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Workers and Students at the New School

In response to:

A Special Supplement: The Old School at The New School from the June 18, 1970 issue

To the Editors:

In their article, “The Old School at The New School” [NYR, June 18], Drs. Diamond and Nell declare that

Blue and white collar workers at the school were generally sympathetic to the strike. But after much discussion, their own immediate interests apparently prevented them from actively joining the students.

The fact is that the white collar workers of the New School passed the following resolution unanimously at a meeting on May 8, 1970:

The staff of the New School for Social Research supports the students and faculty in suspending normal academic activities and using the facilities of the New School as a base for antiwar organizing.

On May 5, our Chapter of Local 1707 held the first work stoppage in New York City to mourn for the Kent State University students and recommended to our Local and International Union that it organize national and city-wide work stoppage.

The New School administration believes this to be a time of extraordinary crisis and is allowing its facilities to be used for antiwar activities, including the organizing of city-wide work stoppages as a protest against the Nixon Administration’s genocidal policies. Our staff believes that we have a special commitment in helping the New School Work Stoppage Committee. While performing essential clerical functions, we will work on this activity during the normal working day.

We urge the administration, faculty, and students of the New School for Social Research to help us in organizing a city-wide work stoppage.

Unfortunately, the obliviousness toward staff by faculty exemplified by the above statement is not the exception to the rule, but the rule at The New School. The staff lost salary for the first work stoppage on May 5, and again on May 21 for a full day when many of us participated in the worker-student rally at City Hall….

Sylvia Price

Reference Librarian

The New School for Social Research

New York City

Stanley Diamond replies:

We regret that Mrs. Price feels that we have taken the “usual” pejorative attitude of faculty towards white collar workers in our interpretation of events at the New School. We deny that we have such an attitude, and we affirm the accuracy of the footnote to which she refers.

White collar workers took no official action en bloc in direct support of the strike at the New School beyond expressions of sympathy and sanction of the initial faculty-student-administration-trustee resolution, a cooperative enterprise which could be disintegrated, as we indicated. The first white collar work stoppage, at the beginning of the strike, to which Mrs. Price refers, took place on May 5 and lasted for two hours.

Participating staff had the choice of being docked in wages for the lost time, or having the time credited against leave of various sorts. Some New School white collar workers also participated in the May 21st rally at City Hall, which was not a local New School undertaking, but a citywide event.

More important than these emendations of detail is the central issue: workers, including the white collar workers at the New School, did not strike in sympathy with the students at any university in the country for any significant length of time, because such strikes would break the terms of their contracts and/or lead to suspension of pay, and possibly loss of jobs. The New School white collar workers did consider the possibility of calling a strike, but the majority voted against it. The students, however, could strike with relative impunity, from the workers’ point of view. It is precisely here that there is a divergence of immediate interest between students and workers on the campus, no matter the degree of sympathy expressed, hence, our footnote.

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