Thursday at noon for the rally you can pitch in and help in other ways.

Tuesday 4/21
11am to 8pm

113 University Place, 6th floor
Conference room

Wednesday 4/22
10am to 12pm (calling press -- Very Important!!!!!!!!)
12pm to 5pm (membership outreach)
113 University Place, 6th floor

Thursday 4/23
8am to 10am

113 University Place, 6th floor

See you there!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New School Free Speech

The protests of April 10th at the New School are part of an ongoing pattern of opposition by both students and faculty to the policies and practices of the administration of Bob Kerrey.

The over-reaction of the Kerrey administration to the occupation of 65 Fifth Avenue is symptomatic of a top-down policy of intimidation and unilateral thinking that is reflected in the recent mass firings of Parsons Fine Arts faculty.

In this regard it is of note that multiple attempts by Parsons Fine Arts students to engage with the administration to initiate dialogue and solicit information about the firings have been met with obfuscation, double-speak and finally blatant attempts at intimidation.

In a recent meeting of undergraduates it was reported that an administrator threatened to “spit in the face” of any student who “leaked news to the press”.

More than inappropriate, statements like these have a chilling effect on academic discourse and set an intolerably low standard for free speech.

Letter from a Concerned Parsons Parent... We wonder what response they received?

I am writing to express my dismay over the article in yesterday’s New York Times, which details a one-third cut in your Fine Arts faculty. The timing of this article is remarkable. It was published the day after my daughter told me and my wife that she has declared Fine Arts as her major. She is completing her freshman year in the BAFA program, but her true passion is art, and she has been excited about studying art in the Parsons milieu, even though, as she said, she thought the kids in the Fine Arts major were treated as sort of black sheep.

She loves Parsons and what she sees that it stands for (or has stood for up to now). But I would not be surprised if, before long, she comes to realize that her pursuits will not really be honored at Parsons, and that she had better think about transferring to SVA or Pratt, even though she’d not be able to pursue a BA there.

I realize we are in tough economic times but I am, I have to say, amazed that you have allowed Fine Arts to take such a hit, rather than spreading the pain around to all the departments and programs.

So I must ask you, please, to tell me the truth: Are you abandoning Fine Arts and a Parsons tradition?

Should I be advising my daughter to switch to another art school, or perhaps pursue a double major at Hunter?

Yours truly,

Thursday, April 9, 2009


On March 10, a dozen part-time faculty members in the Fine Art Department at Parsons the New School for Design received notice that their teaching contracts will not be renewed for fall 2009. ACT-UAW Local 7902 protests this unjust action and deplores the administrative mentality it represents. The union has filed a number of grievances related to the dismissals, but contract violations are only part of the problem.

Administrators are trying to hide behind a smoke screen of "curricular change" and other management priorities to justify what amounts to the decimation of a department and the devastation of a faculty. This is both ethically wrong and institutionally counter-productive. It is needlessly cruel to hard-working faculty members at a time of terrible economic insecurity. It is also a terrible management decision, one that plays havoc with students' need for a stable, experienced faculty and a robust curriculum in subjects such as painting and drawing. It has set alarm bells ringing in the wider arts community, generating numerous statements of support for the Fine Art faculty and condemnation of the administration's actions from cultural institutions in New York and beyond.

At a critical time for labor locally and nationally, this inflammatory move strikes a blow at our entire membership as we head into contract negotiations, with our current contract set to expire on September 1, 2009. Unfortunately, there is considerable truth in Interim Provost Tim Marshall's remark to a New York Times reporter that these dismissals are "very typical of what happens in the school every single semester, all the time, all over the place." The Provost's comment, and the dismissals themselves, signal all New School part-timers (89% of the total university faculty) that we are viewed by the administration as expendable. Apparently our talents, experience, and past contributions count for nothing in the face of corporate-style "innovation" from above. We view this attitude as part and parcel of the problems that led to the December, 2008 New School faculty vote of "no confidence" in the administration of President Bob Kerrey.

We call on Coco Fusco, the Chair of the Parsons Fine Art Department, to make a course correction and re-appoint the affected faculty. We call on Provost Marshall and the Deans to embrace a model of change that includes substantive involvement of all sectors of the faculty, part-time and full-time, in the planning process. We call on President Kerrey to honor his recent commitment to accord part-time faculty a meaningful voice in decisions affecting curriculum. By drawing on the creativity and capacity for innovation of proven faculty, the university can--and must--break exciting new ground while preserving successful programs' existing strengths so as not to short-change our students.


Artnet News
Apr. 3, 2009


Is political artist Coco Fusco, new chair of fine arts at Parsons the New School for Design, presiding over a purge of its arts faculty? It certainly feels like it to some Parsons art professors. On Mar. 10, between one-third and one-half -- the exact number is in dispute -- of the fine arts faculty at Parsons received letters from Fusco’s office either terminating their teaching assignments for the 2009-2010 term, reassigning them out of the department or sharply cutting their hours.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Parsons Faculty Is Cut Amid Protests by Artists

Parsons the New School for Design Criticized for Faculty Cuts -

A dozen members of the fine-arts faculty at Parsons the New School for Design have been told that they will not be teaching in the department in the fall.



