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[Photo: Reinhard Hunger for Fast Company]

Live Chat With New School President David Van Zandt

On Thursday, February 26th, the editors of the New School Free Press will interview David Van Zandt, the president of the New School and Parsons The New School For Design. The chat begins at 4pm ET, but you can start submitting your questions now using the "Make a comment" box below.

David Van Zandt
It's a question all leaders face--how do you lead an organization through all its ups and downs? 

David Van Zandt has been the president of The New School and Parsons The New School For Design for four years, shepherding the institution through momentous events like Occupy Wall Street and Hurricane Sandy. (You can read all about his tenure so far in the latest issue of The New School Free Press, here

He'll take your questions about his leadership style (which the New York Times characterized as "driving change through low-key, data-driven discussion and consensus"), as well as questions from New School Free Press student editors, on February 26th at 4pm ET. 

You can start submitting your questions now using the "Make a comment" box below!
  • by The New School Free Press via New School 2/26/2015 8:35:38 PM
  • Hello everyone! Thanks for joining us today. The snacks are ready and we'll be getting started in just under half an hour.
    by The New School Free Press edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 8:35:50 PM
  • Thanks Annelise and NiQyira. I’m excited to be trying out this real-time digital platform. It’s great to see the Free Press, and the new Journalism + Design program experimenting with new ways to tell stories and gather information. You’ll have to bear with me as I learn the ropes of ScribbleLive, and forgive my slow typing and any typos.
  • Hello, everyone! Welcome to our live chat with New School President David Van Zandt.

    It’s been just over four years since David Van Zandt joined the New School community, taking over from the controversial Bob Kerrey. A sociologist turned lawyer, David wrote his dissertation about a religious cult, clerked for Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun, and then served as Dean of Northwestern University’s trailblazing law school for 15 years. Since taking over here, he’s overseen a number of big changes. Our new $350 million University Center has opened. The New School for Drama, Mannes, our classical music conservatory, and The New School for Jazz, have merged to form a new “performance division.” What other changes has the Van Zandt administration made, what impact have they had, and where are we headed next? We hope this live chat will give you an opportunity to ask questions you might not normally have the opportunity to ask. So with that, we turn it over to the man himself. David, the floor is yours.
    by The New School Free Press via New School 2/26/2015 9:01:02 PM
  • What has been your favorite dish at the University Center cafeteria?
    by The New School Free Press edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 9:01:19 PM
  • Either stir-fry or the salmon burger. I wish I were more adventuresome.
  • As a prospective student (Fall 2016), I was wondering what The New School (Lang) particularly looks for in an application?
  • Great question. We are looking for applicants who are a good match for us. What does that mean? We want students who are and want to be creative and innovative, who ask tough questions, and want to make a difference in the world, someone who wants to learn both in class but also wants to be out there in the city.
  • The L2 space in Kerrey is being considered for a University wide gym and lounge. The workout room there barely has 20 pieces of equipment and is for the 600 students that live there. Can't the University find another space that would fit the traffic of the whole University and be safe and practical? Especially since the residents pay for amenities and no other dorm is being asked to share their space.
  • As you know, the University Center has quickly become the center of our community. And as we all know, we do not have a university gym on campus. We are trying a pilot experiment to open the gym on L2 to the entire community between 9am and 6pm. It is an experiment and we would appreciate your feedback as it unfolds. We had noticed in the weeks after the gym was opened that during the day it was not used heavily and we want to be sure that all of our limited facilities are used as much as possible. Of course, foremost in my mind is the importance of the security of our Kerrey Hall residents as well as of the rest of our community. I believe we have that handled, and we would not try it if I did not think that. Let's give it a try for awhile and see how it works.
    by David Van Zandt edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 9:14:07 PM
  • #freepressasks Why cant the dance program utilize the studio in the University Center? This would be a great space for our studies!
  • I am afraid I am not aware of that situation. We will look into it and get back to you.
  • Anything that we don't know the answer to today, we will post a follow up on the Free Press website in the coming weeks.
    by The New School Free Press via New School 2/26/2015 9:16:44 PM
  • There has been criticism of your high pay versus the low pay of faculty and staff, are there efforts to change this?
  • And we're live! Submit a question to DVZ and follow our LiveChat by clicking the link in our bio.

