The Juilliard School, one of the world’s leading performing arts conservatories, is known for concerts rather than pickets. But students protesting a proposed tuition hike occupied portions of the Lincoln Center campus this week and led musical and dancing protests on West 65th Street when they were later denied entry to a school building.
The protests began Monday when a group of students who opposed plans to increase tuition fees from $ 49,260 to $ 51,230 a year occupied portions of the school’s Irene Diamond building and took photos of dozen of them published multicolored sheets of paper on social media arranged to include the words “LESSON DEADLINE.”
On Wednesday, students said they had received an email from the administration stating that “classrooms” could not be used for after-school events without permission. “Posting signs, posters or leaflets, setting up in the lobby, requesting or distributing printed materials also requires prior approval,” the statement said.
The students returned to the Diamond building that day, marched through the halls and stopped in front of the school president Damian Woetzel’s door. At some point, some said, they knocked on his door and sang, “We know you’re in there. Will you meet student needs and freeze tuition fees? “
Protesters later said they had been banned from the Diamond building and the school told them it was investigating an incident involving reported violations “relating to the safety of the community”. On Thursday, around 20 students continued protesting on the sidewalk outside, waving posters, accusing the school of using persistent tactics to suppress dissent.
“They made it clear that they weren’t listening to us,” says Carl Hallberg, an 18-year-old drama student.
Rosalie Contreras, a spokeswoman for Juilliard, wrote in an email that the school is increasing funding, raising the minimum wage for student workers on campus to $ 15 an hour, and providing special funding for students in financial need Have available.
“Juilliard respects the right of all members of the community, including students, to express their views freely with demonstrations carried out in a timely, appropriate place, and in an appropriate manner,” added Ms. Contreras. “Unfortunately, the demonstration escalated to the point on Wednesday that an employee called public security.”
Both Mr. Hallberg and another student, Gabe Canepa, said they were part of a campus group called Socialist Penguins that had called for the protests. They said they hadn’t compromised anyone’s safety.
Mr. Canepa, a 19-year-old dance student, added that the students took the tuition increase seriously because it would reduce their spending on “rent, groceries, subway fares and school supplies”.
An online petition by the group states that “the already astronomically high tuition fees” are harmful to working-class students. It added, “We are calling for Juilliard to cancel their proposed tuition fee increase.”
Students who participated in the protests said about 300 current students, or about 30 to a third of those currently enrolled, signed the petition.
The events at Juilliard this week appear to have been less controversial than school occupations that have taken place elsewhere in Manhattan over the years, including New York University, Cooper Union, and New School, where cops wearing helmets and plastic shields arrested people who took over part of the school’s Fifth Avenue building in 2009. However, the conflict struck at odds.
Juilliard is also under pressure when it comes to diversity issues. In May, CBS News quoted a black college student there as saying she had been disturbed by an acting workshop asking class members to pretend they were slaves while whips, rain and racial slurs were played. Juilliard told CBS that the workshop was a “mistake” and regretted “that the workshop caused pain to the students”.
Following Wednesday’s protests, several students said they had received emails from Sabrina Tanbara, assistant dean of studies, informing them that their access to the Diamond building had been suspended pending investigation.
The next day, Juilliard’s dean for student development emailed all students with some details about what the school was studying. Regarding the Wednesday afternoon protest outside the President’s office, Dean Barrett Hipes wrote: “Yesterday, public security received a report of confrontational and intimidating behavior from students that led to an administrative assistant working alone in an office their own safety. “
Since the students could not enter the Diamond building on Thursday, they protested outside and urged passing motorists to honk their horns in support.
A young man was fashionable on West 65th Street. Mr. Hallberg strummed a guitar and another student plucked a stand-up bass and led a singalong of the labor standard “Which side are you on?”
Some students said they felt punished without due process.
Sarah Williams, a 19-year-old oboe student, said she wrote to Ms. Tanbara asking what specifically she allegedly did to exclude her from the Diamond building. She said she hadn’t received an answer yet.
“My resources have been eliminated without any explanation,” she said.
Raphael Zimmerman, a 20-year-old clarinet student, said he had received an email from Ms. Tanbara informing him that he would be contacted late Wednesday afternoon to set up an “investigative meeting” to give his report on the activities outside of the President’s Office.
“I think the many minutes we spent knocking on that door and singing were a nuisance,” he said, “essentially we are denying our right to assemble and demonstrate.”