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In 1919, several professors, some of whom resigned from Columbia University in protest when they felt that their academic freedom was in danger, founded the New School. The university was a modern and progressive institution focused on adult education. In 1933, alarmed by the growing threat posed by Hitler, the New School's director, Alvin Johnson, began offering faculty positions to scholars who fled Europe. The new scholars became the University in Exile, which eventually consisted of nearly 200 faculty members. The New School University in Exile Consortium was established recently to continue the mission of the original University in Exile by providing support and space to house exiled or persecuted scholars from other nations. The program is headquartered in this building on the seventh floor.

Original faculty of the University in Exile

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The New School

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The New School of Social Research was founded in 1919. Its founding was triggered by the wartime actions of Columbia University, which included requiring faculty and students to take a loyalty oath to the United States. Several of the university's professors, including historian Charles Beard, resigned in protest. Beard joined with other former Columbia professors to found the New School, which was a free, progressive school for adults, and dedicated to academic freedom.

After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the director of the New School, Alvin Johnson, began the University in Exile, which welcomed scholars who had fled the Third Reich. Johnson planned to bring the most esteemed scholars in the social sciences, not only as a way of saving individual lives but saving the German model for higher education as well. There are discrepancies regarding the number of scholars that Johnson was able to bring to the University in Exile, but it is generally believed to have been 182.

Johnson's plan was ambitious. He originally hoped that other American universities would join in the effort, with each university reestablishing the faculties of particular fields--the New School's University in Exile would focus on the social sciences while the University of Chicago, for example, would focus on bringing scholars in the sciences. For various reasons, however, other universities were generally not willing or able to embark on the kind of program that Johnson envisioned. A few universities brought one or two scholars to their campuses, but only the New School engaged in this program to support scholars who fled Nazi Germany on a large scale.

For a number of years prior to the Nazi takeover of Germany, Johnson had wanted to create a graduate program in the social sciences but lacked the resources to do so. The crisis in Europe afforded him that opportunity because it provided him with a compelling cause for which to raise funds. The program was originally funded largely by contributions from Hiram Halle and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1934, it was chartered by the state of New York and its name was changed to the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science.

In recent years, the New School University in Exile Consortium was established to continue the work of the original University in Exile. The New School, along with ten other institutions across the country, provides resources and space to house exiled or persecuted scholars from countries such as Turkey, Iran, and Syria.

Friedlander, Judith. On the Origins of the University in Exile: An Excerpt from "A Light in Dark Times", Public Seminar. February 20th 2019. Accessed February 22nd 2021.

Friedlander, Judith. A Multi Campus University in Exile: Then and Now, Public Seminar. February 21st 2019. Accessed February 22nd 2021.

The New School Joins Forces with Universities Across the Country to Assist Endangered Scholars , New School News . August 30th 2018. Accessed February 22nd 2021.

Levine, Lucie. University in Exile: How Refugees at the New School Helped Win WWII and Transform American Scholarship, 6sqft. August 22nd 2018. Accessed February 22nd 2021.