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Fighting For a Fair Risk-Free Austerity Budget From November 2011 to January 2014December 16, 2015, 7:30pm
BOT, CSCU, OAG "commendably" fashioned Consent Decree; "some Trustees and/or others may have lost sight of Peter Cooper's ideals"
The timing wasn't perfect - the Board of Trustees had already modified its Bylaws and adopted resolutions in support of the Consent Decree; new Alumni and Student Trustees, as well as faculty and staff Observers, had already been elected and attended their first Board meeting; and the deadline for appointment of a Financial Monitor had already passed - but, as expected, Judge Nancy Bannon agreed to the Attorney General's Cross-Petition and Request for Cy Pres Relief, including its Consent Decree, and disposed of Case 155185 on December 15, 2015. An OCR version of Judge Bannon's Decision and Order can be found here.
The elections brought with them some noteworthy changes: all three non-student petitioners in the lawsuit against the Board of Trustees, Adrian Jovanovic, Professor Mike Essl, and Professor Toby Cumberbatch, became members of the Board of Trustees (the faculty members are non-voting). A former member of the Working Group, Professor Atina Grossmann, joined another former member, Alumni Trustee Robert Tan, on the Board. Alumni Trustee Kevin Slavin, first elected by the Cooper Union Alumni Association as a write-in candidate, became the Vice Chairman of the Board, and Robert Tan became Chair of the new Free Education Committee. In addition to Board Minutes, a list of all Board Committee members, a listing long sought by The Alumni Pioneer, was also posted.
The Cy Pres Petition "modified and reformed" the Deed of Trust so that "at any time tuition is being charged ... [the college] ... is required to make ongoing, good faith efforts to determine whether it is practical to return to a tuition-free model," and "if it is practical ... to do so" and then it "must maintain that model as long as it remains practical." Other than that, the college is required to provide at least 12 evening lectures per year that are free to the public. The first progress report of the Free Education Committee, with interim recommendations, is due on January 15, 2016.
Selected Quotes: September 14, 2015, Court Hearing
Judge Bannon: I can't change it; I can accept it. I have to consider the impact on public interest. Is the Consent Decree fair and reasonable and adequate? [It is] less onerous. In general, [the Consent Decree] addresses all the issues [and is a] better chance to achieve [the goals] we wanted to achieve from the outset.
Asistant Attorney General Oleske: The Attorney General (AG) could have intervened. The AG has standing on behalf of unnamed beneficiaries. The AG believes [the Consent Decree is] superior to anything else that would have come out of litigation, [avoids the] uncertainty of further litigation, [and allows this] historic entity to come out of the trenches."
CSCU Lawyer Emery: [AAG Oleske is] modestly the genius behind this. [The investigation was] yoeman's labor. I agree with about 95% of what Mr. Oleske [said]. We don't agree that only the Attorney General has standing. [The Board was] ethically challenged.
CU Lawyer Stio: The AG has exclusive jurisdiction. Cooper Union will be bound by the Consent Decree.
Judge Bannon is waiting for an amended Consent Decree with administrative changes by the end of the week. (1) Add a signature line for The Cooper Union. (2) Add a signature line for Jeremy Werthheimer. (3) Change a reference from Exhibit B to Exhibit A. (4) Change a reference from CSCU to Petitioners. (5) Change a reference to paragraph 7 to paragraph 7.B.2. (6) May require re-pagination. (7) Jeremy Werthheimer will also be added to the Notice. Another appearance will not be required.
Elected Faculty, Staff, More Students and More Alumni to Become Trustees
During a year when the Cooper Union Community waited for Judge Bannon to settle a lawsuit on whether The Cooper Union is legally required to be free, it is the involvement of the Attorney General's Charities Bureau, in cooperation with the Committee to Save Cooper Union, which has resulted in a pre-emptive settlement and a negotiated institution of a "Path to Free."
The AG leaves unresolved the key issue of the case - does the Charter require that classes at The Cooper Union be free? - and seeks cy pres relief for the financially-beleagured college, including Charter changes that immediately establish all students, full-time faculty, and alumni as The Associates. The elected members of the Board become the Council of The Associates.
