Students demand 'POC-only space' at NYC university

Students at The New School in New York City are demanding that administrators set aside a space for people of color to “exist without the pressures of white supremacy.”

“Please support students of color @TheNewSchool @EugeneLang for a poc-only space on campus,” one student tweeted on March 27, along with pictures of posters reading, “Claiming Our Space,” and “Support Students of Color Demanding a POC-Only Space.”

“Students of color at The New School deserve a space. And not just a space that exists once a week or whenever our overtly white administration decides they want more diversity favors. We deserve a permanent space,” another student, going by “trashgawdd,” tweeted, urging readers to sign an attached petition.

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Titled, “Open Letter for Student of Color-Only Space at The New School,” the petition is sponsored by student leaders from SOC Weekly, Autonomous South Asian Collective, La XENTE, Queer Collective, and the Black Student Union.

According to the petition, administrators at The New School’s Eugene Lang College held a forum Friday “to discuss the coming renovations to Eugene Lang College buildings,” which was attended by a contingent of student activists demanding that the administration “designate space for people of color in the new Lang remodel, as well as make good on their past promises to improve the functionality of the Social Justice Hub for organizing purposes.”

Addressing Eugene Lang Dean Stephanie Browner, the petition states that “We are writing to once again articulate the needs of students of color,” claiming that “these are conversations that students have previously brought to the table without any serious action from Lang College.”

“We ask that The New School take our suggestions into account to either convert currently under-utilized space for students of color-only use and if not, to construct a student of color-only space within the upcoming Lang remodel,” the petition reads, adding, “We ultimately would like a dedicated, exclusive space for students of color.”

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The students also complained about the condition of the “Social Justice Hub,” a multi-room space “dedicated to the supporting [sic] anti-oppression/social justice organizing and marginalized student groups.”

Although the school pledged in 2014 to expand the resources available through the Hub, the petition claims that the Hub is currently “little more than a misshapen closet and auxiliary Parsons studio,” noting that student organizers regularly take it upon themselves to make the space more “welcoming” for classmates.

“In a university that (according to latest published data) employs less than 500 faculty of color in a workforce of over 2,000 and enrolls less than 3,000 students of color in a body of almost 13,000, spaces such as the Social Justice Hub and people of color-only areas are integral,” the document declares.

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“Segregation LOL? All I have to say is YIKES,” one user tweeted in response to the student’s tweet sharing the petition, prompting the student to elaborate on the reasons they believe a POC-only space is needed on campus.

“The New School is a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) that coins itself as an institution dedicated to innovation and inclusion. When it comes to students of color it does neither of those things,” the student responded in a picture of a typed statement.

“The New School doesn’t have a space dedicated to students of color. A space where we can organize. A space for us to have privacy under the errant white gaze at our school,” the statement continues, insisting that “requesting a POC-only space is not returning to segregation because it is not denying white people any opportunities.”

[RELATED: School offers ‘Social Justice House’ for wannabe activists]

“White spaces in the past, and even today, exist in order to oppress and reject poc. “POC-only spaces are responses to these spaces,” the statement claims, labelling the POC-only space, “a place for poc to exist without the pressures of white supremacy.”

The statement further alleges that “the administration does minimal for its POC students, both financially and socially,” complaining that the school has “allotted a closet-sized room for our Students of Color Weekly meetings, which usually have attendance of 20+.”

Campus Reform reached out to The New School for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication. This story will be updated if and when a statement is provided.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @rMitchellGunter