The New York Times weighed in last weekend on the ongoing ordeal faced by longtime fine arts faculty at the New School, a large percentage of which have been put out to pasture as part of aggressive moves to modernize the department under new chair Coco Fusco [see Artnet News, Apr. 3, 2009]. Among other things, the Times article highlighted an email sent to the New School administration by members of the fine arts faculty at Columbia University, decrying the "suddenness of this wholesale action coupled with the clear lack of prior dialogue," and calling the developments at Parsons "anti-artist, anti-arts education and frankly anti-culture." The letter was signed by some prominent art-world names: Gregory Amenoff, Jon Kessler, Blake Rayne, Thomas Roma, Tomas Vu-Daniel and Kara Walker.
The Times article ignored, however, what many insiders consider the special significance of the letter. Fusco had taught at Columbia until she defected to Parsons last July -- so the fact that Columbia teachers have thrown themselves into the fray against their former colleague seems a statement in itself.
In the meantime, following the press coverage the matter has received, the United Auto Workers (which organizes adjuncts at the New School) has come to view the firings as an assault on the union, and is now planning a school-wide rally to "save Parsons fine arts department," though details of the effort are still being worked out. As an amusing side-note, the union has also come to frame the fight as a defense of the traditional arts (though affected teachers are at pains to stress that they are not opposed to an increased focus on technology itself). As Marie Dormuth of UAW local 7902 said, "We are concerned that the traditional arts, painting and sculpture and others, be heard." For updates on the struggle, faculty have begun a blog, fittingly titled www.parsonspinkslips.blogspot.com