Free Cooper Union Disorientation Reader 2014

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Title

Free Cooper Union Disorientation Reader 2014

Date

2014

Place

New York, NY

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Free Cooper Union

disORIENTATION
This is the second edition of Disorientation published
by Free Cooper Union.
Disorientation is a counter-orientation conventionally intended to
introduce the incoming class to the real story of Cooper’s dense
internal politics, as well as larger student issues. However, institutional
memory is so short that we must constantly be disorienting ourselves
and the communities around us.
Disorientation is a rejection of the administration’s rewriting of history,
the systemic underpinnings of financialized realism, and the way that
our communities are strategically disempowered.
Disorientation is
a brick,
a ping-pong ball,
a barricade,
a vote of no confidence,
an infinite dream.
We would also like to recognize that what’s in this booklet is a
very focused history of what’s happening at Cooper, and can in no
way adequately address all of the broader intersectional struggles
that continue to shape and support this movement. We’d like to
acknowledge all of the historical and contemporary groundwork,
in hopes that we can achieve paradigm shifts together through
our continued campaign building.

disCONTENTS
LOWDOWN

BACKGROUND 48

08

Direct Action & Free Cooper Union 10
Ivory Tower 21

An Open Letter to President Bharucha 59

Working Group 22
Legal Action & The Committee to Save Cooper Union 27
Code of Conduct & Campus Militarization 30

Jordan Bowen reflects on the role Cooper plays in the changing face of New York.

Organizing As If Social Relations Matter 71

Lifelong activist and organizer Cindy Milstein writes about the merit of patient
organizing and community-building.

Printed Resources:

Additional Online Resources:

Glossary 110

198 Methods of Direct Action

Spectrum of Allies 118

Dynamic Timeline
Why Jamshed Bharucha Must Step Down
Frequently Asked Questions
Solidarity Map

Tools for Organizing 127 Press Log
Additional Online Essays:

The Loss of Cooper Union 64

Written during his tenure as Executive Editor of ArtInfo, Ben Davis explains how 67
the effects of tuition at Cooper will ripple through the art world.

FOOTNOTES 108

Further Reading 125

In an open letter to Jamshed Bharucha, School of Art faculty member Walid Raad
challenges the idea that Cooper cannot live within its means.

Why Cooper Union’s Tuition Fight Matters for the Future of Art

Vision Platter Deluxe 43

Relevant Institutions 124

The State of The Cooper Union 50

Former trustee, Working Group co-chair, and Engineering alumnus Mike Borkowsky
debunks myths propagated by Board Chair Richard Lincer.

www.freecooperunion.org/disorientation

Save CU & You Can’t Just End An Era

School of Engineering alumni Sangu Iyer’s exhaustive research on the events
leading up to Jamshed Bharucha’s appointment as President.

The Tragedy of Cooper Union (a Six-Part Series)

In a series of six blog posts written for Reuters between 2011 and 2013, financial analyst Felix Salmon
wrote what many consider to be the canonical account of a collapse in leadership at Cooper Union.

Academy Fight Song 76

Thomas Frank, political analyst, historian, and founding editor of The Baffler,
demystifies the dream of American higher education.

Why Cooper Union Matters 86

Former humanities adjunct professor Litia Perta recalls one of the first community
summits following the announcement of Cooper’s financial problems.

Removing Barriers Mobilizes Resources 97

David Gersten, School of Architecture faculty, answers the question: what do
elevators, undersea cables, democracy, and Cooper have in common?

An Appeal to the Cooper Community, Fall 2013 102

In an editorial published in the school newspaper in Fall 2013, then freshmen Sam Rosner
addressed the danger of willful ignorance amongst the student body.

Two Educations for the Price of None 105

An open letter to incoming freshmen about self-care and Cooper politics from
School of Art transfer student Jakob Biernat.

LOW
DOWN
8

Brief introductions to the things you need to
know: recent developments, active groups,
and ongoing issues. 1. Direct Action & Free Cooper Union
2. Ivory Tower
3. Working Group
4. Legal Action & The Committee to Save CU
6. Code of Conduct & Campus Militarization
7. Vision Platter Deluxe

LOWDOWN: 09

Direct
Action
&
Free
Cooper
Union
Free Cooper Union, founded in Fall 2012, is a group of students
and young alumni working towards free education to all.
We affirm:
· Tuition is a betrayal of Cooper Union’s radical mission, in addition to the
fact that it isn’t a sustainable financial model.
· Higher education around the world is in dire need of a paradigm shift.
· The debate about “tuition” at Cooper must engage broader dialogues
about student debt, educational reform, alternative models of governance,
and social justice.

To this end, we have employed a wide range of tactics including
but not limited to: drafting petitions, holding walk outs, hosting
summits, igniting memes, building satirical websites, mounting
art exhibitions, creating music videos, leading parades, staging
historical reenactments, authoring publications, posterbombing,
culture-jamming, breaking into meetings, leaking documents,
dropping banners, talking to press, building barricades,
occupying, and envisioning futures and possibilities.

* * * ONLINE * * *
Interactive list of 198 Methods of Action
freecooperunion.org/disorientation/198

LOWDOWN: 11

In December 2012, twelve students barricaded themselves inside
the clocktower of the Foundation Building, dropped a gigantic
banner reading “Free Education to All,” and issued the following
statement:

A set of principles was also issued, expanding upon larger systems:

Principles
Higher Education Bubble
The over-inflated costs of higher education have placed
more than a trillion dollars of debt onto the backs of
students. Higher education should be a means of social
mobility and intellectual liberation, but it has devolved into
an industry that exploits students for profit. Inevitably this
bubble will burst and what appears to be a healthy and
growing educational system will be revealed as a model
that was always doomed to fail.
Grow Down
The administrators who have grown us into this mess are
trying to grow us out of it. Investing in the higher education
bubble is short-sighted and uncreative. Playing a larger role
in one’s community provides strong roots. If we refuse to
invest in a growth model and reaffirm our mission, we stand
to see the principles of free education bring life back to our
own community and other institutions as well.
Structures for Transparency and Integrity
Bloated and visionless administrations have become
an epidemic threatening institutions of higher education
all across America. We must rebuild the governance of
these institutions with open flows of information and
democratic decision-making structures. Carrying a mission
such as free education will require principled, rather than
self-sustaining, leadership.

