Sarah Farsad

I encounter the Joseph Beuys piece as I walk into the Parsons’s building on 2 West 13th Street. There is Joseph -- walking out of the frame and into the busy sidewalk of 13th street. And seeing this piece daily makes it seem like I actually know Joseph and I wonder how he feels about his odd spot in the university. I keep imagining he should be placed in a space that NSSR uses more frequently but I don’t know if he really fits in there either. I am not sure the familiarity that a philosophy or anthropology student might have with Joseph and for that matter I am not sure how many students at Parsons know much about his work. Art can’t be everything to everyone all the time. When I think about the university most especially about Parsons and NSSR, I think about the ideals and ideas of the founding members: The original founding members included Charles A. Beard, Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey and James Harvey Robinson. “Fourteen years before Hitler launched a Reich by burning books and purging universities, those initiators were distraught at limited wartime freedom in the United States and deeply concerned about administrative barriers to free inquiry in the academy. From early 1917, they dreamt of and planned for a “new school,” a far reaching alternative to mainstream higher education, a place where a more free, more egalitarian, more tolerant, and more rational society could be imagined and furthered by disciplined critical inquiry.” 1 This is a quote from a lecture that Ira Katznelson gave in 2008 commemorating the inauguration of the University in Exile seventy-five years ago. But we can extend these ideas to the entire university and all of its divisions. Intellectual freedom, critical inquiry and a commitment to social justice are integral to the missions of all of the divisions and yet there is difficulty for us to imagine ourselves as one institution in a meaningful way. We struggle with it and I think this struggle is somehow captured by the awkward placement of Joseph Beuys: by an elevator – looking out to a street always under construction – stepping into the sidewalk and walking off.

My questions to my colleagues would be:. Imagine Joseph as a student here. Where would his home be? NSSR, Parsons or Lang? Public Engagement? Imagine Joseph as a faculty here – where would his home be? Imagine Joseph as a staff member here – how would his presence change the way in which we work together?