Juilliard Students “Jam" Up 65th Street for Tuition Freeze

Juilliard students held a rally outside the school with live music and dancers to protest the school's decision to raise tuition during COVID-19. More than a third of the student body has signed a petition calling on the Juilliard School to reverse the decision. Protests will continue this week.
Juilliard students decorate the entrance to campus with demands for a tuition freeze.
Juilliard students decorate the entrance to campus with demands for a tuition freeze.

On Monday afternoon, Lincoln Center visitors and nearby residents were treated to a new kind of musical fusion.

In a combination of a protest and jam session, drummers, dancers, and demonstrators shared their talents outside the Juilliard School’s building, playing live jazz and chanting slogans demanding a tuition freeze. 

Fighting for a freeze: Juilliard student-led protest on June 7th. Video credit: W. Isaac

The campaign for the tuition freeze is organized by the Socialist Penguins, a new student organization founded in March 2021. 

When the Juilliard School announced a $1,890 tuition increase in April, the new group organized to pressure the school to reverse the decision. 

The student-led campaign for the tuition freeze has gained traction, with a “take-over” of the Juilliard School lobby and Lincoln Center Plaza protest currently underway. The movement’s supporters include accomplished alumni, and an active member of the Juilliard faculty.


Building off the momentum from similar campaigns at Columbia University and CUNY, the Socialist Penguins popularized the idea with a sophisticated and thorough online campaign, earning hundreds of “likes” on each post. 

The campaign, which began in April, initially asked students to sign a petition supporting a tuition freeze.

Here is the full text of the petition: 

Juilliard Students and Community Members Demand: No Tuition Raises for the 2021-2022 School Year

During a pandemic where students and families were experiencing economic hardship on a scale not seen by any other generation, Juilliard raised tuition for the 2020-2021 school year by $1,890 with tuition now totaling $49,260. Their decision to continue with planned tuition raises to $51,807 for the 2021-22 school year during the COVID-19 pandemic displays a blatant disregard for the well-being and financial security of students. Students were required to pay more for a year of education that was substantially diminished by the realities of dealing with Covid-19. Raising the already astronomically high cost of tuition hurts students working class students who are most vulnerable, and it flies in the face of Juilliard’s stated commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging as well as their commitment to the safety and well-being of students. 

In recognition of the financial hardships of students and their families, we demand that Juilliard cancel their planned tuition raise of $1,965 for the 2021-2022 school year. 


The Juilliard Community 

The petition was signed by 313 students, a third of the total student population, and now has more than 600 signatures, including alumni, faculty, and members of the public. 

The Juilliard School, which has an endowment of $1.1 billion, has not agreed to any reduction of the 2021-22 tuition. 

On Monday, the group brought the campaign to campus in a “Day of Action”, including a teach-in and rally. It culminated in the outdoor concert and rally outside of the building. 

They left behind several artistic renderings of their demand for a tuition freeze. 

Photo credit: Socialist Penguins

The increasingly popular group has drawn praise from faculty and alumni. Juilliard liberal arts professor Aaron Jaffe praised the Day of Action as “fighting to create conditions of artistic production that are more inclusive.”

Actor Chris Myers (Drama ’10) congratulated the group, telling them that “nothing is won without struggle."

Founder and Former President of the Juilliard Student Council, Pianist Ronen Segev, stated “These passionate students have energy, talent, and discipline. It’s been an extraordinarily challenging year for them, both emotionally and financially. I have no doubt they will gain the attention and respect of Juilliard’s senior administration.” 

The protests continued throughout Tuesday, including a sit-in. They are scheduled to continue on Wednesday, June 9th and throughout the rest of the week. 

UPDATE (6/11/21):

After protests continued on Wednesday, the Socialist Penguins announced on Instagram that the Juilliard School revoked building access for all students who were identified as participants in the sit-in.