This past week approximately 1/3 of the Fine Art department faculty at Parsons the New School for Design received email notices that there were no classes for them to teach in the coming academic year. This action was taken just before spring break so that there was no way to mobilize the Parsons community. This was done in an atmosphere of complete secrecy.

The teachers who were fired all have excellent reputations and exceptional student evaluations. Teachers who were vulnerable because their union status was probationary appear to have been targeted by the administration regardless of performance. However, some of those summarily fired have served as a distinguished and devoted faculty who have given their time and energy to Parsons for many, many years (in some cases as much as 20+ years). The adjunct faculty fought hard to unionize in 2005 and the Kerrey administration fought hard to prevent it. We were successful and the UAW now represents the adjunct faculty at Parsons. To varying degrees this protected a good number of the faculty – or so we thought.

This would be UGLY under any circumstances but it is particularly ugly in this economy. It is also particularly hypocritical –and socially irresponsible– for an administration and a school that prides itself on its progressive history to take it upon itself to undermine a union so capriciously.
You may have heard or read about some of the chaos that surrounds President Bob Kerrey’s stewardship of the New School. The New York Times and The Village Voice (see links) have written about it extensively. There have been multiple firings of Provosts, a vote of no confidence in the president, student occupations of campus sites and overall considerable unhappiness amongst the students and faculty.

Despite all this the Fine Arts Department enrollment has been consistently increasing these past five years. The department has been healthy and the community of students and faculty has been lively and progressive.

We wrote a letter condemning these actions and the vast majority of the Fine Arts faculty signed it. (Some could not be reached precisely because this was all done during the spring break) As the present administration fears more additional negative press it is OUR HOPE THAT YOU WILL JOIN OUR EFFORTS TO REVERSE THESE ACTIONS BY WRITING AN EMAIL TO THE ADDRESSES LISTED BELOW.
We have included the original text that our Fine Art faculty sent as its petition. Please feel free to cut and paste from it for your email.

We would also be grateful if you pass the word on to any other concerned academics, artists, union members or –especially– members of the press.

Warmest regards and many thanks,
Peter Drake, Laurence Hegarty
Adjunct Faculty
Fine Arts Department
School of Art, Media and Technology
Parsons the New School for Design
25 East 13th street
New York, NY 10011

Please identify your email in the subject line,
"We stand opposed to the mass firings at Parsons"

President Bob Kerrey <
Provost Tim Marshall <
Parsons AMT Interim Dean Sven Travis <

*and please BCC to: and


We the undersigned hereby affirm our opposition to the summary firing of our valued colleagues from the Parsons Fine Arts department. These fellow teachers and artists have given their time and energy to Parsons for many, many years. They, like all adjunct faculty at Parsons, have worked many hours beyond their contractual commitments and have provided scholarship, skill and guidance to countless students. Furthermore to not rehire faculty in this economic climate is both cruel and socially irresponsible.

While we support the innovations of the school of Art, Media and Technology we cannot do so at the expense of our colleague's livelihoods. We therefore insist upon an immediate reversal of aforementioned summary firings.

Solidarity Emails

As artists and as the faculty of the Visual Arts Division at Columbia University we stand united in expressing our dismay at the recent firings (and demotions) of so many talented artist/educators in the visual arts program at Parsons The New School of Design. The suddenness of this wholesale action coupled with the clear lack of prior dialog makes these firings particularly grievous. But even more troubling is that these decisions were made during a period of crisis for all cultural institutions in this city and beyond. Whereas arts foundations, schools and related institutions are all banding together to weather the economic storms, it is clear that the leadership of Parsons The New School for Design is acting in quite the opposite manner promoting what appears to be a position which is anti-artist, anti-arts education and frankly anti-culture.
Parsons is one of most respected art schools in this city and its visual arts faculty are all working artists with high levels of professional accomplishment---they are also serious and dedicated art educators. Many have given years of service to Parsons and this shabby treatment will not go unnoticed in New York’s cultural community.

We urge the leadership of the school to revisit these actions. Now is the time to stand behind your faculty and to bring them into dialog. Mass dismissal is simply unacceptable.

-Visual Arts Division,Columbia University

I am appalled to hear about the firings of adjunct faculty at Parsons, decisions taken without any faculty consultation, and under the cloak of the spring break. I hope these layoffs will be reconsidered at a time when employers are exploiting the fiscal crisis to undermine faculty unions.
-Chair, NYU-AAUP Chapter, Chair, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU

As a former Board member of the College Art Association (CAA), a
Professor in Visual Culture at NYU and a member of the New York City
art community, I write to protest in the strongest possible terms the
mass firing of instructors in the Parsons Fine Arts department.

These teachers and artists have given their time and energy to
Parsons for many years and deserve far better treatment. They, like
all adjunct faculty at Parsons and in academia in general, have worked many hours beyond their contractual commitments and have provided scholarship,
skill and guidance to countless students. As the CAA notes in their
guidelines for part-time employment, their expertise should be valued.

