college online classes
This is how coronavirus affected colleges nationwide
02:47 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

This month, New York University, like many colleges and universities across the country, announced it would transfer to remote classes as the coronavirus epidemic spreads.

For students at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, though, the situation presented a challenge. Without performance and rehearsal space, voice lessons and other necessary aspects of art school, could students really get the education they had expected?

Senior drama student Emma Hoersdig – who has been doing scenes over Zoom, where she says there’s “still a disconnect” – put it this way to CNN: “It isn’t the education we paid for.”

While there will be prorated refunds for housing and dining for students living in dorms, Hoersdig and other students have called for some sort of tuition reimbursement for the spring 2020 term.

After conversations among peers, Hoersdig started a Facebook advocating for reimbursement, and it’s garnered more than 800 members. More than 3,000 have signed an online petition, too.

Undergraduates at Tisch pay $29,276 in tuition and fees – not including books or housing. Full-time graduate students pay $31,721. And those numbers are just for Spring 2020.

In an email to the student body this week, Allyson Green, dean of the school, seemed to address some concerns students had about tuition reimbursement. Students would not be refunded, she said, and explained why.

Then, at the end of the email, she attached a video of her dancing.

This video of Green has now been seen across the country, after one student posted it on Twitter. In the caption of the tweet, the student explains the video came attached to an email saying there wouldn’t be any refunds. He bluntly wrote: “Embarrassing.”

That tweet has now been liked more than 8,000 times.

Video was “misunderstood,” dean says

To be clear, this isn’t the first time Green has danced for students. Dancing is her art form, and she’d even sent out another video of her dancing earlier in the month, when the school first announced they would go remote.

But this time, Hoersdig said, it felt a little tone deaf.

“(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,” she told CNN.

The dance had meant to speak to frustration and disappointment, Green wrote in a statement. The intent was “neither frivolous or disrespectful,” she said.

“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,” the statement read. “I regret it if my email left the reasons for my dancing misunderstood.”

Tisch still has expenses, which is why reimbursement isn’t possible, dean says

Hoersdig knows the video wasn’t ill intentioned, she told CNN. And she fully respects that dance is Green’s art form and “how she gets through things.” Still, it wasn’t right for the situation, she said.

In the email – the one featuring the video – Green explains the reason for tuition reimbursement not being a possibility. She wrote that the school has to continue to pay faculty and staff, while also covering rent for facilities and studios across town, even as they shut down.

Hoersdig, and other Tisch students, understand that fact, and she says the students she’s spoken with don’t want anything to come at the expense of faculty and staff pay.

Still, many have argued, the education students are getting now isn’t equitable to what they were promised. And the thing is, Hoersdig mentioned, it can’t be.