12

LOWDOWN: 13

Direct Action
There are different ways to approach a social issue:
expose an existing problem, highlight an alternative,
or demonstrate a possible solution, among others.
These can be divided primarily into two forms of action:
indirect and direct.
Indirect Action

Direct Action

Asking somebody to make the
change you wish to see

Acting to create the change you
wish to see

Sharing an important news article
with friends

Teaching a “Know Your Rights”
workshop to high-schoolers

Signing a petition for a cause you
support

Planting on a garden to remediate
local soil

Voting for a representative

Blockading a road to prevent work
on a gas pipeline

Writing a letter to your elected
official

Many are raised to view indirect action as the ceiling of
possibilities for change. However, direct action offers a
massive—and highly effective—breadth of tactics to
create change.
The Futility of Bureaucracy
Bureaucratic institutions, such as Cooper, are so internally
complex and inefficient that they defy change from within.
This is why working primarily within the structures of an
institution is often less effective than the tamest actions
taken outside of them. If you look deeply into almost any
type of institution, you will find hidden histories of direct
action being used by communities to take control of
their own fates.
LOWDOWN: 14

Following the announcement of Cooper’s “financial crisis”
in October 2011, the community spent an entire year
attempting to work with the administration. It soon became
apparent that the administration had no real intention of
listening to community concerns. The community had no
real agency: Bharucha’s approach turned out to be a way
of manufacturing community buy-in for tuition and Q&A
forums with Trustees created a false dialogue which left
tough questions unanswered.
The community moved towards indirect action. However,
petitions and walk-outs failed to garner attention beyond
local blogs, and community summits produced brilliant talk
but few results.
The decision to take direct action against the administration was complicated by the fact that up through
April 2013 the entire administration repeated over and over
that, “tuition will be implemented only as a last resort.”
The plausible deniability of tuition created an air amongst
the student body that things might work out for the better
if everyone attended enough Q&A sessions and emailed
the administration with creative money-making schemes.
Nearly three years after Bharucha’s announcement of
financial troubles, documents were leaked revealing that
the administration’s messages of hope and inclusion had
been crafted by consultants to minimize conflict, and plans
for tuition had been in the works since before Bharucha
was hired by the Board to “Reinvent” Cooper.
Direct Action Gets the Goods
In November 2012, operating on what was still only
a hunch that tuition was steamrolling forward, students
began quietly organizing action planning meetings.

Method 146. Judicial noncooperation

Method 27. New signs and names

Method 194. Disclosing secrets

Method 173. Nonviolent occupation

Method 8. Banners, posters, and
displayed communications

Method 35. Humourous skits and pranks

Method 164. Ride-in

Method 32. Taunting officials

Method 162. Sit-in

Method 48. Political mourning

Method 131. Refusal to accept appointed officials

Method 1. Public speeches

16

17

Method 25. Displays of portraits

14 late-night meetings were held on campus, in secret,
attended by a rotating crew of about 50 students.
Discussion ranged from the big picture of educational and
financial systems, to logistics about “food, water, and shit”
in an action scenario. These meetings resulted in the
founding of Free Cooper Union, and the first major direct
action known as the Lock-In.

Bharucha’s office and continued to draw attention to
Cooper’s problems through a diversity of tactics. In the
space of the action, The Times changed their tune,
reporting that students had incited, “a running debate
about how to alter history.” In total, the Occupation
lasted for 65 days, from May 8th to July 12th 2013, placing
it among the longest student occupations in US history.
Le Rêve Infini

The Lock-In, from December 3rd to December 10th
2012, was a technical action in which eleven students
barricaded themselves into the Foundation Building’s
clocktower to draw attention to an upcoming Board meeting in which it was believed that tuition would be discussed.
This catalyzed the community, leading to a barrage of
actions in a single jam-packed week: an early set of tuition
models leaked to the public, students on the ground broke
into a Board meeting and livestreamed it as they disrupted
a discussion about implementing tuition, a city-wide rally
on education culminated outside the Foundation Building,
and the Cooper community’s struggle received national and
then global mainstream media attention.
On April 23, 2013, the Board finally announced that they
intended to charge tuition, implementing a “halfscholarship” model starting with the incoming class of 2018.
The announcement underscored to the entire community
how severely out of touch and deceitful the Board is.
After The New York Times reported that the announcement
of tuition marked the “End of an Era,” students sought to
prove that Cooper’s future isn’t up to The Times or even the
Board to decide. In May 2013, a group of over one hundred
students took the office of President Bharucha to deliver a
Vote of No Confidence. Bharucha refused to meet with the
students to discuss their concerns—having caught wind of
the action, he fled campus. The students took over

During 2012’s large-scale student strikes in Quebec, a play
on words emerged in which the “general strike” (grève
infini) was crossed with the idea of an infinite dream (rêve
infini). The space of an action is not unlike an infinite dream:
realities based on limitation are transformed—in an instant
—into a boundlessness of time, space, and possibility. The
action itself ends, but everyone in its path remains changed,
retaining a boundlessness within themselves.

ivory
tower
In Summer 2013, the students occupying President Bharucha’s
office were approached by a team of documentary filmmakers
led by Andrew Rossi (director of Page One: Inside the New
York Times) about participating in their upcoming project
Ivory Tower, an exposé on higher education across the country.
The filmmakers followed the campaign through the entire
summer and into the fall, documenting meetings, actions,
and ongoing organizing.
Ivory Tower premiered in spring 2014 at Sundance Film
Festival, providing context for the struggle for free education
at Cooper as part of a larger national crisis in education.
The film also includes Harvard, California’s UC system,
historically black Spelman College, Deep Springs, and many
more. Featuring the voices of Cooper Union’s faculty and
students, Ivory Tower exposes the self-serving hubris of the
administration and honors the community’s principled
opposition. The film opened in theaters around the country
in summer 2014, and in fall 2014 is set to air on CNN as well
as tour college campuses, including Cooper’s Great Hall.

20

LOWDOWN: 21

working

group

The Occupation of President Bharucha’s office ended in a
negotiation brokered by students, alumni, and trustees Jeff Gural
and Mike Borkowsky. The occupying students may have
chosen to carry on, had they not been informed by Gural and
Borkowsky that the administration was planning to have NYPD
end the protest by removing and arresting the occupiers.
The terms of the negotiated agreement included the creation
of a “Working Group” made up of students, alumni, faculty, staff,
and administrators with the sole purpose of researching a
financial model that could reverse the Board’s decision to charge
tuition. Crucially, this was supposed to be the first time that
students and alumni would be granted complete access to
Cooper’s financial information and fiscal models, including
the model used by the Board to determine that tuition was
“necessary.” The negotiation also included amnesty from
disciplinary action for those involved in the Occupation, as
well as the creation of a “Community Commons” space, and
the appointment of a student representative to the Board. The
administration and Board ultimately reneged on providing complete access to financial documents and models, the creation of
a Community Commons, and nearly succeeded in blocking the
appointment of a student representative to the Board.
The administration also postponed the Working Group’s start
for a month by delaying the appointment of their representatives
and firing T.C. Westcott, Cooper Union’s former Vice President
of Finance and Administration, who would have been key to
providing records, explaining the school’s finances, and obtaining

LOWDOWN: 23

approvals needed from the faculty union to allow them to
participate in the Working Group. Her firing meant that financial
documents had to be requested through interim consultants,
which proved to be another form of obstruction. The community
also took issue with the fact that the administration appointed
their members, while every other constituency held
direct elections.
Despite multiple setbacks, at the end of eight weeks, the
Working Group successfully produced a well-crafted report to
be presented to the Board at their December meeting. These
efforts were undermined the night before the Board meeting
by the release of a “Minority Report” authored in secret by the
administration’s Working Group representatives. Instead of
bringing their issues to the Working Group for discussion and
resolution before the presentation, these administrative
representatives took it upon themselves to remain silent about
their grievances throughout the process and then air them in
a line-by-line refutation of the group’s report designed to derail
the agreed-upon process.
On January 10th, 2014, the Board voted against the Working
Group plan. The breakdown of votes has never been disclosed.
The Working Group stipulated that their recommendations were
only to be implemented as a complete package (sharing sacrifice
and effort across all constituencies) not cherry-picked along with
the imposition of tuition as an à la carte menu of cost reductions.
Despite that stipulation, the Board has begun to charge tuition
as well as implementing austerity measures, perverting the
intention and good-faith effort of the Working Group.

