With the 2013-2014 academic year, The Cooper Pioneer, the student newspaper of The Cooper Union, returned to being a newspaper. You will find links to on-line editions of it here. This in absentia page is now an archive.

July 12, 2013: Agreement to Form Working Group

The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees have agreed to form a working group to "leave no stone unturned" to explore ways in which The Cooper Union may continue to provide full scholarships to all enrolled students.

5/8/13 Sit-In

Protesting Jamshed Bharucha's complete lack of support of the mission statement, resulting in the Board's decision to reduce the full-tuition scholarship by 50% for incoming undergraduate students in 2014, students, faculty, and staff joined in a sit-in in the President's Office on the Seventh Floor of the Foundation Building. C.U.$.O.$. is documenting the sit-in here. The full-time art faculty have unanimously passed a Vote of No Confidence in Bharucha.

The action follows many others, including the architecture students painting the lobby of their floor black, and engineering students holding a rally on the steps of City Hall, along with creation of a new website, Why Cooper?.

Trustees Present and Absent

Vikas Kapoor and Stanley Lapidus have disappeared from the list of trustees at http://www.cooper.edu/about/trustees, bringing the number of trustees down to 22 from 24. Ron Drucker, Chair of the Board prior to Epstein, has also moved down to Emereti, with Bernhard, creator of the Master Plan, moving up to Chairman Emeritus.

The Editor-in-Chief of The Cooper Pioneer wondered cluelessly who the trustees were at the March 1, 2013, Open Forum. The Open Forum was in response to an official request from the Alumni Council. Three of the four Alumni Trustees were on the dais, as well as the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board and the Chair of the Finance Committee.

The wild card on the dais was Michael Borkowsky who, despite his degree in mechanical engineering, had a career in marketing. Although he is not the oldest or longest serving Board member, joining in 1996, he put on an act as if he was, starting with jokes about his age and continuing with stories about board decisions he did not witness. He even started with the fairy tale about The Cooper Union becoming free in 1902, which failed to raise heckles from the crowd. Mr. Borkowsky was one of the anti-tuition trustees on the board, author of "the Borkowsky letter," reproduced in this Alumni Pioneer analysis.

Occupy Cooper Union on WBAI (1/15/2013)

Archived 30 minute stream: http://www.mixcloud.com/ReggieJ/occupy-wall-street-radio-1152013/

"Eve Silber interviews Victoria Sobel, Joe Riley, and Taylor Hand, three of the activists involved with the Free Cooper Union occupation. They talk about the decision to occupy the clock-tower at Cooper Union and the variety of media responses. They describe how the action overlapped their desire to express their politics and their art. Listen to how these art students were able to take a stand for future students in a creative action to preserve free education."

On September 24, 2012, The Cooper Pioneer ceased to be a newspaper. On December 10, 2012, The Cooper Pioneer ceased to be edited. Two rambling essays, A Free Institution and Out on a limb where there should be a bridge, written by engineering sophomores, were published as-is. The first claimed that the school - or its finances? - was "in torpor," a word that means either "apathy" or "lethargy." The second, written by the Copy Editor, said, "Everyone has the well being of the Cooper Union at the bottom of their hearts and the forefronts of their minds."

Amazingly, both pieces also claimed "the atmosphere at Cooper has been set up to debate ideas and not to debase individuals" and "by no means should any be belittled; these differences should be celebrated." Or perhaps this is just wishful thinking on the part of the writers.

As to reporting news, some day that may return to the newspaper. And as to reporting on the antics - on-line and off - of the elected and self-appointed representatives of the student body, some day that may return to the newspaper as well. That is, once The Cooper Pioneer returns to being a newspaper, let alone one "by and for the students."

The Cooper Pioneer has come back from worse. In the nonce, The Alumni Pioneer has set up this page in absentia.

Satyagraha - truth-force - "Whatever moral ascendancy the West held was lost here today."

Students in Berlin in front of Hejduk's Kreuzberg Tower show solidarity with the sit-in.

Deprival of diplomas? Disciplinary action? Doesn't make good press...

5/8/13 to 7/12/13 - click for photo sets below

12/3/12 to 12/10/12 - Occupy Cooper Union (video) - click for photo sets below

Step 1: The Alumni Council unanimously passed a resolution to preserve the full-tuition scholarship
Step 2: The faculties rejected any reduction in the full-tuition scholarship for undergraduates
Step 3: The student councils supported the faculty recommendations
Step 4: The students formed a "Unify Cooper Union" group
Step 5: Student Action and Alumni Unity
Step 6: Citywide Call to Action
December 3, 2012: The Cooper 11 (seen above receiving a standing ovation from a Great Hall crowd attending the 3rd Community Summit) barricaded themselves inside of the Clocktower (formally, the Peter Cooper Suite) of the Foundation Building for a week to draw media attention to their demands - free education, a transparent, democratic Board of Trustees, and the resignation of Jamshed Bharucha.

