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28 Mar, 2020 20:58

From layoffs to COVID DANCE-OFFs, richest US universities drag their heels on virus response

From layoffs to COVID DANCE-OFFs, richest US universities drag their heels on virus response

When art school students at one of America’s top universities asked their dean for tuition refunds, she turned them down in a most peculiar way: through interpretive dance. The elite, it seems, are different from you and me.

With their school closed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts got in touch with college officials to ask for their tuition back. Given that a year’s tuition at the art school costs upwards of $60,000, they were anxious to get the money returned.

Dean Allyson Green emailed the students back last week, denying their request. Attached to the email was a bizarre video of Green performing a lip-sync dance to REM’s classic ‘Losing My Religion,’ along with a line encouraging students to “dance along” with her.

The students were furious. “This was not an accident, this was her sort of way of trying to reach out to the student body,” one told NBC News. “What are you doing?” another student blogged. “This video is supremely, supremely stupid.”

Green herself defended her awkward dance response. In a statement to Artnet, she said that her performance “speaks to frustration and disappointment,” and was not meant to be “frivolous or disrespectful.”

Responding to a pandemic through interpretive dance is the stuff of art school cliches, yet the Tisch School of the Arts is not the only American university whose response has angered the public. While higher education was allocated more than $30 billion out of the Trump administration’s $2 trillion stimulus bill, some institutions don’t seem bothered to repay the favor to the government.

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When New Haven, Connecticut, Mayor Justin Elicker asked Yale University to open its empty dormitories to police officers and firefighters whose families had been exposed to the coronavirus, the Ivy League university said no. The University of New Haven, however, stepped in to house the first responders.

“It is in these times of crisis when people are exposed for their true selves,” Mayor Elicker told the New Haven Register.

With a $40 billion endowment, Harvard University is the nation’s richest school. However, that didn’t stop Harvard from moving to lay off its contracted dining workers last week. Only after a pressure campaign from labor law students did the university relent. Paying these workers a living wage for four weeks’ leave would cost Harvard approximately 0.001 percent of its endowment.

And all of this from a university whose business department once encouraged employers to “carefully consider all options for coping with a downturn before letting workers go.” 

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