LOWDOWN: 24

25

LEGAL
ACTION

and the
Committee
toSave

Cooper
Union

LOWDOWN: 26

Seeing a clear pattern in the way the administration had
sabotaged community efforts in the past, alumni and faculty
met in parallel with the Working Group to develop an alternative
course of action in the event that the Board decided to ignore
the community and implement their tuition scheme.
The Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), a not-for-profit
organization, was founded to keep Cooper free through legal
efforts and political outreach. The group is headed by
Engineering alumnus Adrian Jovanovic, along with Art professor
and alumnus Mike Essl, and Engineering professor Toby
Cumberbatch. CSCU operates in conjunction with FCU, alumni,
students, and community supporters.

At the 2014 Commencement ceremony, CSCU announced their
intention to file a lawsuit against Cooper’s Board in the New York
State Supreme Court. The petition calls for five points of action:
1. An independent accounting of the college’s finances
2. The creation of an oversight body known as the Associates of
Cooper Union (as called for in the college’s Trust and Charter)
3. A declaratory judgment that charging tuition is not permitted
by the college’s Trust and Charter.
4. An injunction to halt the charging of tuition
5. The removal of trustees who voted to implement tuition for
“breach of fiduciary duty”

In July 2014, CSCU successfully crowdfunded $173,000 from
over 1,000 donors to fund the first phase of litigation. During
the fundraising period, the Board’s lawyers attempted to have
the case reassigned to the court’s corporate division but were
denied. In an attempt to stall litigation, trustees Mark Epstein
and Jeremy Wertheimer refused to be served their court papers.
Following these delays, the court date was held on August 15th,
2014. Lawyers for the Committee, the Board, and Wertheimer
delivered arguments before Justice Nancy Bannon. While no
trustees or administrators were in attendance, supporters of
Free Cooper Union and the Committee to Save Cooper Union
(including a handful of incoming students) packed the room.
At a lunchtime press conference, Jovanovic, State Senator
Brad Hoylman, alumnus and former art adjunct Ben Degen,
and incoming student Claire Kleinman (also a plaintiff in the
suit), spoke to a crowd of about a hundred.
The court resumed to hear rebuttals and closing statements.
No timeline was set for the judgement (which as of this writing
has not been released), but it is expected in the coming weeks.
Regardless of the outcome, the case is likely to progress to the
appellate court.
LOWDOWN: 28

CSCU attorney Richard Emery speaks at a press conference outside the New
York State Supreme Court.

LOWDOWN: 30

Code of

Conduct

Conduct are handled by a group known as the Student Judicial
Committee, which is comprised of one student from each of the
three schools, one faculty member, and one administrator. Peter
Cooper himself wanted the students to be the arbiters of their
own conduct, writing in a letter to the Board of Trustees on
April 29th, 1859:
“Desiring, as I do, that the students of this institution may become
preeminent examples in the practice of all the virtues, I have determined
to give them an opportunity to distinguish themselves for their good
judgment by annually recommending to the Trustees for adoption, such
rules and regulations as they, on mature reflection, shall believe to be
necessary and proper, to preserve good morals and good order throughout
their connection with this institution.”

AND

Campus

Militarization

Every time a direct action occurs, it demonstrates a gap in the
administration’s ability to control the “official” narrative about
Cooper. With every action that has occurred, the administration
has tried harder-and-harder to consolidate power and
discourage the community from acting again. While it’s still
very much possible to take action, one of the best defenses is
to have a thorough understanding of how the administration
has dealt with previous incidents, and changed Cooper policies
to crack down on everything from impromptu meetings to
planned demonstrations.
Due Process
After the Lock-In, the eleven students received letters from a
former Director of Buildings and Grounds, informing them that
he had filed a formal charge against them, subjecting them
to disciplinary proceedings. Charges of violating the Code of

There being no grounds in the student-authored Code of
Conduct to file a complaint based on politics oppositional to the
administration’s, the complaint focused on obstructing regular
classroom use of the Peter Cooper Suite and the round elevator.
As the students explained to SJC, they had actually taken the
pre-emptive measure of working with faculty to make sure they
wouldn’t disrupt classes. Further, they were able to make the
case that the action was intended to engage the community at
a pivotal moment.
Satisfying both the formal complaint as well the students’ plea,
SJC issued a symbolic punishment that the eleven students be
forbidden from using the round elevator for a week—the same
amount of time that they had occupied. Thanks to due process,
the administration was thwarted in their attempt to punish
students for engaging in activism. By the time another action
came around, it would be revealed that the administration had
actively been exploring ways to circumvent due process.




31

LOWDOWN: 32

33

Private Security Gone Wild
The first week of the Occupation of Bharucha’s office turned
tumultuous when the administration attempted to intimidate
students out of occupying with a poorly choreographed
escalation of private security on campus. In a sudden,
unannounced lockdown ordered by the administration, armed
private security who refused to identify themselves, held
elevators, obstructed all stairwells (including fire stairs),
boarded up bathrooms and water fountains, using their bodies
to prevent students from reaching their peers on the 7th floor.
The community and media responded in outrage to the administration’s willingness to endanger students, faculty, and staff who
were actively communicating their intent to non-violently uphold
the college’s mission. The backlash forced the administration to
concede to the students, who occupied for the next sixty-three
days, despite being constantly monitored by additional security
personnel, who at times outnumbered the students in the office.
It remains unclear how the administration, while asserting
that the school is running an unsustainable deficit, can justify
such excessive and costly security—including round-the-clock
guards at Bharucha’s residence. With no oversight of the
power of the administration and Board, there is no official forum
to effectively challenge their assertion that these expenditures
are for the benefit of the community.
Firings in Retribution
The students had negotiated amnesty with the Board before
exiting the Occupation, protecting them from related charges, so
the administration was forced to find circuitous ways of showing
the community it would not tolerate dissent.
Longtime Dean of Students Linda Lemiesz had visited the
Occupation on several occasions to deliver messages from the