For the first five days of the sit-in, the eleven Cooper students were joined by Kali Hays, a student reporter for the New School Free Press. Kali's coverage is indispensible reading and can be found here. The initial action has been followed by daily solidarity actions, as well as other actions such as the occupation of the December 5 Board of Trustees meeting.

The students hung a "Free Education To All" banner from the Eighth Floor, turned the Clocktower lights red, and ran red streamers down to a supportive crowd below. When asked how those outside could help, the students only asked that supporters continue to gather in front of the Foundation Building to continue to draw media coverage and demonstrate their solidarity. Admnistration claims that Students for a Free Cooper Union, part of Cooper Union Student Action to Save Our School (CU $.0.$.) is limited to the 11 students in the Clocktower is facetious at best and insulting to all of the other students who have worked hard for 13 months to help preserve full-tuition scholarships for all future Cooper students, and continue to work inside and outside of the Cooper Union buildings, hanging protest posters, holding candlelight vigils, etc.

According to other media coverage, the takeover started at noon, simultaneous to a Free University of New York teach-in at Peter Cooper Park, a schedule of activist action, ending the day with a Summit on Debt and Education in The Great Hall featuring Occupy Student Debt activists and a Friends of Cooper Union speech. The takeover ended at noon a week later, with Reverend Billy declaring the Cooper 11 "saints in our church.

Context for the student demands:

  • Free education: It is important to understand that the students are not demanding free education out of self-interest - all currently enrolled students have been guaranteed a full-tuition scholarship through to their graduation. For the past decade, Cooper students pay tuition and fees, and then receive a "tuition discount." The relationship between fees and tuition is complex and has changed over the 150 years of the college, resulting in several false narratives. Some facts are: For at least 25 years, while Peter Cooper was alive, the "Cooper Institute" was "absolutely free," except for some "amateur" women in the day art school during the first decade, a vestige of the School of Design for Women. Peter Cooper made clear his intention that the college be "open and free to all"; his son-in-law, Abram Hewitt, similarly repeated stories about how Peter Cooper said the college was intended to be "as free as air and water". It is not known yet when The Cooper Union stopped being a charity school and allowed even those "abundantly able to pay" to apply, or when student fees were first assessed, but the "since 1902" narrative from the administration has proved to be part of a misinformation campaign. See The Real Cooper.
  • Board transparency and representation: The students are citing a decade of secret plans and transactions by the Board, including a 2006 cy pres petition to the NYC Supreme Court that allowed the college to mortgage the Chrysler Building (resulting in a 30-year annual $10 million debt service to MetLife); significant cost overruns on interior and exterior renovations to the Foundation Building and construction of the New Academic Building; over-investment in hedge funds prior to the 2008 market crash (which a trustee has repeatedly mischaracterized to the media); lack of restraints on an administration after a balanced budget was achieved just prior to the 2008 market crash; and confidentiality agreements that keep elected alumni representatives to the Board from revealing Board policies, discussions, or decisions.
  • Bharucha resignation: Starting with a propaganda campaign to substitute "access" for the merit scholarship policy, continuing with announcement of the "hybrid framework" (supported by no one but the Board and the President of the Alumni Association), and ending with an attempt to impose "Responsibility Centered Management" on to each school, the students have recognized that Jamshed Bharucha's "tuition as a last resort" rhetoric has always been a lie. A more complete listing of the college's dirty tricks campaign can be found here. Since Bharucha was granted tenure at Cooper, it is possible that the students intend that he step down as president, but that he may remain as a teacher. The students have never claimed that Cooper not have a president at all, although the salary, benefits, and perks of the president are excessive (see this Chronicle of Higher Education story).
  • December 8, 2012: The Free Cooper Union rally on December 8, 2012, was a great success. The event was a completely peaceful gathering where people from many different groups were able to come together to express their strong support for continuing free education at The Cooper Union.

    The success of this event was the product of hard work, very disciplined organizing and the cooperation of many different groups:

    The Students: The Free Cooper Union movement has been led by the students. These are not anarchic rabble-rousers. The group of students that occupied the Peter Cooper Suite and the students who organized and attended this rally represent some of the best and brightest at Cooper. These young people are Cooper Unionís student council representatives and top academic achievers. These are Cooper Unionís leaders. These students are the embodiment of Peter Cooperís vision of education as a means to facilitate continuing generations of politically active, smart and socially conscious LEADERS for our democratic society.

