Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Safe crossing

Well, New School history is out of our hands. We'd decided, as much out of political prudence as pedagogical principle, that we shouldn't be the ones wrapping up the class. Instead we had groups of students give "state of the university" addresses at a kind of town hall meeting, identifying important values and legacies and visioning where we should be in ten years. This, we thought, would be a good way of letting them use what they had learned in the class, and of showing us what it meant to them. But over the course of the semester this final town hall has grown, and so today we were in a large hall, and our (packed!) audience included the president, provost, several trustees and other dignitaries. It even ended up as the University's official 92nd anniversary event!

I was worried that the students would flake, it being end of semester, group assignments not being their thing, and our class being, after all, for many of them just a requirement. But all went swimmingly! Or at least there were enough students who took the assignment seriously to provide engaging presentations, some of them were very good indeed.

Where do they see us in ten years? More integrated, both between the university's various divisions and cultures (design, liberal arts, etc.) and their students, and between students, faculty and administration. We'll be limber, collaboratively engaged and linked by data-sharing, resource-pooling, expert advising and a culture of networking which includes alumni and a faculty engaged with the world beyond the university. We'll identify with The New School and its glorious legacy of creative forebears, rather than just with our divisions. We'll also be more diverse, socio-economically and also in worldviews, in part because we'll have found a way to be less expensive, maybe by expanding to Brooklyn! (I've made the suggestions sound both more unified and bolder than they were. Surely to the relief of the president, etc., nobody took up our invitation to "think big" and recommend a virtual university, a transnational one, a free one, etc., but that's probably for the best; they need it to work as more or less what it now is, as the group whose chosen title was "YOLO: You only live once," reminded us! We may be here in ten years but they won't.)

Once I realized it was going to be fine, I was quite moved by the pairs and triads of students from Parsons, Lang, NSPE and Jazz - a more ethnically diverse mix than you get in a representative Lang event - clearly enjoying each other's company, casually dropping names and ideas they'd learned in our class, and asking for more! We didn't reach everyone, but we reached enough. And people are already asking when we'll be teaching New School Century again. Spring of 2014, maybe...

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