administration. On one visit, when prompted by students,
Lemiesz also admitted that she had no confidence in Bharucha.
Several weeks later, following the Occupation, Bharucha sent a
terse campus-notice that Lemiesz had “left her position.” It was
soon discovered that Lemiesz had, in fact, shown up for work
but was denied entry to the building, through she had meetings scheduled for the following day, and she was due to orient
freshmen and parents in just two weeks time. In her twenty-three
years at Cooper, Lemiesz had been an unabashed advocate
of students’ rights, helping to design and uphold the SJC
process, as well as overseeing the Student Residence, Career
Development, Financial Aid, and Athletics. Bharucha’s punitive
firing came to mark the beginning of a complete restructuring of
the administration. Like all of those fired in retribution, it is likely
that Lemiesz’s severance is at risk if she speaks out.
Code of Conduct
With Lemiesz gone, Bharucha could begin to dismantle the SJC
process entirely by fast-tracking the promotions of two
complicit replacements from the college’s lower administration.
Like many other administrative roles Bharucha was to fill in
the coming months, these job listings would never officially be
posted. Stephen Baker, formerly Dean of Athletics—at a
college with almost no athletics—was awarded Lemiesz’s title
and immense, complex responsibilities. Baker subsequently
promoted Chris Chamberlin, Director of Residence Life, to Acting
Associate Dean of Student Affairs.
Chamberlin’s first act appeared in the form of an email to the
Student Council Administrative Chairs on November 19th, 2013
titled “Code of Conduct Review.” He had taken the liberty of
revising the Code of Conduct in consultation with “professionals”
to “reflect the modern era in which we live.” The Ad Chairs were
asked to submit comments on his revision—which they soon
realized was an entirely new document—within two weeks.
In a single email, Chamberlin had revised not only the Code

of Conduct, but also the history of the Student Judicial
Committee at Cooper. The role of students had gone from
authoring a code, to an administrator “considering” students’
comments on a document they had not authored.
Among Chamberlin’s most egregious changes to the Code of
Conduct were adding more administrative representatives to
SJC (effectively undermining the previous student majority),
giving himself the right to choose which complaints would or
would not be handled by SJC, introducing several random
policies (e.g. no “beer bongs”) that would purportedly govern
life on and off campus, and tripling the document in length. Even
The New York Times criticized Cooper and CUNY, where similar
changes were being pushed through, for what was widely viewed
as an attempt to restrict students’ right to demonstrate.
The Student Councils of all three schools launched petitions
which soon amounted to unilateral opposition as a student body
to Chamberlin’s revised Code of Conduct. The Student-Faculty
Senate was convened for an emergency meeting where all the
petitions were entered into its record, faculty and students spoke
against the proposed changes, and newly hired Vice President of
Communications Justin Harmon embarrassed himself with

a milquetoast defense of the revision. The
Student-Faculty Senate passed a resolution
stating that they advised the Board not to adopt
the changes to the Code of Conduct. At the
December Board meeting, student representative
Devora Najjar reiterated the faculty and student
body’s opposition, and the Board officially backed
down, stating that they still believed things had to
change but would undertake the process in
consultation with JSC after the winter break.
Over the course of 2014, there were no substantive
advances made by the administration to develop
a new Code of Conduct with students. This was a
demonstration both of the power of indirect action
and the limits of student governance.
In May 2014, Vincent Hui, a student instructor with the Saturday
Program, refused to shake Bharucha’s hand at a public event.
Within several days, Hui was informed that he had been kicked
off his sports team and barred from teaching in the Saturday
Program going forward, over a vague and unspecified recent
allegation of incivility. When Hui tried to bring his case before
SJC, Baker responded that it was a private matter between himself, the Director of the Saturday Program, and Hui — effectively
denying Hui due process under the existing Code of Conduct.
In one-on-one meetings that followed, four different
administrators privately bullied Hui to drop the matter. When
details of the incident were simultaneously publicized across
campus by Hui, Free Cooper, and JSC, administrators pulled an
about-face, claiming that no formal complaint had been issued,
and no punishment had been enacted. However, in pursuing an
informal complaint, harassing a student for weeks, and finally
claiming to the public that nothing had transpired, the
administration’s damage had already been done. The events,
which came to be known as the “Vincident,” are evidence that
when protocol gets in the way, the administration will

circumvent it with impunity. In solidarity, Hui’s fellow Saturday
Program instructors resigned en masse, so that this abuse
of power would not be forgotten. Within the year, Baker would
be promoted again to Vice President of Student Affairs and
Community Relations as well as Dean of Athletics, and
Chamberlin would be bumped up to Dean of Students.
FJC to BDA: Changing of the Guard
President Bharucha didn’t return to his office for nearly a year
following the Occupation, electing to work out of his residence
and the administrative offices at 30 Cooper Square. As a
condition of his return, he had the 7th floor outfitted like a panic
room: installing keypad locks, seven security cameras, and
instituting a new ban on using the lobby for art exhibitions
without his approval.
There had been talk that punitive measures were going to be
taken against the school’s security firm FJC, which had been
contracted to provide extra presence within the Occupation.
Two weeks before the start of the fall 2014 semester, it was
announced in a campus-wide email that FJC would be replaced
by a new firm, Beau Dietl & Associates. In typical administrative
style, there was no search process, no job posting, and no
disclosure of the budget.
Despite promises made that several employees would be
retained, in a single mass-erasure of institutional memory,
many familiar faces from Cooper’s front desks and halls were
transferred out. Key among the firings was Owen Solomon,
a security supervisor who had sat at Cooper’s front desk for
almost 30 years.
In addition to these factors, the community took issue with the
firm’s ethics. In the middle of a national crisis over violent, racist
policing centered on events in Ferguson, Missouri, BDA’s founder
Bo Dietl had appeared on Fox News to support a cop who had

shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown, claiming that multiple
shots to the head and arms were to be expected as, “bullets go
that way.” Equally troubling were Bo’s repugnant comments in
support of racial and religious profiling.
This concern was quickly communicated to Board Chair Richard
Lincer by Student Council representatives. Lincer claimed that
the major reason BDA was hired was because it was an easy
transition, as Cooper had previously used BDA for security. Soon,
a campus-wide email arrived from newly hired Vice President of
Finance and Administration, William Mea, defending the decision.
His argument was that Bo Dietl’s politics don’t extend to his
employees, who would be mandated to treat everyone in the
Cooper community with respect.
However, by hiring BDA, Cooper’s administration chose
to endorse a company whose brand is built on incendiary,
prejudicial remarks. It shows the extent to which Cooper’s
administration has lost touch with the progressive history of
the institution, which hosted the founding of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909,
only to hire BDA in 2014.
On September 20th, another campus-notice from Mea
announced that Cooper had “not anticipated the sensitivities”
of the community and would be “transitioning” to another
security firm. Despite Joint Student Council’s demands to
reinstate Owen Solomon and form a collaborative process for the
hiring of a new security firm, the administration committed only
to working together with BDA to select a new firm. In an article
published in The Wall Street Journal, Dietl himself commented
that, students “have no right” to be involved in the
school president’s hiring decisions.