    Alumni: The rally was attended by alumni young and old. There were representatives from the class of 2012 through the class of 1946. Representatives of the CUAA were also present for the rally. My dear friends (and upstairs neighbors) Sheryl London Aí46 and her husband Mel were in attendance. They used the human megaphone to amplify their voices to make an inspiring statement about the need for tuition free education at Cooper and their solidarity with the student protests at Cooper Union.

    Cooper Staff and Faculty: There were many members of Cooper Unionís Faculty and Staff in attendance, both current and retired. It was great to see this support and student/faculty unity.

    Cooper Union Administration: Vice President Westcott and Dean of Students Lemiesz were in attendance. They have been instrumental in ensuring the safety of the students and their presence was important in conveying a message of peaceful cooperation which was appreciated by everyone I spoke to.

    There are two non-Cooper groups that, though on opposite ends of the protest spectrum, were both indispensible in the success of the event and both deserve great thanks.

    The Community: This includes the East Village community, the citywide/nationwide/worldwide student organization movements, and the Occupy movement who were all present and very active at this rally. These groups voiced calls of solidarity with our struggle to preserve Cooperís mission of free education. These groups connected our local struggle to a powerful global movement.

    The New York Police Department: As a life long New Yorker I have attended events from the Thanksgiving Day Parade to Anti Iraq War Rallies and I have never seen a more professional and respectful police presence than the one we had. The police accompanied the marchers from Washington Square Park and facilitated their movement through the streets- stopping traffic to allow the marchers to cross intersections. When the rally arrived at Cooper Union the officers drew back to a respectful distance. As far as I know there were no negative interactions between the police and the event attendees. On the contrary, I heard that there were many positive conversations!

    This rally was an example of what happens when well trained, smart, principled and disciplined individuals work cooperatively. I hope that it will serve as an example of what we can achieve together. Thank you everyone for doing your part and helping us to, collectively, do our best.

    Ben Degen A' 98

    Partial List of Media Coverage:

  • MTV Cribs - "Eat breakfast and start blackmailing billionaires."
  • NY Times Blog
  • Art in America
  • WPIX
  • The Local
  • Rachel Maddow
  • NY Mag, Hyperallergenic, Architect, blog, Occupy, Wesleying, New School, NBC, MSNBC, In These Times, NYU, ArtInfo, VillageVoice, CBS, ...

    A list the Cooper 11 compiled can be found here: http://www.cusos.org/a-comprehensive-working-list-of-day-of-action-news-coverage/ and http://cusos.org/press/.

    Since 12/3/12, Money On The Table has raised over $100,000 towards the Annual Fund!

  • If you are a journalist, please stop spreading the false story that Cooper charged tuition prior to 1902. See below.

    Alumni Pioneer
    Page Two
    You want numbers?: Four scenarios which will get us to 2018. Mix and match and it is guaranteed!

    Given recent media attention, The Alumni Pioneer is publishing this New York Magazine-style article about the Cooper Union financial crisis, written for a general audience. Click here.

    Professor Peter Buckley, as quoted in The Villager: "With the exception of a small number of amateur students in the women's Day School of Art all students in certificate or degree programs have received tuition without paying for it. This has been the case since 1859. The "110" year statement refers to students in the Day School of Engineering, but since it only opened in 1901 it would be hard for the institution to charge tuition for that school before its founding! Let's not pretend it was the policy of Cooper Union to charge tuition in its early years and that mere circumstance has delayed its return."

    On December 15, 2012, The Alumni Pioneer published excerpts from a biography published three weeks after Peter Cooper's death, with links to other historic sources, in which The New York Herald provides a true picture of the Cooper Institute's first twenty-five years, and which puts the nail in the coffin of the Bharucha administration's press releases.

    Who Benefits?

    Since salaries and benefits dominate the Cooper budget, it is important to remember that half of the school is not engaged in academic activity, and that the administration reserves a large share of the benefits by keeping most full-time positions for themselves.

    President Bharucha proposed the institution of Responsibility Centered Management on the college in August 2012, but this totally ignores the burden of indirect costs on a college budget.

    It is also important to remember that in December 2011 President Bharucha made a Presidential Address promising to cut down the size of the administration: "We will be conducting an Administrative Review -- bringing in an experienced external consultant with no stake in the game to look at our administrative structure and processes. I've always believed that an administration should exist only to serve the educational activities of the college, the research and creative work of the faculty and the public service part of our mission. I will make some very hard-nosed assessments to make sure we have the leanest, meanest, most effective, most catalyzing administrative structure that enables our students and faculty to do their creative work."

    There have been no layoffs, and a hiring freeze announced in November 2011 was ignored and even vacated positions filled. Bharucha's promises are reminiscent of similarly ignored promises made by previous President Campbell after the crash of 2008, which were instead followed by a year-long bacchanalia in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the college.

    Alumni Pioneer
    Page Two
    Contact the publisher - or maybe read The Alumni Pioneer first.