Although most members of the Cooper Union Community have been focused on the Associates' ability to remove trustees, the AG instead sees the isolation of the Board from the rest of the Cooper Union Community through the single-point contact of the President and those he or she appoints or removes as the impediment to saving the mission of the institution.
Along with major changes to Board membership and the establishment of the Associates, the AG demands the Board create two committees, one to establish a return to free "when reasonable," and the other to institute governance changes. The AG also seeks the appointment of an independent financial overseer, and demands that all non-executive session minutes of Board meetings be published. Governance change and Board transparency have been major demands of Free Cooper Union, and the establishment of independent financial oversight a demand of the Committee to Save Cooper Union.
Unfortunately, by not agreeing that The Cooper Union must be free, the potential for current students to sue for tuition refunds is obviated and the central demand of the entire Cooper Union Community, adherence to the mission and an immediate re-establishment of full-tuition scholarships, is delayed.
The AG investigation, which involved interviews with current and former trustees and administrative staff, paints a sordid picture of lying presidents and oblivious trustees. This centers on the 2006 cy pres petition in which the Board and President lied to the AG in order to institute the Master Plan and saddle the college with $175 million in debt. Board members who approved the 2006 petition are removed, including Richard Lincer, Robert Bernhard, and Jeff Gural. Most of the 2006 trustees, including Sandra Priest Rose, Ron Drucker, John Michaelson, Stanley Lapidus, and Mark Epstein, are already gone. The president in 2006, George Campbell, and the president whose contract expires in 2016, Jamshed Bharucha, are already absent from the college.
Judge Bannon has called for a status conference on September 14, 2015. The Judge could accept the AG's cy pres petition and the dropping of the lawsuit or could issue a legal ruling on whether The Cooper Union is required to be free. The lawyers for The Committee to Save Cooper Union have always maintained that The Cooper Union could seek cy pres relief from the Charter, so, alternatively, the Judge could still accept the AG settlement and cy pres and issue a ruling on the Charter requirement anyway. Either way, the Cooper Union Community is declaring victory while current trustees, who allowed a majority to vote for the original "hybrid framework" of graduate student tuition and the subsequent across-the-board half-tuition scholarship for all undergraduate students, remain.
The coverage above was posted at 7:30pm on Tuesday evening, September 1, 2015. At 9pm, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal went public on-line with information obtained from leaks from the AG office. This was followed by a flurry of pre-prepared postings and e-mails from the CUAA, CSCU, and CU. If you have Facebook access, you will find links to all the other postings at https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaveCooperUnion/permalink/884258684983126/.
The Committee to Save Cooper Union released the Cross-Petition (including the cy pres) and its Exhibit 1, the Consent Decree, on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, at the links provided. Joe Riley of Free Cooper Union posted OCR Google docs that are searchable and can contain comments for the Cross-Petition and the Consent Decree at the links provided. The Consent Decree was amended and submitted to the Court on September 21, 2015. You can find OCR PDFs that are searchable of the Cross-Petition and Amended Consent Decree, as well as its Exhibit A and Exhibit B on this website at the links provided.
President, Former Board Chair, Four Additional Board Members Resign
Board Majority Opposition to "Fiduciary Goals" Cited Pointing to Imminent Abandonment of Tuition Plan
On June 9 and 10, 2015, a quick succession of resignations posted to the Internet, e-mailed to the Cooper Union Community, and reported by the media have emerged as the first indications that the Committee to Save Cooper Union is succeeding in its lawsuit to return The Cooper Union to a full-tuition scholarship institution of higher education. The resignations and accompanying statements cite an abandonment of the Tuition Plan, re-christened the "Financial Sustainability Plan" by now-former President of The Cooper Union Jamshed Bharucha. It remains to be announced whether an immediate return to free, with refunds to the freshmen of September 2014 and the incoming freshmen of September 2015, will be enacted, or merely a "Path to Free," a nomenclature used by many within the community.