LOWDOWN: 39

41

Vision
platter
deluxe
it.
of sh
e full strong
r
a
s
n
in- O
tutio
Insti here Dra our
:
S
N
t
ing
TIO
? Is
wash sence of
T I T U Drain- O
e
S
k
i
N
l
I
b
·
the a
e the
ation
Are w ? Is educ s the sink
I
gh
enou in a sink? oney?
s
m
hand Is water
e?
a pip

[The omniscient activist narrator loses their mind]

LOWDOWN: 42

In the beginning there was debt, bloat, and free education.
The Demands and Principles in an earlier section were a
distillation of these things but could be infinitely expanded.
Since we began, years ago, we’ve come to zest many
interconnected systems. This is not a debate about tuition,
it’s a practice of building resistance, dismantling oppression,
and fostering shared principles. Anyway, here are loose ends
we talk about. These things will always change.

e,
iddl
em s.
m
,
t
h
r
t
r
: sho
e fo
es ice e
rget he tim l
ov cho forc n’t
o
f
t
o
a
n’
st
ci
h lse in
do
: Do s alway as if so
e
be
LES
i
e
It of fa th r you
A
z
w
i
C
:
o
S
e
o
ES
rgan
ut n
I E are st b sur
· T I M long. B ction. O
M
w
u
n
O
e
i
o
and ipled a ter.
O T s. B aga re y
c
t
H
u ng . A
prin ons ma
C
e
i
t
D I aliz bei ate
a
l
re
d eb ?
S E ci
A L nan r an a d abs
F
f
i
t
o
·
f
f
o
to ing ms itch
r
e
e
s
B et o w
th nt t
wa

· CO
NS
The T I T U T
re is
I
a bi O NA L I
still
g
S
r
hav adical differe M :
e to
idea
nce
hold
Kee
betw
s of
p
P
of C diggin a seanc eter Co een res
g
e
o
p
o
find oper th past th to con per an ecting
sult
d fe
the
at p
e bo
liter
e
h
e
con
stitu al foun ople fi ring co im on ling lik
n
g
e
d
e we
won
ti
h
v
v
e
som onalist r cults t over a ention ery act
a
.
i
.
e sm
o
n
D
l
B
all v e asha on’t be d you w history n.
med
icto
i
a
l
l
s
t
ry fo
u
t
r hu o die u pid
ntil
man
you
ity.
’ve

·R
E
Fi ME
x
i
br ng DIA
go oad Co TIO
ba od i er c ope N:
ck ns om r ’s
an tea m re
d m d un lat
o
ak f h ity. ions
e a av Be w
m ing ing ith
en to
ac th
ds
. circ tive e
le
ly

n.
tio
za
ni ed e’re .
ga d
y
or ee s w or
of is n ime ist ar
h
n
rm se r t t e f i
fo n e en h ng
A po th ec g t yi
:. res . O e r in st l
D
e
N
nd iv in ju
A iat ou ch ag ’re
r
B
r
d
m
e
a
i
R
E me e g to re s w
B
e
B m th k e’
U n i n ac w im
· R f a ’re o g b es er t .
I e in im h r
w cl r t Ot we
r
ci the re. dra
O tu k
fu jun
a

d
tie
ies ating
k
tu
.
coo
ar erpe ntrol
g
u
p
s
o
e
d
c
e
h
r
n
sa
ya
e in t’s t
the ing u t we’r No! I gled
,
a
ch riv
ng
f?
ta
tou is d ain th stuf ly en t bei
t
s
e
o
s
t
i
:
ju ang ain
ed e n
th
MS
n’t
h
m n all f wick we’r
T E s do eir c
o
t
S
r
n
o
· SY stem t. Th tinue to bu ence whe
n
Sy kno con ing llig
eve
e
d
e
a
in lf. W deci al int ad it
e
i
e
e
its We’r rtific n’t r
a
.
lol chy a We c ee it.
.
t
gli tems d to s
i
sys stup
o
o
t

find a
mittee to ot also
m
o
c
a
f
art o
e’re n
· PO
to be a p ’t mean that w rity firm.
k
s
a
e
u
When w m, that doesn
b e a s ec
ot
fir
ere not
sk, it’s n
a
to
e
security emand that th
v
a
h
u
o
y
d
If
trying to is a paradigm.
y
is
r
c
o
p
Hy
sive.
y exclu
LOWDOWN: 44
mutuall
AL ET
SITION

HICS:

· FA I L U R
ES OF L
ANG
We’ve bu
mped up UAG E :
against
Prefixes
the limit
and suff
s
ixes den
opposite
ote oppo of language. AS
s. The id
F
sitional
ea of a p
statistic
things, b hgjskhdljadkvsfj
osition a
: you can
ut some
hljd.
s a coord
make it
There’s
times th
inate in
mean an
no essen
e
y
’r
a
e not
g
y
rid syste
thing yo
tial grid
conserv
m is like
. If you
u want b
ative, th
th
y
a
in
p
e
utting w
n reorde
k about
instituti
ords aro
people o
r that ax
onalists
und it.
is
n
,
a
in
R
n
ush Lim
Partiers
terms of
axis from
baugh w
wil
insurrec
liberal to
ill sudde
ti
but ultim l be next to anar
o
nists
nly be n
chists. Y
ately the
ext to Ob to
ou can a
re are no
in relati
ama and
tt
r
on to po
fi
ib
xed posit
ute ethic
Tea
sitions.
ions bec
s to a po
ause the
sition,
grid is a
concept

o
wh a
ne or
yo , f e
er ea o b
Ev t id it t
a
s.
m th und ent.
ig in
ad ta as fo erm
ar ter
S:
M e p en e, h ow
I G s ar to im mp
A D m ed ifet al e
ic
A R dig ag a l
· P ra an or rad
Pa s m nt for
ha ome sis
m e ba
th

· DEL
USI
The w O N A L R E A
ay to
L I SM
o
:
realit
ies is ppose a sy
stem
t
o stop
differ
of fi
en
m
may h t kind of s aking sens nancial
ense.
e
ave b
Jokes . A
een th
the qu
. Tuit
e ans
estion
io
wer b
?
ut wh n
at wa
s

oosing
rt. He’s ch
fo
m
o
c
is
D
bing.
ctrum the
ction. Rub
whole spe
t
ri
a
F
:
th
S
t
a
IE
g
IL IT
verything
lookin
E S E N S IB
or people
it makes e
F
d
.
n
g
a
ecin
s
· D E L IC AT
rt
th
u
ll
nd it h
f the inters
n one sma
burning a
masking o
nce
’s
e
it
h
le
to focus o
T
d
io
n
v
t.
a
f
c
a
o
forms
elled to
like a fire
ic
p
is
m
m
e
n
o
o
st
c
ti
e
sy
’r
ic
n
fr
You
viole ce
invisible
to ignore.
hat of the
w
ileging of
d
v
n
ri
A
p
ut
e
s.
e
impossible
th
d
inoriti
e care abo
f things an
of color, m
ose that w
p
le
p
n
ro
o
a
p
e
tionality o
s
m
p
n
u
s,
o
nizati
ges on h
ous group
these orga
ork infrin
f
w
o
e
ll
on indigen
m
A
a
?
fr
.
te
list
style
y the sta
the capita
rtable life
imposed b
h a comfo
n in reality
e
it
h
w
w
le
ts
p
h
o
g
e
p
human ri
vide some
rder to pro
rights in o

eird
lgia: a w
st nosta
ago 10
ju
s
y
r
ll
a
a
e
r 20 y
e actu
e
r
a
p
· VI
o

s
o
n
C
go o
ver and
“visio
aba goo
. Say it o
A lot of
t
b
c
t
e
fe
r
k
e
n
-bla
g to get
sn’t p
security
nly goin
Free wa
o
.
w
is
o
now?
e
n
e
om
be like
ia for fr
ld
lg
u
a
o
years fr
t
h
s
s
o
rsity
phetic.
cause n
a unive
the pro
h
ld
over be
it
u
o
w
h
ic
s
talg
What
the nos
hotter.
? Fight
s
r
a
e
y
In 100
s. NO
SION v

