New School extends Kerrey’s contract six more years


By Lincoln Anderson

New School University’s board of trustees has extended the term of Bob Kerrey as the school’s president until June 2011, it was announced last week. His contract had been set to expire in June 2006.

In making the announcement, Philip Scaturro, chairperson of the New School’s board of trustees, said, “In just four years as president, Bob Kerrey has confidently charted an ambitious course that has given the university far greater national visibility and recognition. By almost every institutional measure, the New School is stronger today than it was four years ago.”

Scaturro said that under Kerrey’s leadership New School has recruited a strong new provost and group of deans and university officers, created new facilities, had “extraordinary fundraising success, substantial enrollment increases and a significantly improved financial balance sheet” and that the board of trustees and board of governors have grown.

“In short,” Scaturro said, “President Kerrey has prepared the university for significant expansion of the physical campus and for academic greatness.”

Kerrey, who became president of the New School in January 2001, called his four years on the job “a life-changing experience.”

“I am proud to be New School’s seventh president, and I look forward with great excitement to leading the New School in the period ahead,” he said at the announcement.

In an interview with The Villager, Kerrey dismissed rumors that he was being considered as a candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee. After all, as a former Nebraska governor and senator, Kerrey, a Democrat, had won in a red state and enjoyed popularity on both sides of the aisle in Washington.

“Oh no! No! That would not be a suitable job for me,” he said. “I’ve got a good sense of what I can do and can’t do — and I don’t think I’d be a very good chair of the Democratic National Party…. I didn’t say it wasn’t mentioned — but I am emphatically saying I am not interested in the job.”

Likewise, Kerrey, a tough questioner of Bush administration figures as a member of the 9/11 Commission, said he’s not up for any jobs in the Bush administration, either.

“I respect the president, but we disagree on too many things,” he said. “He’s an honorable person and fair and square. I’m happy here. I don’t really have any intention to go back to D.C. Even if John Kerry had won it would have been highly unlikely. There were no offers made,” he said regarding a position in a potential Kerry administration, though adding, “It’s always hard to say no if a president offers you something.”

Kerrey said there is still a lot he wants to work on at New School.

“We’re becoming a more traditional university,” he explained, adding that New School is simultaneously trying to hold onto its progressive tradition in the process. “The more you become a traditional university, the harder it is to do that,” he noted.

He declined to discuss any new projects the university may have planned in the neighborhood. However, he did say New School isn’t interested in the large dormitory that Gregg Singer is trying to build on E. Ninth St. and Avenue B.

“It’s a little outside of what we consider the circle of activity for us,” he said. “We essentially want to stay in the Village. It’s a little bit far away from us — in addition to being a difficult property,” he added, alluding to the community opposition to the dorm on the site of the old P.S. 64/CHARAS/El Bohio. New School wants “to get along with the community,” he noted.

Asked his thoughts on failed Homeland Security candidate Bernard Kerik’s fall, Kerrey said, “I don’t think it hurts Giuliani that much. He’s nationally admired. He performed at a heroic level after 9/11. I would say it’s an out-of-pocket scratch on his car. It’s a tragedy for Bernie Kerik.”

Kerrey was a supporter of the war with Iraq, and now says the U.S. must insure that free elections are held.

“There’s two different wars,” Kerrey explained. “We chose to liberate Iraq. Now there’s a war where people who are opposed to elections are killing Iraqis and Americans. Now the only choice is to side with people who are trying to have a vote.”

Asked if he thinks the Iraq occupation will bring a draft, Kerrey called it “a provocative question.”

“We’re going to run out of troops in a year or two years,” he said. “Forty percent of the people over there now are National Guard or Reserves. I think they’re going to have a difficult time recruiting people to go over there and do this. But this Congress won’t put a draft in place. And the enemies of Iraq’s democracy understand that. They want to rattle American public opinion” with attacks like the one at Mosul, Kerrey said, hoping to force America to pull out.