The resignation of former Board of Trustees Chair Mark Epstein, whose name was removed from the Cooper Union website with four other trustees (the practice of "announcing" board resignations by changes in the website list has been ongoing for years; such announcements are never included in Board Reports, press releases, or through other means), was followed by an e-mail from Dr. Bharucha announcing his resignation before the end of the month. That e-mail was accompanied by an announcement from the Board that William Mea, Vice President for Finance and Administration since September 2014, would act as interim president and that a presidential search committee would be formed in the fall of 2015. William Mea replaced TC Westcott, who was fired in August 2013 as part of a plan to delay proponents of a "Working Group" alternative to the Tuition Plan, which was completed in December 2013.
Although at least one press report has been quoting members of Free Cooper Union, who have called for the resignation of Dr. Bharucha since the lock-in of December 2012 (as had The Alumni Pioneer earlier that year), there hasn't been coverage of the key role of Friends of Cooper Union, which gathered over 2,000 signatures in nine months on a Vote of No Confidence in both Dr. Bharucha and Chair Mark Epstein (see screenshot at right), chief promoter of the "Blame the Alumni" strategy (who, ironically, has pledged, with his resignation, no further financial support of the college). The other board members who resigned - François De Menil, Catherine Hill, Daniel Libeskind, and Monica Vachner - are similarly not characterized or contextualized. Mr. De Menil was appointed Vice Chair but did not succeed Mr. Epstein; instead, he was passed over by Richard Lincer. Catherine Hill, President of Vassar, was presumably brought on to the Board to provide educational expertise, although her compensation package at Vassar is similarly over-inflated, and she served as a trustee foil to the Working Group formed by Mike Borkowsky and Jeff Gural to stop the Tuition Plan. Daniel Libeskind, a recent Board appointment, has been vocal in his support of Dr. Bharucha and his opposition to elected Alumni Trustee Kevin Slavin. Investment banker Monica Vachner had also voiced her support of the Tuition Plan, although details of her role on the Board had not been publicized.
The Board resignations are preceded by others, including Stanley Lapidus, who personally persuaded Dr. Bharucha to take the job at Cooper as part of his desire to replace the entire college with a Design Institute, an initiative that Dr. Bharucha still tried to implement, despite faculty union opposition; John Michaelson, famous for bragging to the Wall Street Journal about how his investment strategy for The Cooper Union had bested Harvard's performance during the 2008 crash; and William Sandholm, whose 40 years at Rose Associates culminated in his becoming its Chief Executive Officer, who ran for Cooper the Astor Place Holding Corporation, critical in the various expensive real estate deals that plundered the endowment and the capital campaign in the 2000's, including the selection of Jonathan Rose as construction manager for the New Academic Building which went tens of millions of dollars over budget. These resignations in 2011, 2012, and 2012 followed a mass of Board resignations after the Master Plan of 2000 collapsed in 2008. Remarkably, the trustee who implemented the Master Plan, Robert Bernhard, remains on the Board, although his successor, Ron Drucker, has disappeared from the Cooper website and from all Cooper events except for gatherings of alumni in Florida. Mr. Bernhard, connected to an infamous hedge fund scandal, may face prosecution from the Attorney General's office for using his firm to handle portions of Cooper's stock portfolio in the early 2000's.
This content has been moved to a news archive:
5/15: Lame Duck President Continues to Tout Tuition Plan|
- Faculty-Student Senate, Alumni Association Call for Immediate Replacement
- Libeskind Tried to Censor Slavin in Violation of Charter
12/14: CUAA Council, Frozen Out of Alumni Website, Mailing List, Goes Independent
- Barry Drogin's Extraordinary Service to The Cooper Union
- CNN Films: IVORY TOWER Asks - Is College Worth the Cost?
- Committee to Save Cooper Union
1/14: Board of Trustees Reject Cooper Union Community Bailout
12/13: Working Group Comes Up With Tuition-Free Plan
- Working Group Plan Endorsements
9/13: Cost-Cutting to be Focus of Anti-Tuition Working Group
- Who is "Cooper Union"?