STA L G

IA:

· COM MUN ITY :
Is this even a fight with the commun
ity? What
community? The community has been
erased,
destroyed, disarmed, dissolved — if
there ever
was one. Could a community with no
say have
ever been one?

t.
:
e manageMEN
· GOVE RN AN CE
oculture, middl
on
m
nt,
,
re
sm
ffe
yi
di
on
be
ss, cr
position
Problems: dure
that board com
ip
ly
al
sh
ur
er
ct
ad
ru
le
st
),
ry
ire
se (see glossa
au
Proposals: requ
Cl
et
ns
Su
e,
,
erativ
vernance
en source, coop
no board, self-go
ntralization, op
ce
esident.
de
y,
pr
a
lit
ta
ve
on
ha
t
teams, horiz
afraid to no
t
no
e
e’r
W
.
ns
r mea
ol that is selfsmall, within ou
tuition is a scho
ve
ha
ld
ou
sh
at
th
The only school
ge itself.
decides to char
d
an
g
in
rn
ve
go

· ME
RI
In m T O C R A
priv ost cas CY :
e
i
on e lege. Th s a thin
xtra
em
guis
sati
c
o
sfyi urricu re spe e for th
n
nt o
l
e pe
app
ar a
g ev
n
c
e
r
e
inst aling a ry nee tivities tutors a petuati
d ou
itut
on o
stud
a
n
n
ds
d
io
but
t
f
e
e
swim n. If yo nt bec side of ducati pecial s
ome
ona
stud
cho
mer
u do
i
n
l
o
s
i
a
y
n
sho tocracy pool a ’t have to a m — the trips, o ls,
erit
wed
n
nd t
m
wan
t
o
o
o
do a
re
ake
hom
one
crat
ts Y
n
p
i
w
O
e
acco test: d ay thr U. The iano le ything c
oug
sson
all d
isso
mpl
Sch
h
lv
ay
con
s
stitu ishmen ing ga this m ool of A ,
mea
ire i
ts w
r
tes a
t
,
for
n
bl
ith d
clas
eba e chart the form its par
s.
te a
t,
s
o
of
f
bou
t wh grades its
and
at
at
cession th
n post-re
o
ly
ti
le
p
o
e
s
rc
s are
c pe
· AU S
the publi in financial strait blems.
xtualize
s
ro
te
n
p
n
o
o
ir
ti
c
e
e
R
stitu
the
into th
als and in
and are
mselves
e
ic
th
m
g
te
s
individu
in
y
s
tt
e
re
g
,
a
r
te
s
a
le fo
blem
orpor
responsib
hese pro
issues: c
T
f
.
o
m
x
e
le
th
p
of
com
And out
ectional
an inters
f
gender.
o
,
s
lt
s
u
la
s
re
race, c
,
te
· A D M IS SI O N
a
iv
r
S:
public/p
Why are there
so many stud
ents from Flor
the magnet sc
ida? What is
hool pipeline
really about an
to be part of it
d do we want
? What if adm
issions counse
time and reso
lors had the
urces to rove
around like M
to find Neo, in
orpheus trying
stead of head
ing in a direct
calculating yi
ion of
eld from part
ner schools.
:
T E R IT Y

al Justice?
U ST IC E :
called Soci
· S O C IA L J
n
io
ct
se
a
that we too
e have
a reminder
How can w
as
ly
n
o
.
If
.
must
e an option
And yet we
shouldn’t b
at
th
d
an
ut,
often opt-o

· PHI
LANT
H RO
You c
PY:
an
that r ’t have ph
ila
el
incre ies on char nthropy w
dible
i
ithou
ty to m
di
t
the ri
ch an sparity. Re ake amen a system
d
ds for
i
n
phila
t
f
h
o
e
r
ces th
poor.
nt
e ga
We
would hropy but
the be don’t wan p between
make
t
ginni
no se
ng of the end of
nse to
a soci
.
ety th
at it

agogy?
Y:
· P E DAG O G
n called Ped
io
ct
se
a
the least
e
e hav
nse, but it’s
se
o
n
How can w
es
ak
ens here m
What happ
how to do.
g we know
in
th
id
p
u
st
.
sk
h te ri
c
roa gra
pp inte and est
a
y
r
’s
We log su eon
ati risk. ideo the som e
r
t
th risk It’s
ors
nis of
mi tion grow ize ely. ng w ch
d
a iza
i
i
m init
ett wh p
he
n a ni
: T inim wee o mi u inf ep g ugh kee
T
t
t yo
e
o
o
E N e m be
nt
nt
n k hr
E M t: th link u wa und s ca ns t ppe
G
s
o
g a le ha
A ali
the f yo g ar hin
t
o
AN
M capi sk is fit. I hin w t ides ve t
K is
t
o
a
v
i
o
S
y
r
h
h
o
r
I
r
r
· R risk on to s to p eve tand on p here
to ersi nes loon ers ersi en
p
d
Av thful o bal un k av hap
· NIC E ≠ RIG HT :
o
s
t
i
t
i
t
r
a
a
f y is ard ut
h
t
For god’s sake.
wa es h se, b ings
r
h
· ED
tim wo ad t risk.
UC
d
The AT I O N
an the b zing
r
i
all nim
des e’s a wh A L I N D
ir
U
o
mi
you e to go le indu ST R I A
’re t
to s
LC
s
try
OM
ch
he
thro
ugh re. Acc ool an that ma P L E X
d fe
ever
the
ess!
eds nufact :
c
y
ured
of y
stic where racks o Means
ou
k
n
a
y
f
the er price ll the t financ othing r pligh our
ime
. Pe
refo
ial a
t on
s. E
o
.
rm b
liza
ce
id o
imp
Deb
ple
be
v
f
o
e
t
Dism rtant t at, and th War forgiv er and all
e
o
o
r
n
Com antling remem it’s imp en and ess leg ver aga
in
orta
ber
othe
it
m
e
u
o
p
n Ap
wha
Fak
nt —
hem
rs a imizes
e sc
t
r
p
e
i
b
r
sm
. Ka
efo
on
ut
h
bait
-and olarshi plan. C s. Test rm mi it’s als
o
s
ps t
p
s
-sw
o
r
e
e
ll
s
p
ake
itch
n aw ege Boa . Textb .
,
ook
rd. R
ay i
s
na
seco anking .
ndyea s.
r
·A
CC
Pe R
E
sh ople DIT
A ould flip AT
I
d
sa egr we a sh ON
:
fo tura ee m care it a
rf
b
t
?
e
e
o
re d w an Ex u
e,
t
no ith s no cep los
bo de th t th ing
dy gr ing at
ac
c
i
ca ees
n l . I in a t’s ti red
or f yo wo ed ita
tio
da u
r
t
ce get ld co o fin n b
rti
ut
a
m
y
fic ou
p n
w
at r e lete cial hy
e o du ly ai
d.
ve ca
r y tio
ou n
.
LOWDOWN: 47