Much has been said about the changing mission of Fine Arts at Parsons
and that is of course appropriate to any institution of higher
education. However, those who were hired under the previous mission
should be given the opportunity to work out a place in the new
framework, as per CAA guidelines. The suggestion that other
departments at Parsons or the New School might hire these art
instructors is not much better than flippant.

Finally, to dismiss faculty in this economic climate is both cruel and
socially irresponsible. I ask that you immediately reverse these
summary firings to preserve what is left of the good name of the New
School and Parsons.

-Professor,Media, Culture and Communication,NYU (in personal capacity)

As a museum professional involved in the visual arts for almost forty years—and as a human being witnessing the “collateral damage” (i.e., layoffs and firings) of an economy collapsing under the weight of its own greed and self-interest—I strenuously object to the summary firing of faculty from the Parsons Fine Arts department. Like Brandeis’s decision to sell off the collection of its Rose Art Museum, your actions are short sighted and contrary to a great university’s mission. I urge an immediate reversal of aforementioned summary firings.
-Director of Adult Programs and Public Relations Manager, Parrish Art Museum

Not so great to fire so many of the faculty in one of your units that has performed so beautifully for the past several years. Not so fair, and not so useful to the reputation of the school. It is increasingly embarrassing to have the New School for a neighbor.
-new york university, anthropology/religious studies,co-director of the center for religion and media

I am writing to protest the summary firing or reassigning of faculty
in your fine arts department. I teach studio art at Bates College and
over the years I have encouraged students to go to Parsons as
undergraduate students, and I have sent several students to Parsons
graduate programs in painting and sculpture.

I know from those students that several of the faculty who have been
dismissed or reassigned from graduate to undergraduate courses are
highly regarded as teachers, advisors and artists, and that they have
real followings among students and alumni. I have been comfortable
sending students to Parsons because of what my students have told me.

The New School's reputation is plummeting because of the way it is
being managed. I urge you to rescind what appears to be a unilateral
decision to fire and reassign your faculty studio.

-Senior Lecturer in Art and Visual Culture

As a member of the fine art community and someone who had the pleasure to speak at Parsons, do studio visits with the students and
have classes visit my gallery, I have always been impressed with the
school, it's students, teachers and programs. In fact, whenever I am
approached by young people and their parents asking my opinion of the
many art schools out there, I have whole heartedly recommended
Parsons as an excellent choice - in particular because I believe
that the variety and dedication of the faculty truly nurtures a young
artist's spirit.
I was dismayed to hear of the recent firings and disappointed by the
names on that list. You have decimated your rich, passionate
collective of teachers to the detriment of your students, reputation
and future. Competition among art schools is so tough and costs are
so high students really do have many choices. Parsons has been a
leading school for some time. It would be a shame to see the negative
publicity and rash firings derail the number and quality of students
seeking out an education at Parsons.

-New York Gallerist

In 2005 I graduated with my MFA from the Parsons Fine Arts department. It's a degree and an education I value deeply, and chose to attend for it's strong focus on student development of their own practice, critical discussion and reading, and freedom to pursue whatever artistic avenues arose.

I am in regular contact and artistic exchange with a number of former students (some of whom are now on faculty) and instructors.

The news of firings in the department is distressing, not least because I'm concerned about the loss of quality education this will inevitably cause, as well as the devaluing of the program. Parsons Fine Arts has been a highly reputed department, known as a thorough, intensive and open minded educational experience.

-MFA Graduate 2005

I join my colleagues at Parsons and beyond in their disapproval of the cynical and shortsighted firing of arts faculty in this time of economic crisis. Adjunct faculty and arts faculty are the least rewarded but also the 'least expensive' according to the student-consumer orientation of today's academy.
Too, adjunct arts faculty have long had an extremely productive relationship
with cosmopolitan institutions such as Parsons. An adjunct arts faculty is
precisely that which puts the lie to the old saying that 'those who can't do,
teach.' They are the practitioner-pedagogues that the rest of us wish we were.
Please do not use economic uncertainties as a smoke screen for the leadership
necessary in times like these. Parsons is too important to the future of NYC
and the future of the arts

-Department of the History of Science, Harvard University

My Parsons MFA experience was very rewarding due largely to the outstanding faculty. These summary firings are distasteful and disgraceful.
-Parsons MFA alumni

I am writing to address the unprecedented and egregious manner in which faculty of Parsons Fine Art Department of the New School were summarily dismissed. Despite what authority the administrators of the school may exert in their defense, it is disappointing that even institutes that claim to be promoting higher standards and new ways of working in society can resort to behavior so draconian. In hard times, it is those who respond to difficult choices with grace and foresight that lead the way, and it is disappointing to see the opposite of this occur in academic settings, where we hope individuals will lead the way. If the decisions cannot be entirely and completely reversed, I encourage the administration to consider their options for partial reversal, compensation, or other alternatives. I was a student of one of these faculty members and can attest to the professionalism and quality of instruction I received while in contact with said faculty member.
-Department of Art and Design,University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire

For an institution such as the New School not rehire faculty without departmental consultation and collaboration seems to be counter to your schools social policies it professes. Please reconsider this action.
-Professor of Art, Department of Art, Hunter College C.U.N.Y