- Alumni Giving Part II: The "Regular Contributor" and Other Myths
7/13: New CUAA President and Executive Committee Hit the Ground Running|
- Administration Embarks on Summer Hiring Spree
6/13: June 2013 State of the Union
- Free Saturday Program Wins Reprieve with $1,000,000 Trustee Donation
- Statement from adjunct faculty
- Short-term "Solution" Used to Force Long-Term "Solution"
- Half-Decades of Non-Income Assets (construction loans)
- New Anti-Tuition Alumni Trustee/New President Salary/Free 154 Years/40% Alumni Giving: "Oh shit."
5/13: Bharucha Calls for Healing, but Epstein Threatens Extinction
- Joint Statement from the Leadership of CUFCT, CUOP, and U@CU
4/13: Cooper Undergraduate Education: Eighty Thousand Dollars
12/12: Is Peter Cooper History?
- Clueless Students Obscure Friends of Cooper Union Message
- Pearson Molds Propaganda Campaign
When the financial crisis was first announced, Litia Perta wrote an articulate, contextualizing article for The Brooklyn Rail that lucidly expressed for all the various underpinnings of the situation. Soon thereafter, Sangu Iyer started writing a series of articles in her blog, Literary Animal, about The Cooper Union, including original research in the Cooper archives about the "amateur class." As the Board of Trustees delayed their final announcement, Sangu penned a great summary of the entire crisis, from the early days of the college up through the clocktower occupation and its aftermath. She provided an update after the Sit-In ended. These articles serve as must-read bookends to the crisis, from two of its most knowledgable writers.
These have been paired with three other Cooper Union documents: the community-authored "The Way Forward" from the Friends of Cooper Union, an Open Letter to the Trustees by Sean Cusack of Cooper Union Task Force, and the 2015 Student Commencement Address by Harrison Cullen of Free Cooper Union.
Summer 2012 Student's Guide to The Cooper Union Financial Crisis playlist: http://tinyurl.com/canbgkt
Fixing College Through Lower Costs and Better Technology
Behind the Three-Decade Scheme to Raise Tuition, Bankrupt Generations, and Hypnotize the Media
Stop Misusing Higher Education-Specific Price Indices
Beware Higher Ed’s Newest Budget Twist
Conventional Wisdom is Killing Us
Just in case you think The Alumni Pioneer is written by a bunch of disgruntled alumni hanging on desperately to the "cherished aspect" of free education at The Cooper Union, we highly recommend you "get educated" by reading what others think.
Favorite Abraham Lincoln Quote #1:
Favorite Abraham Lincoln Quote #2:
Open Forum 11/8/11
Summit II 4/26/12
Year Two 9/4/12
- click on pic for second draft (2/21/12) of infographics by Matt Arnold AR '82 depicting Real Estate, Investments, Revenues, Annual Giving, Expenses, and Staff Changes
01-12-2014 Exit Through the Gift Shop - Post-Mortem
08-11-2013 The "Regular Contributor" and Other Myths - alumni giving, part two
07-28-2013 And the No Confidence Vote Goes to... - the next Chairman of the Board of Trustees
06-23-2013 The Real Narrative - the history of The Cooper Union up to June 2013
06-23-2013 Ask Mr. Misinformation - answers to more false narratives from the administration
06-01-2013 Coffee, Donut, and a Dorm - kicking the vision down the road
05-31-2013 Drinking the Kool-Aid: The New Cooper Union - full-tuition programs
05-26-2013 Michael Borkowsky and Alumni Giving (rev 1) - the 20% lie
05-19-2013 Unasked Questions for the Alumni Trustees
05-07-2013 Fee vs. Tuition (rev 4) - why words matter
02-15-2013 A Tale of Two Coopers - Before the March 1, 2013 Face-Off
12-31-2012 The Education of Mark Epstein - in his own words
12-20-2012 The Cooper Institute - short version
12-18-2012 Facebook Policy - plus some good ramblings
12-16-2012 The Real Cooper (rev 1) - 1883 documents
12-08-2012 Yes, Alexander, There Is A Santa Claus (rev 1) - on exponential costs
12-05-2012 New York Magazine-style article - for non-Cooper folk
12-02-2012 RCM@CU - Bringing Responsibility Centered Management to the Non-Academic Units
09-08-2012 Actual Questions Asked Frequently - Latest response to "the new transparency"
08-29-2012 Endow a President - Financing the other half of the budget
05-06-2012 See the Whole Board (rev 2) - Bharucha's Pre-emptive Surrender
04-08-2012 Envisioning Austerity - layoffs and program reductions
02-04-2012 A Fiduciary Timeline (rev 2) - Cooper's march to bankruptcy
01-31-2012 The Deadline (rev 1) - would a five-year plan be sufficient?
