(This is part two of a four-part series. Part one is here and part three is here.) 

On February 10, the New School In Exile threw down the gauntlet. Bob Kerrey would quit by April 1, or they would bring the New School’s operations to a halt. The ultimatum, delivered at a public meeting, was broadcast to the world by the New York Times and picked up by everyone from the Chronicle of Higher Education to Indymedia.

Some NSIE members were coy about whether the threat was meant to be taken at face value, but they left no doubt that they were serious about their goals. “The students, with the faculty’s backing, are trying to get Kerrey out of the school,” one said. “Setting a deadline raises the stakes.”

In the immediate aftermath of the February announcement, NSIE moved effectively to keep their momentum up. They held teach-ins on February 24 and March 4, and posted video from the first online. NSIE supported and publicized an NYU occupation that was modeled on the New School’s own. 

But their energy seemed to falter in March. There were fewer events, and less follow-up. Posting on the NSIE website was infrequent, and that decline seemed to reflect a broader retreat in the group.

There was a post on March 6, then a flurry of news about other movements on March 20. The group posted a communiqué on March 22, re-affirming NSIE’s commitment to marking the April 1 deadline, but with no new concrete details. Then, early in the morning of March 25, they announced a schedule for the final week in March. 

They would, they said, stage a satirical play about Kerrey that day, and co-sponsor a forum at NYU that evening. There would be a party on March 26, and a planning meeting on March 29. As for April 1, it would feature “[insert your action here], lots of fun, anarchy and playfulness. Don’t miss it.” There were still, however, no specifics.

(As sporadic as posting on the NSIE site was in March, other social media were put to even less effective use. After a busy February, NSIE’s blog went quiet on March 13. Two Facebook groups in support of NSIE — one with nearly 600 members, the other with more than 2,800 — were largely abandoned. No information about any of the events held in late March or on April 1 ever appeared on either Facebook group or the blog, and the group never established a presence on Twitter.)

On March 29, NSIE posted a short statement, since removed, at the top of their site, assuring readers that “we haven’t forgotten about April 1st.” They said there was “plenty in the works,” and gave some hints, but again offered no details of time or place or agenda.

I was checking the site pretty regularly by then. I’d been covering NSIE since December, and I took their promises of renewed activity seriously. I was curious to know what was going to happen, and eager to help get the word out. But no new posts went up on March 30, or on March 31. 

At around noon on April 1, I noticed that the third paragraph of the March 29 post had been updated — it now gave a brief rundown of that afternoon’s events. I have no idea when those details were posted — I’d been looking for new posts when I checked the site, not re-reading old ones to see if anything had changed.

Ever since February 10, I’d been anticipating something big from NSIE on April 1. Just after noon on the deadline day, I found out where to go to watch the fireworks.

I’ll write about what I saw in my next post.