You may have noticed that there's a pandemic happening, and due to this catastrophe, the entire literal world has basically just ceased to function. It's like someone pulled a giant lever and the Earth itself just shut all the way down.
Consequently, most colleges and universities are shut down (at least the ones that are in touch with reality and not run by sociopaths), and their students have been sent home weeks ago. You might assume these students are having their school costs refunded--and indeed some are.
But New York University's Tisch School of the Arts is not one of them. Instead, students got a firm "no" accompanied by a bizarre video of their dean dancing to cheer them up.
NYU's Tisch School of the Arts is among the US's most prestigious art schools. Its film and theater schools feature a list of alumni that includes everyone from Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee to Alec Baldwin and Lady Gaga. And its prestige comes with a price tag to match: tuition is just under $30,000, not including books, meals or housing--in New York City, no less--just for the current semester.
So you can imagine the shock its students felt at being told in an email that they will not be issued a tuition refund, followed by... this video:
That is the Dean of Tisch, Allyson Green, dancing to R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" for...some reason. ("It's the End of the World" at least would have been on theme.) And it probably comes as no surprise that the student body of Tisch found it wildly tone deaf.
As Tisch senior Michael Price, who tweeted the Dean's video, put it to NBC News:
"There's a feeling amongst the students, Tisch specifically, that we are being cheated out of something, so everyone thought it was really ridiculous and tone deaf. She's not answering any of our questions and it's just her dancing to 'Losing my Religion.'"
Green, of course, disagrees with that assessment, arguing that remote learning costs, faculty and staff payroll, and expenditures relating to NYU's facilities maintenance are still costing the school millions of dollars.
But students are, quite rightly, not having that explanation. After all, how do you even conduct a filmmaking or acting class--perhaps among the last college subjects to require direct, in-person, face-to-face instruction and critique--over a computer, with no space for things like rehearsal, voice lessons and all the other aspects of a performing arts curriculum?
As another Tisch student, Emma Hoersdig, bluntly told CNN:
"It isn't the education we paid for..."
"[It 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.'"
For her part, Green has said in a statement that the intent of the video was "neither frivolous or disrespectful." She went on to say:
"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."
"I regret it if my email left the reasons for my dancing misunderstood."
But it's safe to say that statement did little to assuage the anger of pretty much anyone on the internet who saw Michael Price's tweet:
Plenty of prominent alumni were among those expressing their distaste for Dean Green, too.
No matter the outrage, it doesn't seem likely that NYU Tisch students will be getting their money back any time soon.
But one thing is for sure: people will be remembered for how they responded to this crisis, and this is a bad, bad look.