01-28-2012 Counter-Narratives to the Administration Narrative (rev 5) - a baker's dozen
01-28-2012 Scenarios for End Times (rev 4) - don't say you weren't warned
01-27-2012 Hide the Salami (rev 1) - Board Statement and Summary
01-23-2012 Don't Worry, Be HEPI - how to portray an increase as a reduction
01-15-2012 Becoming the Story - administrators who draw attention to themselves
01-15-2012 The New Colossus - on reinventing The Cooper Union
01-12-2012 Further questions the Office of Public Relations refused to answer
12-28-2011 Summary of the Summary - of the December 5 Summit
12-10-2011 Urtak Poll - what you think
12-09-2011 My Fantasy Presidential Address - if it were only so
12-09-2011 Selected Community Summit Slides - the short version
12-07-2011 Great Hall Financial presentation (silent, PDF, video1,2,3) - socko multi-media show
12-02-2011 Questions the Office of Public Relations refused to answer - past, present, and future
11-28-2011 Cooper Voices - eloquence, passion, and moving anecdotes
11-27-2011 The Real Bharucha - what you'd rather not know
11-26-2011 Do You Want Deficit With That? (rev 2) - inside the financial statements
11-20-2011 The Halloween Massacre (rev 5) - the opening salvo
11-19-2011 Cooper Payroll - The Monkey on Their Back (rev 2) - non-academic bloat
11-18-2011 Questions answered by Chair Epstein - all 6 AP questions asked and answered
11-17-2011 Trustees Mainly Board Junkies - just another not-for-profit to them
11-14-2011 Cooper's Strategy through 2007 - Alum Pres observes Board before the crash
We make mistakes, and we're continuously trying to make this better. If you read or see something that you know is wrong or that you think could be better, don't write us off - write to the Publisher. See the revisions listed above? It happens.
Everything started with The Halloween Massacre. Then came Counter-Narratives to the Administration Narrative, followed by Questions answered by Chair Epstein. By this time, The Alumni Pioneer was born.
The first version of Scenarios for End Times followed next, then Fee vs. Tuition, along with Cooper's Strategy through 2007, written by Don Toman, former Alumni Association President. Finally, the first analyses, Cooper Payroll - The Monkey on Their Back (and its spreadsheet) and Trustees Mainly Board Junkies (and its spreadsheet), were published.
The Thanksgiving break was a major time for The Alumni Pioneer, with the initial publication of Do You Want Deficit With That? (and its spreadsheet). At the end of the long weekend, The Real Bharucha was published. Within a week the two had garnered over 400 downloads each.
On Monday we changed tack with the inspiring Cooper Voices and published questions the Office of Public Relations refused to answer when, given three days to respond, well, the Office of Public Relations refused to respond to our questions.
We posted The Deadline on the morning of the Great Hall Financial presentation on December 5, 2011. (Silent and PDF versions were posted two days later, and Selected Community Summit Slides two days after that).
Dr. Bharucha enjoyed reading our publisher's Fantasy Presidential Address, but laughed it off. We took a snapshot of the Urtak Poll. The Board stayed on schedule and published their December 16 report on the financial crisis. This led the Cooper Union Community to the 2006 cy pres petition to the NYS Supreme Court. The false optimism of the fantasy presidential address has been replaced with the stark realities of the administration's Fiduciary Timeline and an attempt to analyze the Board Statement and Summary while they continue to play Hide the Salami.
