To the Parsons Community:
I hope you have read the statement from President Van Zandt and Provost Marshall about the planned workshop with John Galliano. I am writing to offer additional perspective from my role as executive dean of Parsons.
To review the basic facts: The School of Fashion at Parsons recently invited Mr. Galliano to lead a three-day workshop with seniors in the BFA Fashion Design Program. Last Friday, the workshop was announced to the senior class via an internal e-mail and a posting on the school’s online magazine. Several news outlets have reported on the workshop, in a few cases erroneously suggesting that Mr. Galliano has been hired as a member of our faculty. He has not been and is not being compensated for this workshop.
News of Mr. Galliano’s workshop spread quickly. I heard from people who were very excited by the opportunity to work with Mr. Galliano, and from others who felt that it was wrong for Parsons to have anything to do with him given the nature of his aggressive and anti-Semitic outburst two years ago. I have sought a wide range of counsel in trying to resolve the challenges Mr. Galliano’s workshop presents to Parsons and the wider New School community. In the end, I believe the workshop is appropriate for our design students, and I would like to explain why.
To begin, let me be perfectly clear: There is no place for anti-Semitism or any other form of hate on our campus. Two years ago, when video of Mr. Galliano’s tirade circulated, I found his behavior and his beliefs to be repugnant, personally offensive, and professionally unacceptable. Dior fired him and a French court convicted him of hate-speech. Since then he has sought to make amends for his actions, to rebuild his career, and to address his personal challenges with drugs and alcohol.
Why should the School of Fashion go forward with this workshop? I have discussed this question with students, faculty, deans of the other schools within Parsons, members of the Parsons Board of Governors, and individuals outside the school. My answer is that we must learn to learn from positive and negative examples. To confront hate we must challenge it in the light of day and with reason and education. Universities must be places where we can engage these issues so that they don’t reside underground, where they fester and ultimately become far more dangerous. I believe our students can learn from Mr. Galliano’s successes as well as his failures. He has a soaring talent for fashion design that has been praised around the world. Yet because of abhorrent behavior he lost the position he held at the top of the industry. There is much to learn from each of these realities, including the lesson that the designer and his actions cannot be separated. Finally, I believe this workshop has value for our students because I believe education is, at its core, about the possibility of change, of engaged learning, and of personal growth.
Having Mr. Galliano on our campus will be difficult. But what is difficult is often right. No doubt this decision will be debated; I fully support that open debate. I enter the discussion with a firm belief that we are stronger than hate speech and that education is possible in even the most unlikely of places.
JOEL TOWERS | EXECUTIVE DEAN
PARSONS THE NEW SCHOOL FOR DESIGN
66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK, NY 10011
P | 212.229.8950 F | 212.243.1420
E | email@example.com