These selected essays dig into why Cooper
matters, what’s going wrong with education
everywhere, and how we might fix it.
Printed Essays:
1. The State of the Cooper Union by Mike Borkowsky

BACK

2. An Open Letter to President Bharucha by Walid Raad
3. The Loss of Cooper Union by Jordan Bowen
4. Why Cooper Union’s Tuition Fight Matters for the Future of Art by Ben Davis
5. Organizing As If Social Relations Matter by Cindy Milstein
6. Academy Fight Song by Thomas Frank
7. Why Cooper Union Matters by Litia Perta
8. Removing Barriers Mobilizes Resources by David Gersten
9. An Appeal to the Cooper Community, Fall 2013 by Sam Rosner
10. Two Educations for the Price of None by Jakob Biernat
Online Essays: freecooperunion.org/disorientation
6. Save Cooper Union and You Can’t Just End An Era by Sangu Iyer
7. The Tragedy of Cooper Union (a Six-Part Series) by Felix Salmon

BACKGROUND: 48

GROUND
49

BACKGROUND: 50

Former trustee, Working Group co-chair, and Engineering alumnus
Mike Borkowsky debunks myths propagated by Board Chair Richard Lincer.

the

State
of the
cooper
Union
Originally published on July 24, 2014

Former Trustee Mike Borkowsky’s statement to the Board of
Trustees in response to Board Chair Richard Lincer’s email dated
July 18, 2014.
From the beginning of his presidency, once he grasped the
severity of the financial situation, Dr. Bharucha poured a great
deal of his energy into building a rationalization for imposing
tuition. He thoroughly reviewed the history of the school
and the writings of Peter Cooper to find support for the
preconceived “vision” that tuition was the only solution to
the financial problem.

While Bharucha talked of tuition being
the “last resort”, his actions proved it
was the first resort.
The same amount of energy was not put behind the cost
reduction alternative. The prime example of that is the creation

of the Cost Reduction Task Force. It was created ostensibly
to solve the deficit problem, but given the charge that it could
not consider any cost reduction which would involve union
negotiations. Since the vast majority of costs would involve
the unions, it had no chance to provide a viable cost reduction
alternative. The second major example was the effort of
The Working Group. It was authorized by Dr. Bharucha as one
of the negotiated agreements to end the occupation of his office.
Yet, it was not only not supported by him or the members
of his administration who were appointed to the group, it was
obstructed at every point. And its findings were rejected
out of hand without any discussion with members of the
Working Group.
That is the fundamental issue here. This is not a battle between
The Committee to Save Cooper Union and The Cooper Union’s
Board of Trustees. It is a battle between The Cooper Union as
a unique and extraordinary institution of higher education and
The Cooper Union as just another college. A majority of the
students understands that. A majority of the faculty understands
that. A majority of the alumni understands that. A majority of the
Board of Trustees does not.
The Charter and the Deed of Trust give great latitude to
the Board of Trustees to preserve and manage the institution.
Whether or not it binds them specifically and legally to maintain
free tuition is a debate for others to have. But I believe that they
are bound, as are all college trustees, to at least maintain if not
improve their institution’s standing within the very competitive
framework of American higher education. The full scholarship
and pure meritocracy that has defined Cooper Union for the past
100+ years may not be precisely aligned with Peter Cooper’s
original vision, but it has become unequivocally essential to
the school’s high standards of excellence in both reputation
and academic performance. It is on that measure that Cooper
Union’s current Board of Trustees has not fulfilled its fiduciary
responsibility. It has not done all that was possible to maintain

the unique character and heritage of the institution. Instead of a
conscientious and disciplined effort to live within its means—to
bring operating costs in line with its projected revenue stream
it has jettisoned Cooper’s unique competitive strength for the
expedient alternative of a tuition revenue stream.
The communication of July 18, 2014 to the Cooper Community
from Board Chair Richard Lincer outlines the rationale for its
motion to dismiss the Committee to Save Cooper Union’s lawsuit.
It includes three major points:
· new plans of action under the tuition plan which, in the Board’s view,
actually enhance the school’s competitive standing
· the historical nature of the financial challenges that the school has faced
· the apparent “success” of the new plan in terms of the results achieved
with the entering class of 2014

There are issues with many of the statements made in the letter.

Having served on the Board for 17
years and having authored a financial
history of the school at Dr. Bharucha’s
request, I cannot allow misstatements
to be circulated throughout the Cooper
community without challenge.
Financial Support Under the Tuition Plan
The letter states, “…the new plan retains the basic principle of
admissions based solely on merit and provides for supplemental
need-based aid...” The fact is that President Bharucha
committed to the meritocracy for only the first year, until the
school generated experience with the impact of the tuition plan
on admissions and student body quality. That hedge will allow
the pure meritocracy to be abandoned whenever the tuition
revenue falls short of projections. As is the practice in many
colleges, admissions policy incorporates “ability to pay” as an

important criterion for applicant selection. As the meritocracy
is abandoned, the quality of the student body will diminish.
The combination of tuition charges and a decline in the school’s
reputation will further diminish the number of applicants and,
therefore, the school’s reported selectivity. This is the beginning
of a downward spiral that is inevitable. The imposition of tuition
has no chance of improving Cooper Union’s reputation or
its academic quality. In fact, it is guaranteed to do exactly
the opposite.
The promise of increased access for the economically
disadvantaged was a unique and important one when Peter
Cooper founded Cooper Union. It is still important but certainly
no longer unique. Cooper Union evolved to a pure meritocracy
as other colleges began increasing access to the economically
disadvantaged. It is both the full scholarship and the pure
meritocracy together that created and sustained Cooper Union
as a unique and extraordinary institution. Now one of those
pivotal characteristics has been lost and the other is
doomed to follow.
The Cooper Union’s Financial Challenges Are Not New
They certainly are not. But they do not go back 50 years as the
letter states. They go back 150 years. There were deficit years
and surplus years. Revenue varied depending on donations,
bequests and market fluctuations which are difficult to
project with certainty. In fact, in the Autumn, 1964 edition
of “At Cooper Union” (page 15) then president Dr. Richard
Humphreys discussed the financial issues. I quote him: “It is
a startling fact that in the 67 years between 1859 and 1926 there
were 35 deficit years—in effect, in one year out of every two the
income was insufficient to meet the expenses.” So, while deficits
were a consistent historical problem, they were of short-term
duration until the early 1990’s when a drop in revenue from
the Chrysler building created a chronic operating deficit gap.
The gap needed to be filled each year by pulling funds from the

54

55

endowment, a disastrous issue if done year in and year out.
The failure of the administrations and boards of the past 20+
years to respond adequately to the lost revenue by reducing
costs has been the fundamental cause of the financial crisis.
That was compounded by the failure of an unrealistically
ambitious $250 million capital campaign and the impending
failure of a heritage-destroying imposition of tuition.
President Bharucha has repeatedly claimed that cost
reduction was a failed strategy and that the school had to sell
off properties in an effort to sustain the full-tuition scholarship.
That is misleading in its lack of completeness and in its
implications. The truth is that there were often other
considerations in the decision to sell off properties. And a more
realistic interpretation of those actions would be that historically
the Trustees of Cooper Union have truly considered tuition to
be a last resort and did everything they could to sustain the full
scholarship because they recognized the devastating impact
tuition would have on the reputation and unique qualities
of the school.
The reality is that cost reduction is not a failed strategy because
it has never been implemented or even tried to be implemented
on a level significant enough to eliminate the structural deficit
that originated in the early 1990’s.