Just before the holiday break, the Gang of Six posted their summary of the Community Summit and announced a second set of breakout sessions, so we published a Summary of the Summary for those with really short attention spans - although we certainly encourage our readers to read the original summary, read the full transcripts, and watch the videos, if you are so inclined. Over that break we didn't sit still: we created a a new set of questions that the Office of Public Relations also refused to answer, we wrote about administrators who, through their actions, end up Becoming the Story, and we created a song and slideshow based on Bharucha's "reinvention strategy" called The New Colossus.
We explain the Higher Education Price Index in Don't Worry, Be HEPI, and created some fantastic infographics in time for the third Breakout Session. We've changed our masthead slogan twice: now it's "Fighting For a Fair Risk-Free Austerity Budget Since November 2011." Prior to publication of "The Way Forward," we called for layoffs and program reductions in Envisioning Austerity. We all know what happened on April 24, 2012 - the pre-emptive surrender called the "hybrid framework" is analyzed in See the Whole Board. And to wrap up the first academic year of the crisis, we offered Endow a President, our slightly tongue-in-cheek guide to how the New Philanthropy can actually benefit The Cooper Union.
The second year of the crisis, TC Westcott responded to our Student's Guide to the Cooper Union Financial Crisis with her FAQ, so we created a list of Actual Questions Asked Frequently. We had just written a critique of Responsibility Centered Management when the first lock-in on December 3, 2012, made everything get very busy. For the general public, we published our New York Magazine-style article for non-Cooper folk. We responded to clueless engineering students with Yes, Alexander, There Is A Santa Claus and discovered historical documents that revealed some inconvenient truths about The Real Cooper. The clueless engineering students took offense on-line, so we set up a Facebook Policy that we occasionally ease up on when the offending parties take a break to attend to classes and exams. In response to the constant refrain to offer alternatives to tuition, we posted a summary of Solutions from The Alumni Pioneer and Friends of Cooper Union.
We thought it would be over, but then came the tuition announcement and the May 8, 2013 sit-in. Mike Bokowsky kicked off that March 1 event, and was the first trustee to visit the sit-in, so we looked in our archives and published "the Borkowsky letter" and a critique of the 20% alumni giving lie in Michael Borkowsky and Alumni Giving. This has been followed by a more in-depth statistical analysis based on the FY 2009 Donor Report, The "Regular Contributor" and Other Myths. The tuition announcement, horrible as it is, is a distraction from the total abandonment of the merit scholarships, as described in Drinking the Kool-Aid and Coffee, Donut, and a Dorm.
In response to more false narratives posted on the Cooper Union website, The Alumni Pioneer has created two YouTube videos, Ask Mr. Misinformation and The Politics of Distraction, as well as The Real Narrative. Also, selection of a new Chairman of the Board of Trustees was scheduled for September 2013.
Our Publisher was elected to serve on the Working Group and signed a Confidentiality Agreement that shut him up for a few months (except for monthly reports to the Cooper Union Community published on the CU Alumni website). After the trustees voted to reject the Working Group Plan, our publisher wrote this port-mortem, Exit Through the Gift Shop.
The Attorney General, with a Cross-Petition that includes a cy pres petition and a Consent Decree, ended the toxic environment on campus on September 14, 2015, but the Chair won't be forced to resign until December 2016 and an interim president has attempted his first sales pitch. It is analyzed in Testing Out New Narratives. As to the Attorney General, his Findings of Fact in the Cross-Petition are fact-checked.
We are forced to conclude that the administrative action items demanded below will never be realized while Jamshed Bharucha is in office - that the "new transparency" is a sham. The demands are:
More criticism of Bharucha from Casey Gollan A'13 of the Cooper 11.
Other Resources and Links
Since site statistics indicate that readers are wandering all over the Not Nice Music website trying to figure out who the hell Barry Drogin is, here's a Cooper-focused page about the Publisher of The Alumni Pioneer.
"It's one thing to be stuck at the helm as the ship hits an iceberg,
All content posted in Cassandra's Curse, including this page, are copyrighted, but there are links to non-copyrighted files under the Original Analyses, Research, and Reporting section.
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