More than fifty parents, students and community members protested outside of the Longy School of Music of Bard College on Saturday. Holding signs reading "Save Longy" and "Keep Longy open to the public," they said they were horrifed at the unexpected announcement that the school would close its youth and community education program by the end of the summer. The program serves roughly 1000 children and adults.
Director Karen Zorn has said that the decision was intended to "address our critical need for practice space" for the 225 students in the school's graduate and undergraduate programs. Protesters said that didn't add up, since Zorn had commissioned a space study early in her tenure and announced in 2009 that the school's facilities were underutilized.
"After analyzing our data we discovered some interesting findings, the
most important being: Longy does [in italics], in fact, have enough
space. Currently, our buildings are only being used 66% of the time.
Another way of saying this is: Longy is unoccupied 34% of the time," Zorn wrote in a 2009 email.
It's unclear whether the conservatory-level student body has increased since then, though enrollment in the prep program has slightly declined. Rumors and theories swirled among protestors as to the "true" reason for slashing the prep program. Some speculated that the Longy administration was trying to cripple its union, which sued the school after a mass firing in 2010 axed 20 percent of the staff. Others proposed that Bard, which merged with Longy last year, was ultimately planning to shut the school down entirely and sell the property to Harvard for what would be a hefty payout.
Still others were simply baffled.
At the protest, parents passed around a petition; by evening it had over 100 signatures.
After a few hours, a Cambridge police officer came over to ask protesters to stop encouraging passing cars and trucks to honk in support -- neighbors had been complaining about the noise.