Students at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts want some of their tuition money back because they say virtual classes aren't what they paid for — but instead of addressing the situation, the school's dean sent them a video of herself dancing to REM's "Losing My Religion."
Following several communications between students and the school administration, Dean Allyson Green earlier this week attached her dance video to an email to students in which she explained that she doesn't have the authority to refund tuition and that it's "challenging" for the school to give students their money back right now.
The video is now making the rounds on social media after NYU Tisch senior Michael Price, 21, shared it on Twitter.
"This was not an accident, this was her sort of way of trying to reach out to the student body," Price told NBC News. He said his initial reaction was that the video was ridiculous and "tonedeaf."
A year's tuition at Tisch costs about $58,552 (it's arguably a lot more when you consider other fees) and most of the students at the private and prestigious art school require hands-on education. The school informed students that it would not be reimbursing tuition fees even though they were forced to move to remote learning due to the spread of COVID-19.
"I am personally upset that we are being denied access to this equipment and facilities and still being charged the same amount for what is admittedly by the university a lower quality education," Price said.
Green argued in her email that remote learning was unexpected for everyone and that it was actually costing the university "millions more." She also said the school is still paying for facilities and maintaining them even though students can't use them.
NBC New York received the following statement from Green:
"The focus of my career as a performer, choerographer, and dance educator, and my most authentic mode of expression, has always been dance. In the video, I shared the song with which I have welcomed first-year students to the Tisch School of the Arts for the past eight years. It is a piece that -- as I explained in the accompanying email -- speaks to frustration and disappointment, and that helped see me through the loss of 30 friends to AIDS -- another difficult period for artists.
What I meant to demonstrate is my certainty that even with the unprecedented hardships of social distancing and remotely-held 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 -- although I will note that I have also received many positive acknowledgments -- but its intent was surely neither frivolous or disrespectful."
Students have started an online petition to call for partial tuition reimbursement which now has over 2,200 signatures and the situation has gotten the attention of some famous alumni.
"As an alumnus, I am ashamed to say this is my Alma Mater. Stop buying up real estate and start treating your students and their parents with some respect and empathy," actress Rachel Bloom said in a Tweet on Thursday as she called for the school to give students their refund.
"Saturday Night Live" writer and Tisch alumna Anna Drezen also sounded off about tuition cost at the school: