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Fighting For a Fair Risk-Free Austerity Budget Since November 2011
As The Cooper Union Board of Trustees considers charging tuition for graduate programs and reducing the full-tuition scholarship for undergraduate programs by 24%, The Alumni Pioneer, using the immortal technique of a parody video, makes one last effort to keep the college from the point of no return.
Also available as PDF.
"Cooper has a serious cluster fuck." - Felipe Coronel (Immortal Technique), January 1, 2013
Is Peter Cooper History?Hewitt Was First To Go
Peter Cooper was once beloved by many in New York City and New York State. On their various websites1,2 and now in press releases, the college, still named after the man who saved up his entire life to found it, is writing him out of it.
On the eve of a historic vote to alter the mission of the institution, The Alumni Pioneer provides The Real Cooper, the history of the first 25 - if not 50 or 100 - years of The Cooper Union, as told by The New York Herald and other authenticated sources from before the turn of the nineteenth century. (A shorter version, focusing just on The Cooper Union, can be found here.)
Abram Hewitt, the former mayor and Peter Cooper son-in-law who was its first Chair of the Board of Trustees, remaining in the position for over forty years until his death in 1903 at the age of 81, has already been deleted from the college (he graces The Alumni Pioneer masthead). The Hewitt Building, funded by Andrew Carnegie and J. Pierpont Morgan in his honor after his death, was destroyed 100 years later in 2003, replaced with a Thom Mayne building called the New Academic Building (or NAB), with so many donor names plastered at its entrance, in its halls, and on its floors, it should be called the Name Building (Mayne even carved his initial, a lower case "t," into its ugly facade). Search the college's website for Hewitt's name, you may find one tiny scholarship left.
Peter Cooper has lasted a little longer, just over 150 years, but his erasure from history on the Internet was almost complete. He lived on in pesky archives still posted by the Cooper Union Library, the first college entity to come under attack by the Expense Reduction Task Force. President Bharucha, acting on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, claimed that the legal mission statement of the college was the "Deed of Trust" (Charter), not the Letter to the Trustees, which declares that The Cooper Union be "open and free to all."
The day after Jamshed Bharucha, who likes to be called Jamshed and is often referred to as JB, announced to The New York Times that the scholarship policy would be altered only as a "last resort," he distributed an e-mail letter to the "Cooper Union Community" proposing a "reinvention strategy" in which "access" would alter the scholarship policy! A week later, the words "I blame the alumni" emanated from the lips of Board Chair Mark Epstein, an Alumnus of the Year and former Alumni Association president, who openly complains about alumni who "still won't give to the school because of [the sale of] Green Camp." Fed false narratives about "decades of deficit spending" and a "structural deficit," at a Joint Student Council meeting on November 8, 2011, the engineering students voted that the school should charge tuition if it must to stay alive, and the art students voted that if it did, it should change its name. Will they both get their wishes?
You can't make this shit up - the Alumni Office is advertisizing Founder's Day using the tagline, "Imagine The World Without Cooper." Perfect punctuation mark to the story above.
Cooper 11 Grab Media Spotlight from Friends of Cooper Union SolutionsDirty Tricks Campaign Seems to be Working
On December 3, 2012, Cooper Union Student Action to Save Our School (C.U.$.O.$.) grabbed the media spotlight, putting the "Cooper 11" and The Cooper Union at the center of Occupy Student Debt and the free education movement. Their three demands, however, merely served to obscure the fact that there are alternatives to charging tuition to undergraduates and to graduates at the college. One of their demands, that JB step down as president, actually kept members of Cooper's three unions (full-time faculty, part-time faculty, and staff) from showing solidarity with the occupiers, so Cooper employees affirmed the college's mission statement instead. As it was, the media decided that stories about pizza and The Last Supper were more important than any serious consideration of how to save free education at The Cooper Union. The C.U.$.O.$. website even repeated the "Since 1902" narrative invented by the administration, and the occupation overwhelmed any coverage of the Great Hall event occuring 8 floors below.
Friends of Cooper Union (FOCU), in concurrence with Alumni Pioneer (AP) analyses, has stated on their website that the Revenue Task Force acceptance of only $4M in annual budget cuts, and the emphasis on revenue generation, isn't the only way out of the fiscal crisis. FOCU proposes a 10-point plan, starting with 4 austerity measures: immediate cuts, long-range cuts, termination of all consultants who are not cash-positive, and a true hiring freeze. The 5th point is to use the 4 austerity measures to recalculate the needed revenue generation needed. Points 6 and 7 involve short-range and long-range planning, points 8 and 10 are for a bridge capital campaign and a new long-range capital campaign, and point 9 is to strengthen the role of the alumni with FOCU's help. FOCU rejects the "hybrid" framework, standing against graduate tuition and against even a partial reduction in the full-tuition scholarship for undergraduate students. Over 3,000 people signed FOCU's on-line no-tuition petition, and nearly a 1,000 people have endorsed "The Way Forward," the FOCU consensus document.
An FAQ created in response to AP's Student's Guide to the Cooper Union Financial Crisis was met by FOCU with a FUQ!, and by AP with an AQAF. AP produced a simple spreadsheet proving that there were several scenarios that would get the college to 2018, the year that a $20M net bump up in Chrysler Building rent will arrive.
Due to "extortion," in the words of the faculty union president, full-time faculty were forced to adopt a policy of Responsibility Centered Management and present their recommendations to the Board of Trustees (BoT) on December 5, 2012. An additional BoT meeting is said to be held in January 2013. Trustee Daniel Okrent, head of a secret - oops, not secret any more! - "SWAT Team" devoted to attacking the administration's on-line enemies, will have The New York Times announce the BoT decision soon. The SWAT Team leaked a draft of the Undergraduate Tuition Committee report to both C.U.$.O.$. and AP, and has waged a war on Cooper Union's Wikipedia page.
C.U.$.O.$, led by Casey Gollan and Joe Riley (among others), AP, published by Barry Drogin, and FOCU, founded by Henry Chapman, are the last entities in the Cooper Union Community to remain against the "hybrid framework." C.U.$.O.$. invited FOCU to address the public in The Great Hall on December 3, 2012, and recommended that the media visit AP as a resource, but direct communications and planning between the three entities has been sparse. These three entities constitute the heart, brain, and soul of the Cooper Union free education movement.
Join or Die!
Pearson Molds Propaganda Campaign
The Alumni Pioneer has kept this story active since July 2012, with the photos added in September 2012. Ms. Pearson joined Mt. Sinai in November 2012. Although she is visible in this photograph from the September 2012 Board of Trustees meeting, her name does not appear in the transcript.
1. reinvention: build graduate program, sabotage undergraduate program
Alumni Pioneer sources revealed that a key player in President Bharucha's propaganda campaign since the Halloween Massacre is Diana Pearson, former Vice President for Communication at Dartmouth and classmate of Bharucha's at Vassar. Ms. Pearson's LinkedIn profile indicates she formed Pearson Strategies, LLC, in November of 2011, just after the Halloween Massacre.
Although Ms. Pearson's on-line profile lives on at Dartmouth and its blogs, her career since coming to New York City first in August 2010 is a mystery. Pearson Strategies (not to be confused with Pearson Education) has no website, and her only official link to Cooper is through her listing as "staff" at every Expense Reduction Task Force meeting. The Cooper Union confirmed that Ms. Pearson has been paid directly by the college as a consultant, simultaneous to the hiring freeze announcement. Ms. Pearson refused to comment for this article.
Referred to by one source as "the Karl Rove of the Bharucha administration," what is clear is that psychologist Bharucha has been using Ms. Pearson's advice in the media campaign that started with the Halloween Massacre and the announcement of the "reinvention strategy," led to a media blackout, the suppression of information about the Community Summit and other Friends of Cooper Union events, changes in the history section of the Cooper website (which no longer mentions Peter Cooper's oft-quoted "free as air and water" phrase, but instead now states, "He made his school free for the working classes"), the insistent use of "access" in all Cooper Union communications, and, eventually, the announcement of the "hybrid framework." Although ostensibly attributed to Lawrence Cacciatore, Secretary to the Board of Trustees, Pearson's hand can be detected in the pre-emptive "Board Report" released on September 20.
Pearson was at Dartmouth when its Board of Trustees attempted to dilute the influence of its alumni, resulting in a lawsuit. Coverage of the governance crisis dominated the Dartmouth website to such an extent that the Board of Trustees created a new website to bury the story. Bharucha left Dartmouth in 2002 for Tufts, prior to the Ivy League fiasco, although a key theme was an attempt to transition Dartmouth from an undergraduate institution to a graduate research institution, similar to Bharucha's unpopular "Reinvention Strategy" for Cooper and a similar money-generating goal at Tufts.
LinkedIn links may only be visible to readers with LinkedIn connections to The Cooper Union.
It came by e-mail: On February 20, 2013, at 1:30pm, Claire McCarthy told the world that "generating revenue through tuition from academic programs" was the only course for any institution of higher education that was "sustainable." If her words end up as the announcement of the death of free higher education in America in the 21st Century, then, whether she wrote those words herself or whether they were given to her by Mark Epstein, Jamshed Bharucha, or Diana Pearson, they will nevertheless forever remain attributed to her.
The words, of course, make no sense - The Cooper Union provided free higher education in America for over 150 years - so her proclamation of what is and is not "sustainable" - not what will provide survival until 2018, or until the Great Recession ends, or until austerity is once again embraced, or until the next benefactor can be found, no, what is "sustainable" - will remain for all time as the reason why the Board of Trustees destroyed The Cooper Union and free education in America in the 21st century.
Unless, of course, the Board of Trustees veers away from the lies they have been telling and rejects Claire McCarthy's proclamation.
After their last two meetings were streamed live on the Internet by student activists, the Board of Trustees moved their March 6, 2013, meeting to an undisclosed location, to be followed by an e-mail to the Cooper Union Community that merely repeated what had already been announced in April 2012 - that incoming undergraduate students in September 2013 (the class of 2018) would receive full-tuition scholarships for the duration of their undergraduate education at Cooper.
The e-mail didn't say that a reduction in the full-tuition scholarship by 25% had been approved by the Board, nor did it say that it had been rejected. Similarly, the President submitted a FY 2014 budget for approval at the meeting. The announcement did not say whether that budget had been approved, nor did it say whether the budget had been rejected and further cuts in operating expenses - demanded by the entire Cooper Union Community - were required.
Based on a February 17, 2013 interview with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and responses to questions at a March 1 Public Forum (transcribed in tweets by Sean Cusack), the media and the community had all but expected implementation of the 25% reduction in the scholarship - although all of the stakeholders had united against implementing the change. Sean had already sent an open letter to the board with a personal plea to attach a ten-year "sunset clause" to the Board's expected tuition decision.
As proven again and again, the media and much of the community has continued to be diverted by administration communications and accept outrageous administration lies, which have shifted subtly in response to repeated Alumni Pioneer publications and videos. For example, the Board now admits that half of the time, Cooper had an operating deficit - begging the question of whether deficits have exceeded surpluses, and giving a lie to the "decades of deficit spending" and "structural deficit" narratives. Similarly, the Board now says that alumni giving has been low "not in total value, but in numbers." But the fairy tale that Cooper became tuition-free in 1902 with a $300,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie continues to ooze from the mouths of the Board, the Cooper press office, and in countless media outlets (challenged only by The Villager, a local newspaper), and the persistent lie about Cooper's endowment, published four times in The New York Times, continues its viral truthiness, most recently spreading throughout the Internet in a free college story written by Christina Couch for Bankrate.com. Stories about the fake hiring freeze and the presidential promise to reduce the size of the administration have also disappeared into the ether of the media's short attention span. TC Westcott similarly lied to the Public Forum audience by claiming that the cost of the administration had been reduced from 48% of the budget to 46%, without mentioning that those percentages did not include the cost of employee benefits, heavily weighted to the administrative side.
Cooper Undergraduate Education: Eighty Thousand DollarsNot Including Room, Board, and Textbooks
April 23, 2013: A week after a second secret Board of Trustees meeting, Chair Mark Epstein announced at noon that The Cooper Union would reduce the full-tuition scholarship to 50% starting with the Class of 2018 (entering in September 2014). For students who qualify for Pell Grants and TAP funds, the announcement effectively shifts the Board-created budget crisis over to the government. Students from middle and upper class families will have to come up with approximately $80 thousand in funds or loans, assuming that such students choose to both apply and attend the college. The $20M per year that the Board expects to collect, ramping up from $5M in 2014, will need to offset an expected drop in alumni giving, which averaged $6M per year in the last decade (more in the years prior to the crash of 2008).
The announcement was accompanied by orchestrated exclusives in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, a posting on the Cooper website, and e-mail blasts from the Board as well as from the five elected Alumni Trustees, all dated April 23, 2013, although the decision had been made a week earlier. When he steps down, Chair Epstein will be replaced by Vice Chair François de Menil, one of the wealthiest students to attend the college for free.
By coincidence, Friends of Cooper Union started a write-in campaign on the same day to elect Kevin Slavin to the Board. An initial e-mail blast endorsed the publisher of The Alumni Pioneer, Barry Drogin, but Mr. Slavin volunteered to run and Mr. Drogin and FOCU have endorsed Mr. Slavin. Aside from making the most well-received speech at the First Community Summit in December 2011 in The Great Hall, Mr. Slavin was involved in the Money on the Table website campaign, which raised nearly a half million dollars from nearly six hundred pledges with the caveat that Cooper remain completely tuition free.
In addition to postings on social media and in alumni blogs, coverage of the announcement has been extensive. NY1 interviewed President Bharucha, who is actually quoted saying "in Peter Cooper's time, when he was the first president, he welcomed the mixing up, if you like, or the union of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and those who could afford it were charged at that time." (In fact, the trustees agonized over the decision to allow those with means to continue attending classes in the incorporated School of Design for Women, limiting their number before pushing them into a separate "amateur" class that was eventually stopped. Similarly, throughout Peter Cooper's lifetime they took steps to keep those with means from attending the free night classes, although they noted that they were more than willing to pay to do so.) Felix Salmon of Reuters has written another piece calling the trustees to task for their financial mismanagement of the college.
Meanwhile, according to The Villager, Bharucha and Cooper have opened up a quagmire by agreeing to become an anchor tenant for the old CHARAS Building. Councilmember Rosie Mendez has already vowed to protest the agreement, a replay of the St. Marks Bookshop horror of two years ago.
JOINT STATEMENT FROM THE LEADERSHIP OF CUFCT, CUOP, AND U@CU:
The faculty and staff unions at The Cooper Union deeply regret the Board of Trustees' vote to end the 154 year tradition of free education at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Peter Cooper possessed a powerful vision of social harmony for his beloved city. He wanted men and women of all races and religions to have the opportunity to gain an independence of mind and action. His "union" was to pay back the debt he believed he owed to the working classes of the city that had given him his wealth. For over one hundred years Cooper graduates have made a difference. Now Peter Cooper’s charitable purpose is to be reduced to platitudes about educational "excellence" and to the bottom line of administrative expense.
Despite a sit-in calling for his resignation, President Bharucha has issued a public letter calling for healing and praising other actions including painting the architecture lobby black and a Why Cooper? protest at City Hall. In addition to the sit-in, Bharucha has allowed windows of the Foundation Building to be festooned with art works related to the protest, and black streamers to be hung from the building.
Board Chair Epstein, however, has not been so conciliatory. He has authored a letter claiming that the sit-in "has created a poisonous and dangerous atmosphere that can potentially destroy the school forever... hasten[ing] it towards its extinction." According to reliable sources, Epstein attributed these words to an alumnus who, being read them by Epstein, said he disagreed with them and asked his name be removed from them. Many in the Cooper Union Community have tried to avoid a "nuclear option," not wanting to, in an unattributed but popular phrase from the 60's, burn down the village in order to save it. Epstein claims that this "nuclear option" is now on the table.
Certainly, a great divide has opened between the Board and administration and the rest of the Cooper Union Community. The students involved in the sit-in have already been threatened with dismissal, as have non-tenured faculty members voting no confidence in the President. Friends of Cooper Union has posted an on-line petition voting no confidence in both Bharucha and Epstein. The New York Times has published a financial story placing blame for the financial crisis squarely on the Board, and a financial blogger for Reuters has been publishing stories criticizing both the President and the Board. The number of reporters and publications jumping on the trustees increases every day, too rapid for The Alumni Pioneer to list and count them all. C.U.$.O.$. maintains a list at http://cusos.org/press/.
The sit-in has been on-going since May 8, 2013.
June 2013 State of the Union
Free Saturday Program Wins Reprieve with $1,000,000 Trustee Donation
In a possible rebuke to new for-pay high school programs, trustee Jeff Gural ensured the continuance of the Saturday Program with a $1,000,000 gift - $100K/year over 10 years - in an amazing night of fundraising that saw a $15,000 matching grant from Trustee Lincer, and donations from over 175 people totaling $1,039,207! You, too, can donate money to keep the Saturday Program free, at http://www.saturdayoutreach.org/saturday/support.
Statement from adjunct faculty
Dear President Bharucha, Board of Trustees and fellow Cooper Union community of students, alumni, professors, and administrators,
A quorum of my colleagues who teach part time at Cooper Union (149 professors who taught last school year and who constitute most of the faculty) voted on a proclamation. A vast majority - 78 out of the 80 respondents - voted in favor of the following statement.
The Part-time faculty of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, numbering upwards of three-fourths of the school's total faculty, is a vital component of the Cooper community. We state our unequivocal support for the Mission of the school and stand in affinity with the students and faculty who have registered their dissatisfaction with the recent decisions on charging tuition by the Board and Executive administration. We urge the administration to build a substantial dialogue with participants of the uprising to develop collaborative methods to re-affirm the core values of a tuition-free education.I trust you will give it your considered attention.
Short-term "Solution" Used to Force Long-term "Solution"
Closure, Undergraduate Tuition, and New For-Pay Graduate Programs
The discussion in the transcript of the September 19, 2012, Board of Trustee meeting recently published in The Village Voice shows that President Bharucha saw the threat of closing a school - one of only two options, the other being undergraduate tuition, considered as short-term "solutions" - as the means to force the faculty to provide full-tuition high school, undergraduate, and graduate programs that were to be the long-term "solution." Although Bharucha had promised at the Halloween Massacre that Cooper wouldn't shut down a school, in the fall of 2012 there was a panic on campus that the Engineering School was threatened with closure - a threat confirmed by a leak of the letter to the deans, which contained a phrase that schools that didn't agree to Responsibility Centered Management would not be "sustained." According to Audrey Flack, speaking at the Alumni Trustee Forum on May 21, 2013 (click for video and semi-transcript), when the art faculty complained about the "subtly coercive charge" and refused to endorse for-pay programs, Epstein made a motion to close the art school, an obvious indication that that charge was not subtle and was definitely intended to be coercive. Bharucha phrases it to the Board this way:
So internally with the engineering faculty I've had to be blunt because the engineers are very blunt, and not very subtle [laughter in room]. We say reinvention or closure, and reinvention means these practical things: so many millions in so many years, etc., and they get it. Our external language cannot be that blunt about the closure option because it freaks people out. It scares people. The faculty, even the engineering faculty, who needed to hear it bluntly, don't necessarily want their students to hear it bluntly because they're afraid students will go for the doors. Head for the doors. So we talk about sustainability and we'll get you that language. We've talked about sustainability. If we're not sustainable then we can't be sustained. Sustainability requires that we have a plan that conforms to the dollar parameters that we believe necessary to be sustainable. It's almost as enigmatic. The second part is that no program can be successful or sustained without faculty support. If the faculty can't support a sustainable plan then we fail. That's about how close one can come. Now closed doors you know, blah blah blah, at some point if people try to play games with this, we may have to be more blunt, and say a bit directly we'll shut you down.
Getting the community to fixate on the tuition "solution" is Bharucha's way of diverting attention "spatially and temporally," as he puts it, from the fact that the Board is still fully intent on establishing new for-pay graduate programs:
Although Epstein was willing to vote to close the art school if it didn't cooperate, Stanley Lapidus - no longer on the Board - is dead-set throughout the transcript on using closure as a step toward total reinvention of the college, one with a single design major, no faculty unions, and no tenure - a proposed plan already rejected by the faculty. Bharucha is enticed by this "fantasy":
Stan and I had this conversation and I've learned a lot from his perspective. A year ago I could not, as an educator, a lifetime teacher, I could not, in my brain, entertain thinking of the notion of closing a school as a Plan A. It just seemed kind of violent. But Stan makes the argument, isn't that the fantasy? Sure, it's a fantasy of every college president, get rid of these characters ... [laughter in room] and start and build a fabulous institution. It has played in my mind. Believe me, there are many nights when I'm thinking, boy, that would be so much fun.
Epstein has said his only regret was not imposing tuition sooner. The New York Times - and Milton Glazer - may have been told on November 1, 2011, that "altering our scholarship policy will be only as a last resort," but the "access" language in the November 2, 2011, reinvention strategy letter proves this is just rhetoric, and the "hybrid framework," where new for-pay graduate programs pay for tuition-free undergraduate programs, was, to Bharucha, merely a time-delay tactic, despite recent protestations by alumni trustees to the contrary.
Real estate assets (like Green Camp and the Engineering Building) are sold, but loans are still needed to pay for Hejduk's FB renovation, Ohlhausen's dorm, and Mayne's NAB - all non-income producing real estate assets ("paid for itself" say the trustees).
1972 cy pres petition allows Cooper Union to take out first and second DASNY loans.
2006 cy pres petition allows Cooper Union to take out MetLife loan.
Thank you, Attorney General, for letting the trustees feed their real estate habit.
For over 110 years - from 1859 to 1972 - The Cooper Union lived within its means.
New Anti-Tuition Alumni Trustee: "Oh shit."
Upon learning that he had been elected as an alumni trustee through a write-in campaign organized by Friends of Cooper Union, the first response of Kevin Slavin, A '95, was, "Oh shit."
The plight of alumni trustees has been frought since charging tuition was put "on the table" by current President Jamshed Bharucha. John Huddy AR '85 resigned when he discovered he didn't hold the same anti-tuition positions as the alumni he represented. The Alumni Council replaced him with Lee Skolnick AR '79, although the Council neglected to ask Mr. Skolnick his views on tuition, and he has remained reclusive throughout the crisis. The Alumni Council erred again by nominating Kathryn McGraw Berry AR '80 without asking her views on tuition. An alumna wrote to her and asked; it was her response, posted on the Save Cooper Union Facebook page, which led to outrage and the write-in campaign for Mr. Slavin.
According to the CUAA, 1288 valid paper and electronic ballots were counted. Sean Cusack reports that this is double the normal number of ballots received in a CUAA election. In addition to Slavin, Free Cooper Union endorsed 12 candidates for the alumni council: Nicholas Agneta AR '80, Rachel Appel A '13, Xenia Diente A '99, Jason Paul Guzman A '00, Sangamithra Iyer CE '99, Kelly O'Keefe A '82, Julian LaVerdiere A '93, Edmundo Majchrzyk A '09, Annabel Roberts-McMichael A '10, Karina Tipton CE '99, Curtis Wayne AR '75, and Karen Sandler BSE '97. All twelve candidates were elected, as well, according to the results posted on the CUAA website.
Kevin was in the audience at the May 21, 2013, Alumni Council meeting where his election was formally (and unanimously) accepted by the Alumni Council. He said, "I want to thank everyone who gave me America's crappiest job."
PDF text of speech
New President Salary: "Oh shit."
On May 11, 2013, The Alumni Pioneer printed a story claiming that current president Jamshed Bharucha earned $340K, median for a college president. We had written to TC Westcott on May 6 to confirm the story, but she didn't reply until May 14. We are dismayed to report that Bharucha's total compensation package is closer to $650K. The confusion arose from proper interpretation of Schedule J, Part II of fiscal year 2012 Form 990; Column B reports Bharucha's compensation from his W-2, which is for 6 months of employment (calendar year 2011), whereas Columns C and D, including the free housing, are for 12 months of employment (fiscal year 2012). The confusion was compounded by Cooper reporting $0 in base compensation for Campbell, summing his final six months of salary, expense account, and golden parachute into "other reportable compensation." The six months of free housing in fiscal year 2011 are clearly not included in Campbell's Column D.
The trustees have been widely criticized for placing former president Campbell into the top ten college presidents in compensation in 2009, one of three years when Campbell received performance bonuses of $175K. The community is even more outraged that Bharucha's compensation, without a bonus, is only slightly lower than Campbell's compensation with the bonus, as shown below:
1998, Iselin $205,047
Iselin did not get free housing, although White and Lacy before him did.
Free 154 Years: "Oh shit."
For two years the administration has been putting out press releases claiming that The Cooper Union became free in 1902, but that fairy tale is dying as media outlet after media outlet have been publishing that Cooper is charging tuition for the first time in 154 years.
Even the students had bought this bullshit story, inundating the 2012 Wreath Laying Ceremony with "110 YEARS FREE" balloons. Sangamithra Iyer CE '99 takes full credit for first reporting on the "amateur class". The Cooper Union library has made available the early trustee reports that Ms. Iyer consulted for her essay, which are available here.
In the early years, the "amateurs" were the equivalent of "auditors," attending some drawing classes but not receiving certificates. The existence of these auditors flits in and out and was restricted to women in the day art school, not men in the night art school (the architecture school) or men and women in the night science school (the engineering school). Susan Carter, who became Principal of the Free Art School for Women in 1872, eventually set up rules for the regular degree-seeking women and the auditors. Dean Alan Wolf has quoted out of context Ms. Carter's rules and attributed them to Peter Cooper.
During Ms. Carter's tenure at Cooper, the amateurs were pushed out of the full-time morning school and given their own class in the afternoon, the earliest example of a continuing education program. The afternoon classes ceased in 1887; the return of continuing education classes at The Cooper Union hasn't been researched yet, but dates back to at least the 1970's. In 2004, the college first introduced a continuing education certificate program; current Continuing Education propaganda claims that continuing education at Cooper dates back to 1859.
The Cooper librarians have researched the history of lab, material, and studio fees, and of the student fee, which first appeared in 1962. In its early years, Cooper sold textbooks to students at cost, and many art students were paid for in-class work, such as coloring lithographs.
40% Alumni Giving: "Oh shit."
In a telephone interview with Democracy Now!, Chair Mark Epstein repeats his "blame the alumni" campaign by claiming that "Traditionally, only 20 percent of our alumni, who have gotten 100 percent scholarships, give back to the school on a regular basis." The Alumni Pioneer has published a new analysis, Michael Borkowsky and Alumni Giving, which reproduces several versions of the trustee "low alumni giving rate" mantra, and provides the actual numbers and history.
From the 1970's until 2000, The Cooper Union was one of eight schools cited by CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, for the high level of alumni giving to colleges, between 35 and 40%. With the kick-off of the 2000 Capital Campaign, although Phonathon giving increased every year, the percentage of alumni giving to the Annual Fund decreased and the amount collected in the Annual Fund remained flat, whereas enormous amounts, quadruple the amounts collected in the Annual Fund, were collected in the Capital Campaign, primarily into the Building Fund, as shown below.
The administration has never released the true rate of alumni giving during the last decade, nor have the trustees apologized for their continued slander of Cooper Union alumni. Alumni who repeat this slander are henceforth to be considered "self-hating alumni."
New CUAA President and Executive Committee Hit the Ground Running
Moves on Working Group representation, senior voting rights, Associates
At the first CUAA Council meeting held in July, new CUAA President John Leeper introduced a series of resolutions from the CUAA Executive Committee, expressing urgency on issues such as governance and tuition. There were two key presentations to the Council, one from Mike Borkowsky about the goals of the new stop-tuition Working Group, and one from Sangu Iyer about the formation of the Associates of Cooper Union. A video recording of the entire CUAA Council meeting can be found here.
Governance was removed by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees (not to be confused with the Executive Committee of the CUAA) from the Working Group agenda, in the midst of promises from Mr. Leeper to make it a top priority of the CUAA. In addition to setting a deadline for CUAA constitutional changes that have dragged on for years, a resolution to include "last year" students as CUAA voting members is to be added to the Constitution changes, and a new ad hoc committee to recommend formulation of the Associates of Cooper Union has been formed. A special election to put three alumni representatives on the Working Group is being rushed forward for this summer. There were also plans to make all alumni events revenue neutral or revenue positive, as the school is still losing money on regional events, Founder's Day, and Alumni Weekends.
Administration Embarks on Summer Hiring Spree
Ignoring calls to hold down expenses, and despite the advantages of vacancies left by employees jumping ship, the Bharucha administration has embarked on a summer hiring spree, including a new dean of the engineering school and new admissions staff. Over a dozen more staff positions are listed on the Cooper Union website, although listings for a new Vice President for Communications & External Relations position have been taken down from several job sites.
Cost-Cutting to be Focus of Anti-Tuition Working Group
Trustee Mike Borkowsky, who with Trustee Jeffrey Gural will co-chair a new Working Group to "leave no stone unturned" to restore the full scholarship policy at Cooper, listed three major focuses: space utilization (vacating 30 Cooper Square), academic structure, and compensation (including headcount reduction). He pledged to attempt "a united effort to get the school back on track," and said the Working Group would put on the table "a much more extensive set of cost reductions [so] we will know once and for all if the community has the willingness to fight for [restoring the full scholarship] and make the sacrifices that they have to make or to help us accomplish it." In recorded comments and responses at the July CUAA Council Meeting that were livestreamed, Mr. Borkowsky admitted that the trustees had previously taken a lot of measures "off the table" as unlikely.
Alumni Giving Part II: The "Regular Contributor" and Other Myths
It's not that alumni don't give, it's that, some years, alumni can't give. How often? On average, half of the time.
Why a moving three-year average is a better indicator of alumni giving rates than any single year statistic - how generous Cooper alumni really are. Click on the graph for the full report.
Who is "Cooper Union"?
Legally, The Cooper Union has three components: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (the college), the CV Starr Research Foundation, and the Astor Place Holding Corporation. Outside of these entities, other entities have "Cooper Union" in their names: Free Cooper Union and its tumblr blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and a public salon that traveled to London, Friends of Cooper Union, the Cooper Union Task Force wiki, Cooper Union's three unions, and, of course, the Cooper Union Alumni Association (CUAA).
The last of these, during the last financial crisis, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the college, establishing elected representatives to the Board of Trustees and representation on faculty committees. The Memorandum, signed by the President of the college and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees in February 1974 and taking effect on July 1, 1974, also subject all employees of the Alumni Office (merging the Alumni Association office and the Office of Alumni Relations) to approval by the Council of the Alumni Association (replacing the Alumni Association Board of Governors), and gave the Alumni Association "full responsibility for the Alumni Fund and all alumni activities" and empowered it to "direct the operation of the Alumni Office."
With the most recent financial crisis, the Alumni Association has pushed to restore its powers. Back in November 2011, a staff member of the Alumni Office quelched an e-mail to the CUAA membership announcing the December 2011 Community Summit; recently, the CUAA Council voted to sponsor a Great Hall event on surveillance and a booth at the Fourth Street Arts Block FAB! Festival. The recent slate of CUAA Council representatives, as well as its new President and a write-in alumni trustee to start serving in December 2013, are leading actions to reverse or delay the April 2013 tuition announcement, and the Council has established an ad hoc committee to establish the Associates of The Cooper Union, an organization described in the college's Charter which never came into being and, amongst its various powers, has the right to remove trustees.
Assuming ignorance of the Memorandum, Cooper administrators are seeking to establish new policies and procedures that dilute the powers of alumni. The Alumni Office has established "affinity groups" which operate outside of the Council and its events committee, held "regional" events outside of the Council's core New York City constituency (with limited propaganda success), and is now trying to stop all outside organizations from fundraising activities without the Alumni Office's approval. CUAA ID cards are no longer being issued, and access to the Cooper Union library is now by appointment only.
As with other recent Cooper "policies," many of these are simply being ignored, as were disciplinary actions and access issues during the Spring 2013 Sit-In. Saying that relations between the Council and the Alumni Office are strained would be putting it mildly.
Working Group Comes Up With Tuition-Free Plan
By the end of the final meeting of the Working Group on November 26, 2013, an alternative to the Tuition Plan approved by the Cooper Union Board of Trustees on April 23, 2013, was approved by a majority of the Working Group. This plan is being referred to as the Working Group Plan. The process set up by Chair Mike Borkowsky, whereby a majority of ten members out of eighteen were needed for passage, effectively approved the plan.
The charge of the Working Group was to submit by December 1 "ways in which Cooper Union may revert to providing full-tuition scholarships for all enrolled students while establishing a sustainable financial model and continuing to invest in academic excellence." On December 3, four members of the Working Group changed their votes from abstensions to rejections, although the four have not provided an alternative plan that meets the charge. The three administrative representatives and a trustee appointed by Mark Epstein (former Chairman of the Board of Trustees) changed their votes.
The Working Group made a presentation to the Board of Trustee Finance Committee and Executive Committee on December 4, 2013, which then held a second meeting on December 6, 2013, to discuss the Working Group Plan. On December 11, 2013, Mike Borkowsky and five other members of the Working Group made a presentation to the full Board.
The Working Group Report was posted to the Cooper Union website the next day at http://cooper.edu/sites/default/files/uploads/assets/site/files/2013/WrkingGrpRpt_1212.pdf. New Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Lincer has promised a decision on whether to reverse the April 2013 board decision and adopt the Working Group Plan in mid-January 2014. Application deadlines are January 6, 2014, for the Schools of Art and Architecture and February 3, 2014, for the School of Engineering. Early decision applications due on December 2, 2013, were down 75%.
An initial presentation to the Alumni Council by the alumni representatives to the Working Group was held on December 17, 2013.
Photos by Barry Drogin, click to enlarge, released to public domain with credit, tagged on Facebook
Working Group Plan Endorsements
According to a letter dated January 10, 2014 from Richard Lincer, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Cooper Union "cannot now restore the full tuition scholarship." The letter continues to use the "access" language, promising only to increase "need-based financial aid and ultimately perhaps even restoring the full tuition scholarship... to the extent our resources allow."
Desparate for revenue, the Board rejected the Working Group Plan, which proposed cost reduction measures to close the budget deficit resulting from four decades of investments in the physical plant of the college, including interior and exterior renovations to the Foundation Building, construction of a Residence Hall (to promote "geographic diversity," usually used against New York City residents by non-NY colleges), and a New Academic Building designed by starchitect Thom Mayne. It was unclear how full-tuition scholarships for undergraduates would fit into the "hybrid framework," in which high school students, other undergraduates, and graduates would join new "for-pay" academic programs. Lincer's statement vows to form a group of trustees to work with the Cooper Union Community to "clarify the mission for the 21st century and to develop a strategic plan for implementing the mission" - the first acknowledgement by the Board that both the hybrid framework and the Tuition Plan constitute changes to Cooper Union's historic mission.
Prior to the Board decision, Alumni Trustee Kevin Slavin pleaded, "Most anyone who experienced it knows that the tuition-free education was the source of academic excellence, not the threat to it," echoing the eloquent words of Professor David Gersten from two years ago, "It is not that The Cooper Union holds up free education but that free education holds up The Cooper Union."
Several legal challenges to the Board's pending decision have been in development. On May 27, 2014, the Committee to Save Cooper Union filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court.
As of April 2014, all work of the Cooper Union Alumni Association Council, including election results, executive committee and council minutes, resolutions, events, and all committee reports, had been frozen out of cualumni.com, the Cooper Union alumni association website. Recent firings in the alumni office itself were not reflected in the website, nor was the new membership of the executive committee and the Council 2017 listed. In response, following a meeting with administration representatives, the President of the CUAA announced that the Council had formed its own website, http://cooperalumni.org/, and mailing list, and would become a separate charitable organization, nullifying portions of a 1974 Memorandum of Agreement that had merged the independent CUAA with the college.
The announcement, made jointly with the administration, revealed that the college will close down cualumni.com and establish its own website. The announcement of events recently organized by the Alumni Office without the participation of the CUAA Council, in violation of the 1974 MOA and its 2000 revision, have been posted to http://www.cooper.edu/alumni, not to cualumni.com. After a brief period when the Council and its committees were denied meeting space on campus, the college will return to allowing the CUAA to meet on campus, as it has since at least 1890, before it was incorporated in 1896, and thereafter. The CUAA will continue to control Founder's Day, as it has since at least 1925. The wreathe laying on Peter Cooper's statue may continue as a joint CUAA/Cooper event.
A full description of the origins of the CUAA and the events that led to the secession can be found in the Alumni Pioneer document, "CUAA Secedes from Union".
A list of anti-tuition resolutions has been e-mailed to the CUAA membership and posted to the new website, as has a long-overdue report on the Founder's Day Street Fair in April 2014 and the results of the CUAA election.
Click on the picture to view video of the 2015 Commencement (skip 1 hour)
Click on the picture above for a podcast of Harrison Cullen's speech
Click on the picture for a video of a selection from Harrison Cullen's speech, followed by an entertaining illustration of its content
Faculty-Student Senate, Alumni Association Call for Immediate Replacement
The Board of Trustees has already voted not to renew the contract of Dr. Jamshed Bharucha, which expires on June 30, 2016. Meanwhile, the Faculty-Student Senate passed a resolution requesting the appointment of an interim president "as soon as possible" because Dr. Bharucha "is unable to perform his job duties and responsibilities," and the Cooper Union Alumni Association passed a resolution supporting the Faculty-Student Senate resolution.
At the CUAA Emergency Meeting of May 5, 2015, CUAA President John Leeper clarified, "For me, a president does three things. One, he raises money. I'm not going to give him a hard time about that now, considering what's been going on. Second, he leads. He leads, he leads, he leads, he leads. Third, he administers. So, if I'm going to give him a break on the first one, I can certainly grade him "miserable" on the second two. And so, for that reason, he is unable to fulfill his role [as president], so I have no problem with this resolution at all. I think it states it very simply and succinctly, and in my opinion, we should just get on this bandwagon."
Surprisingly, Dr. Bharucha has continued to make appearances at alumni events, speaking at the Founders Day Award Ceremony and at regional fundraising events in California, and representing the college in messages to the Cooper Community and in interviews in The Wall Street Journal. The Tuition Plan has been re-christened the "Financial Sustainability Plan," a term which is repeated ad nauseum to various audiences, most recently in the announcement of the resignation of Dr. Teresa Dahlberg, Provost of the college, primary author of an unauthorized trashing of the Working Group Report, whose introduction of a Computer Science program over the objections of the faculty resulted in threats of an unfair labor practice by the faculty union. The "Financial Sustainability Plan" is also touted in "The State of Cooper Union," a document authored by Dr. Bharucha which has been refuted by The Alumni Pioneer News Archive and the Committee to Save Cooper Union.
According to the student newspaper, The Cooper Pioneer, Trustee Malcolm King, in an interview, reveals that the Attorney General is looking to broker a deal between the Board and the Committee to Save Cooper Union. The first part of the deal was an insistence on not renewing the president's contract, which the Board has voted to approve. In contrast to a series of articles planted in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. King "vehemently disagree[s] that avoiding an investigation was any type of motivation for the Board members...[It is] simply not true ... that the Board sold out the President in order to save itself."
The final nature of concessions from the Committee and the Board to settle the lawsuit is still pending. Meanwhile, the CUAA Council has approved a letter in support of the Attorney General investigation and mediation; the text is reproduced below, and alumni and others can electronically sign the letter. The original draft of the resolution was authored by Council member Brian Rose, modified by suggestions of several members of the Save Cooper Union Facebook group, and finalized by the Council.
May 6, 2015
The Honorable Eric Schneiderman
Attorney General of the State of New York
Office of the Attorney General
Albany, NY 12224-0341
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
We the Cooper Union Alumni Association (CUAA) welcome and support your investigation into the mismanagement and wrongdoing of the Board of Trustees and administration of our alma mater. For 156 years, Cooper Union has been at the center of New York City’s civic life, a beacon of egalitarian education, “free as air and water.” With the introduction of tuition by the Board of Trustees, that light has been diminished. Moreover, we have concerns about the long term impact of imposing tuition on admission standards, size of applicant pool, and caliber of academic excellence. The continuing viability of Cooper Union is in grave danger, and each day that passes brings the school closer to destruction.
We, therefore, appeal to you for swift and decisive intervention to save Cooper Union and restore Peter Cooper’s mission of free education based on the school charter, adopted by the New York State Legislature in 1859.
We call for the immediate removal of President Jamshed Bharucha, and we support the appointment of an interim manager with the stature, experience, and authority to put Cooper Union’s house in order. We also call for the replacement of those members of the Board of Trustees who are ultimately responsible for the current crisis. Board members must reflect the unique diversity of New York City, including women, minorities, and the continued representation by elected officers of the Cooper Union Alumni Association.
The CUAA also advocates the creation of “the Associates of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art” as prescribed in the charter of 1859, to promote the work of the school within the broader community and to act as a check on the Board of Trustees.
Although small in number, we are prominently represented in our fields here in the city and around the world. As the torchbearers of Peter Cooper’s mission, we are builders, designers, engineers, architects, and artists, of the past and present, and most important, of the future.
The Cooper Union Alumni Association stands with you in rebuilding our institution.
On behalf of The Cooper Union Alumni Association, Inc.
B. Art '79
B. Arch '85
B. Art '94
Kevin Slavin, elected by the Cooper Union Alumni Association as an Alumni Trustee in a dramatic write-in campaign led by Friends of Cooper Union and other members of the Free Cooper Union movement, is under threat from Daniel Libeskind, prominent architect, fellow Cooper alumnus, and newly appointed to the Cooper Union Board of Trustees. Kevin Slavin was elected to the board on a platform of transparency, following his dramatic speech in The Great Hall at the First Community Summit, in which he memorably stated, "Transparency is not a promise. It’s not an idea. It’s action. The answer to whether Cooper Union should be more transparent is not the word “yes.” The answer is to be more transparent."
The Charter of the Cooper Union explicitly allows for such transparency, stating that every trustee "shall be at all times at liberty, in his discretion, freely to publish any matter within his knowledge relating to the institution herein contemplated, or to its management in any respect, including any discussions in the Board of Trustees."
In an October 9, 2014, e-mail to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Libeskind called for Mr. Slavin's ouster for following the Charter:
Dear Chairman Lincer,In a display of hypocrisy, on April 9, 2015, Mr. Libeskind himself revealed to the Wall Street Journal the contents of confidential executive session discussions about the renewal of President Jamshed Bharucha's contract, in which he disagreed with the Board's majority decision.
I appreciate that you wish to bring the "point-counterpoint" to an end between Board Member Slavin and others. However, even though I am new to the Board, I wish to make the following point:
Executive sessions of the Board, with or without the presence of the President, surely have to be confidential. This is to ensure a frank and meaningful discussion. To have Kevin Slavin report on social media the contents of certain parts of our last Board Meeting was, frankly, something I find shocking and unacceptable.
Obviously, Mr. Slavin has every right to express any opinion that he wishes to express during the Executive session and he did. He made very clear his displeasure. But I believe that whatever his disagreements with the direction of the school, as a Board Member, once he leaves the Board Meeting, Mr. Slavin has to speak with a voice that echoes the decisions taken by the Board.
No one is trying to curb his right to freedom of speech - least of all, me. If Mr. Slavin feels that he wants to "broadcast" his disagreements about the direction of the School and with the Board, then he should be asked to leave the Board, so that he will then have an opportunity to voice whatever opinions he may have. That's free speech and good governance.
With best regards,
Justin Harmon, who, as new Vice President of Communication (and new Chief of Propaganda, replacing Diana Pearson, a consultant), has written to the trustees clarifying to them that, indeed, "the charter does state that trustees who wish to speak up about any given issue that concerns the school may do so." Kevin Slavin has expressed concern that Mr. Libeskind's disclosures to the press were not of a conventional board meeting but of a closed door vote and negotiation with Cooper Union's legal counsel about conversations with the Attorney General during an active lawsuit.
Many in the Cooper Union Community have expressed concern that the Board of Trustees requires trustees and members of trustee committees to sign Confidentiality Agreements that violate the Charter.
An election to replace Alumni Trustee Ray Falci, whose term ends in September 2015, was completed on May 1, 2015, with results reported by the Teller's Committee and affirmed by the CUAA Council on May 5, 2015. A record 1,667 alumni voted to install Peter Katz A'76 as a new Alumni Trustee, with 99% of voting alumni supporting continued CUAA representation on the Board of Trustees. 98% voted yes on a referendum supporting Council efforts to change the CUAA from a 501(c)7 fraternal organization to a full 501(c)3 not-for-profit, and 98% supported the CUAA's commitment to return Cooper to 100% full-tuition scholarship status. The Rock the Vote campaign garnered 25% of contactable alumni (it is believed that a total of twelve thousand are alive but not contactable). In a surprise move, key candidates endorsed by the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU) beat candidates endorsed by the students and young alumni of Free Cooper Union (FCU), although FCU had worked hard to raise money for CSCU, and many alumni had contributed to help FCU publish a new version of their Disorientation Reader.
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.
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.
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.
February 15, 2018: Annual Report of the Financial Monitor
In addition to the letters posted at right, The Alumni Pioneer has written this modest proposal to return Cooper to free in five years.
A final community feedback session was held on March 7, 2018, and was livestreamed and archived here.
January 29, 2018: Alumni First to Provide Feedback on Free Education Committee Report
Following a collegial hint at the work of the Free Education Committee (FEC) provided to the alumni on October 11, 2017, President Laura Sparks presided over a presentation in the Great Hall of the FEC Report, released on January 21, 2018. The alumni identified several issues with the report, ranging from disagreement to support, as well as issues not addressed or resolved by the report.
The session was livestreamed and archived at https://livestream.com/cooperalumni/Jan18-FEC-TownHall. Follow-up sessions with the students and with the faculty and staff have not been made public by the administration. An All-Community session was scheduled for February 7, 2018, was livestreamed and archived here. Feedback was also provided via an on-line form; some of those questions, with answers from the administration, were posted here. Other questions were collected in-person at the event by the CUAA, with answers provided here. The sessions come amidst events and festivities connected to the inauguration of the President and Founders Day activities in New York City and around the country.
Borkowsky Letter to Board of Trustees (click)
Cumberbatch Letter to Board of Trustees (click)
Art Faculty Letter to Board of Trustees (click)
The FEC Report has been approved with some modifications due to the community feedback, according to the official Cooper website posting here. The undergraduate dorm rise to market rate has been cancelled, the graduate scholarship reduction has been delayed a year, and the Fish House may be sold. Reputational damage will be studied.
Cassandra's Curse Copyright © 1993, 1996, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Barry Drogin - All rights reserved