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A New York University dean’s attempts to connect with students through dance, her preferred art medium, fell flat when a video she sent of herself dancing to students who demanded a tuition refund appeared tone deaf.
As CNN reported, NYU transferred to remote teaching during the coronavirus pandemic, but students at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts are finding remote classrooms to be difficult, since they don’t have access to the rehearsal spaces or other features of art school. The outlet spoke to senior drama student Emma Hoersdig, who said performing scenes over Zoom creates “disconnect” and “isn’t the education we paid for.” Hoersdig started a Facebook group asking for tuition reimbursement – a group that now has more than 800 members, according to CNN. Nearly 4,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org demanding their tuition back.
The petition was started by Jack Ford and Noah Ozuna, who wrote:
On March 18th, Dean of Tisch Allyson Green emailed the student body that they would not be receiving reimbursement of tuition despite classes being moved to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester. By placing profits above the concerns, needs, and quality of education being received by students, NYU ignores the fact that us art students will be paying full price for an education that lacks the facilities, equipment, technology, services, and hands-on experience we are explicitly paying for. While we appreciate the concerted efforts of our professors to salvage what’s left of our education, we reject the assumption that an online Zoom education is equitable in content and value. We hope the Dean, along with Tisch Department chairs, will use their positions to speak on our behalf to the NYU Board of Trustees, and we expect the decency of being part of the conversation moving forward as we work toward appropriate reimbursement of tuition for the Spring 2020 semester.
In the email where she denied tuition reimbursement, dean Green also included a video of her dancing, which appeared to be a flippant response to denying students their tuition. A person who posted the video online called it “embarrassing.” Hoersdig told CNN the video felt “a little condescending to boil our problems down to, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to give you your money back, and that’s OK, and here’s a video of me dancing.”
Green told the outlet that her inclusion of the video was “misunderstood.”
“What I meant to demonstrate is my certainty that even with the unprecedented hardships of social distancing and remote classes, it is still possible for the Tisch community to make art together, and that all the artists in our school will find ways to remain closely connected even as circumstances challenge us,” Green said in a statement to CNN. “I regret it if my email left the reasons for my dancing misunderstood.”
Green has previously included videos of her dancing to students. She also sent one as part of her response when the Tisch school first announced remote learning due to the coronavirus.
Green also said that reimbursement was not possible because the school must still pay faculty and staff, as well as rent, during the pandemic.