NEW YORK (RSU) — On Wednesday The New School’s Radical Student Union, along with members of the War Resisters League, held a demonstration to demand university investment disclosure. The students also demanded the implementation of a committee on socially responsible investment and removal of the treasurer of the Board of Trustees, Robert B. Millard. The demonstration started at the headquarters of L-3 Communications, located at 600 3rd Avenue, and ended at the New School’s Arnhold Hall at 55 W. 13th Street where the Board of Trustees was having their last meeting of the semester. At about 5 p.m., after the students’ request to present their demands to the Board of Trustees was denied, the protest became an impromptu sit-in. Approximately 60 students entered the building and filled the lobby, demanding their requests be met.
Students were protesting the treasurer of the Board of Trustees, Robert B. Millard, because of his position as chairman of the executive committee of the military contractor L-3 Communications. L-3 Communications provides a large percentage of the “intelligence personnel” employed in illegal detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, and is currently facing four lawsuits from Iraqis tortured at Abu Ghraib. An L-3 subsidiary, Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), armed and trained both sides during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s and armed and trained the Georgian army prior to and during their attack on Russia.
Last semester, the RSU brought these demands to the attention of the university’s president, Bob Kerrey, when they held a demonstration against L-3 and Millard and attempted to attend a Board of Trustees meeting. At the demonstration they were granted a meeting with Kerrey - it was here where they first brought their research and demands around investment disclosure, Millard, and the Socially Responsible Investment committee (SRI) to the attention of the President. However, Kerrey refused to disclose the university’s investments to them or anyone else and made it perfectly clear that he had no intention of ever letting students know what the university is invested in. He also made it clear that he had no intention of ever letting students sit as voting members of the board of trustees. The Radical Student Union believes this denies students an important right to have a say in their own education. Kerrey hosted a conference on “Free Inquiry” and threats to academic freedom in late October. Ironically, many students see him as the biggest obstacle to the free inquiry of students who care about the future of their university.
The students participating in the sit-in remained patient and nonconfrontational as they waited to see if the Board would grant their requests. Other students brought pizza and coffee to those participating in the sit-in. After about an hour, students realized the Board was not going to meet with them and they pushed into the blocked off area, passed the security guards and attempted to climb the stairs that led to where the Board was meeting. The security guards prevented the students from entering the meeting and the students began to lead chants around investment disclosure and the removal of Millard. The meeting, which was happening directly above where the students were chanting, was forced to move because of the demonstrators. The trustees’ coats and personal items at the coat check near the assembled students were passed up one by one to a staff member on the stairs. The students moved outside around 6:30 p.m. when they realized a car was waiting at the basement exit of the building. The group disbanded around 7 p.m. - after most of the Trustees had left the hall. A security guard informed one RSU member that the Board of Trustees meeting, which was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., had ended an hour and a half early, at 6:30 p.m.
“On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the university choose to hide itself instead of being accountable and open about its connections to human rights violating corporations like L-3,” said Slim Lopez, RSU member and University Student Senate Representative. “The New School markets itself on being a “progressive” institution with a commitment to social justice - yet its Board of Trustees includes members who are in direct opposition to this mission,” he said.
“The fact that the board of trustees had to sneak out of the freight door entrance instead of talking to the students is very telling of their need to keep students out of the decision making procedures of the university,” said University Student Senate representative and RSU member Kate Griffin. “They know they are in the wrong and they know our demands are legitimate,” she said.
“The demonstration today has proven that students in the United States are not passive and apathetic. The students at the New School will be an example to both public and private universities, city and nationwide, who demand legitimate decision making power in the management of their schools,” said RSU member Ronnie Almonte.
The proposed Committee on Socially Responsible Investing and University Self-Management would allow students, faculty, staff, and alumni to oversee the university trustees’ investment decisions and make sure that the university’s investments are in alignment with the ethical and social values of the New School. The committee would make decisions regarding whether or not an outside corporation meets the ethical criteria required for a contract with the University.