  • Our faculty and staff are key to how we provide education to our students, and we must provide compensation to everyone that recognizes that contribution. My first two years here, we were in difficult financial circumstances and our faculty and staff helped us through that in many ways including living with no wage increases. Since then we have been able to return to financial health, and we have been able to provide full-time faculty and staff with modest raises. My own compensation is set by the Board of Directors and has not increased at all in the entire period (and in fact went down the first two years). I know that people will have differences of opinion about what is an appropriate level of compensation for any particular job, However, I feel that we have made a good effort to do what is appropriate. Of course, we are always evaluating compensation levels in order to be sure they are appropriate.
    by David Van Zandt edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 9:28:19 PM
  • What are some of the ways your administration is addressing the problem of student debt burdens and solvency?
  • Student debt levels are a big issue across the entire nation, particularly at private schools. Ultimately, the solution must come from the national government. I am cautiously optimistic about what is happening under the current administration. All direct federal student loans are eligible for the pay as you earn program which caps graduates' monthly loan payments at, I believe, 10% of their adjusted salary. The big issue, however, is how should we as a society finance higher education overall. Frankly, I am less optimistic about a solution to that in the near future. Here at New School, we work very hard to try to help our students, particularly those students who are already here, overcome financial issues to stay in school. One thing we know for sure is that getting your degree puts you in a far better financial position than failing to complete it. The national student debt problem is particularly bad among people who incur lots of student loan debt, but do not graduate. For that reason, every new semester we reach out to students who we believe are under financial stress to figure how we can help them to stay in school. While we have not been able to help everyone, I am proud that we have been able to help quite a few.
    by David Van Zandt edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 9:40:05 PM
  • Another reader asks, do you still play basketball? And can you still dunk?
    by The New School Free Press via New School 2/26/2015 9:41:11 PM
  • President Van Zandt in college throwing it down

    by The New School Free Press via New School 2/26/2015 9:41:43 PM
  • Your question assumes incorrectly that I ever could dunk. Never could, and most likely never will. I did have to give up basketball a number of years ago. Playing on cement and "tartan" surfaces during my active days destroyed my lower back. Now it is only the boring elliptical machine for me.
    by David Van Zandt edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 9:42:57 PM
  • Thanks for addressing the question that has been on the majority of the residents here at Kerry Hall. You mentioned that "we have that handled" when speaking to the issue of security. With that in mind how exactly would security be maintained if the L2 space was open University wide even with the hours of 9am-6pm?
    by KHHallCouncil edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 9:43:53 PM
  • I am not up on the precise details, but I have great confidence in our wonderful security team and the job they do. We will get more details out about this to the community. Thank you for your patience on this overall issue of access to L2, which I know has been of concern both to students not living in Kerrey Hall who want to use these resources and those who live in Kerrey Hall who are concerned about use by other members of our community.
  • Does the administration intend to recognize the student employee union, SENS-UAW?
  • We are giving that serious consideration. Our basic concern is the quality of the education of all of our students and what impact--whether positive or negative--that recognizing a union composed of our graduate students involved in teaching. One thing is clear is that we know we need to do what we can to support all our students and, as my answer to the student debt question indicated, we recognize that many of our students struggle financially to stay in school.
  • Why are administration and administrative offices dividing and multiplying, meanwhile students do not have access to full-time faculty/basic courses in several key areas and there is a marked decrease in the hiring of full-time, tenure track faculty whose central commitment is to serve the whole student within a broader social and intellectual framework? Why do you follow, rather than break, these depressing trends?
    by Very dismayed faculty member via New School 2/26/2015 9:55:41 PM
  • Well now, that is a loaded question! I think I am able to answer at least the last part. The full-time faculty expanded rapidly during the last decade as the student body also grew. While other universities were cutting back on faculty hiring, The New School built the ranks of its full-time faculty aggressively. In my time, we have stopped the rapid growth in the student body to be sure that we are providing the best education possible and not exacerbating the use of our already crowded spaces. One other point I would make is that I do not agree with the implication in your question that our students are best taught by full-time faculty. That is just not the case. Our part-time faculty are a very important part of our teaching here because many of them bring the experience of their current practice in the outside world to the classroom.
    by David Van Zandt edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 10:03:07 PM
  • Last question! What's one class that you would like to take at The New School?
    by The New School Free Press via New School 2/26/2015 10:03:38 PM
  • Toughest question I have had today! Not only because you are asking me to pick among classes offered by our many schools and programs, thus causing the programs I do not pick to feel slighted. But also because I find so many of those courses and activities fascinating and appealing. If I have to answer, I suppose I might try a course in fashion; I could use a lot of help with my wardrobe.
    by David Van Zandt edited by NiQyira Rajhi 2/26/2015 10:09:57 PM
  • And with that, it’s time to wrap up our live chat! We want to say a big thank you to President Van Zandt for answering all of our questions and staying an extra 15 minutes to answer more questions. We also want to say another thank you to everyone who submitted questions! We know we weren't able to answer all questions so if yours wasn't answered, we encourage you to follow up by tweeting questions to us @nsfreepress or directly to DVZ’s Twitter @DavidVanZandt. For more coverage of Van Zandt and the New School, take a look at our February issue, available on our website ( and in particular at the timeline on pages six and seven. We’ll also have follow up coverage online and in our March issue, on stands the week of the 16th.
    by The New School Free Press via New School 2/26/2015 10:10:15 PM
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