There has not been an
administration or a board of trustees
willing to takeon the challenge of
creating a well-thought-out change
in the operating cost structure that
was significant enough to eliminate
the structural deficit.
BACKGROUND: 56

Jay Iselin, while a capable and very well-liked president,
was rarely inclined to turn down spending requests. George
Campbell’s enthusiasm and unbridled optimism produced a
wholly unrealistic fund-raising goal and a presidency dedicated
primarily to getting the new academic building built. Campbell
committed to a significant operating cost reduction (10%) in
the Cy Pres document in 2006, but he never accomplished it.
Jamshed Bharucha has also chosen the path of generating
revenue rather than the more difficult but more certain path
of living within our means. But he has chosen to pay the most
serious price for that decision—the destruction of the mission,
the excellence and the uniqueness of Cooper Union.
The Future and the Class of 2018
A classic strategy when engaged in an inevitable lost cause is
to declare victory and go home. The Board has carefully selected
some data to support its declaration of victory even before the
first class to pay tuition has enrolled. There is no mention of the
fact that the number of applicants for this class declined
significantly. An earlier communication added the phrase,
“as was expected”, as if that made it a non-problem. But it is
a problem because as the school’s standing among the top tier
of colleges on selectivity declines, it will negatively impact the
application decision of the top high school students in future
years. So that downward progression has already begun.
The yield percentages, particularly in Art and Architecture have
also declined. Clearly the decision to attend Cooper if admitted
is no longer a virtual certainty in those schools. And what will
happen when the students who are required to pay the full
tuition amount arrive on campus and realize that there is no
campus? No gymnasium…no cafeteria….virtually no amenities at
all. While that fact may not have been critical to Cooper students
in the past, it is less than certain that it will not be an issue to
those who are paying a significant amount of tuition to attend.

The letter concludes with the statement by Mr. Lincer that he
is “absolutely confident that we have acted in the best interests
of the institution”. That confidence is not shared by students,
alumni or faculty, the three most important constituencies
of the institution. It is not shared by all current board members
or by many former board members. But this board has chosen
to plunge ahead with its decision because the president has
no interest in attempting any alternative and the board has no
interest in seeking a president who would be. This was clearly
demonstrated by the reaction to the Working Group plan.
If tuition was viewed as a last resort rather than a direction
of choice, there would have been a willingness to support the
Working Group effort and thoroughly review specific elements of
the plan with members of the Working Group. Cost reduction and
change are extremely difficult things to accomplish, particularly
in an academic environment. But there was unprecedented
support within the institution to reduce costs and to effect
change because so many realize the damage that will be done
to this institution by the tuition decision. It seems to be only
the Administration and the Board of Trustees that has failed
to grasp the legacy of destruction that their action will bring.
Michael Borkowsky
July 24, 2014

BACKGROUND: 58

In an open letter to Jamshed Bharucha, School of Art faculty member Walid Raad
challenges the idea that Cooper cannot live within its means.

open
letter
to
PRESIDENT
bharucha

Dear Jamshed,
As promised, here are my comments to your note. You were
forthcoming in your email with your views about The Cooper
Union and its future, and as such, I try below to be equally
forthcoming.
As I go over the events, situations, reports, and positions of the
year, a few things begin to crystallize for me. Today, I find that I
am one of those who oppose that The Cooper Union can become
a place that will one day generate revenue from academic
programs (any academic programs, including those that
The Cooper Union already charges for).
I have also spent the last few months reading Peter Cooper’s
biography (as well as that of Adam Hewitt)—primarily to figure
out what New York in the early 1800’s might have been like. It is
clear to me today that one can find in Peter Cooper’s papers a
number of statements that can support this or that ideological
position (be it to support those who oppose the current
administration’s plans or those who support it). As such, I also
wish that we can all stop the “Peter Cooper said and wrote and
meant” bit to justify our outlook, and move to think of how we

can even outdo what Peter Cooper initiated over 150 years ago.
We are a school that is—to an extent—guaranteed $40 million
a year. It is very difficult to think that we are not able to build
the most progressive academic program anywhere for this kind
of money (and I understand all of what you say about the rate of
inflation, health care costs, and the Chrysler revenue steps, etc.)
We have certainly lived beyond our means for years, and those
who have consciously and unconsciously, strategically or
inadvertently permitted the deficits to go on for decade after
decade seem to me to have acted in as reckless and foolhardy
a manner as the financial wizards responsible for the 2008 crash.
While some of the Cooper Union culprits and panjandrums are
gone, others remain here and I doubt that their advice will serve
us well anytime soon.
You make some convincing arguments about why the current
situation is unsustainable—and as such, you note that our
financial sustainability cannot be cured by cuts alone. Yet the
question that comes back to me is: What kind of Cooper Union
can one build today for $40m?

Shouldn’t we reverse the familiar
propositions and instead of saying that
$40 million is not enough for today’s
Cooper Union, ask what kind of Cooper
Union we can build for $40m?
My sense is that this can and will be a fantastic opportunity
to re-imagine every aspect of The Cooper Union, from its
infrastructure to its administration, its curriculum to its faculty.
Why can’t this kind of re-invention begin today?
Much has been made of whether rising Faculty and
Administrative salaries and benefits are also to blame for

our ongoing financial troubles. It has been said time and
time again that The Cooper Union’s major costs are people.
In this regard, it has been generative for me to look at the
various charts that tracked how many faculty and/ or
institutional support and/ or administrative positions were
created in the past decade. It was equally interesting to look at
the various 990’s and see who has been paid what over the same
period. All I can say about this is that I, like many others in the
art school, am certainly not here because of the salary, benefits,
teaching load, and research opportunities. I came to Cooper
precisely because I identified with its history, its mission of
merit-based scholarships, and because it was hierarchically flat.
I soon discovered that this mission was shored up not by returns
on investment, alumni donations, nor by brilliant financial
planning from above, but by the selfless dedication of its staff,
students, faculty (who it turns out were mostly adjuncts and
whose salaries were far from proportional to their loyal
dedication to The Cooper Union.) In other words, generation
after generation of faculty and staff have demonstrated that
their commitment to this institution’s ideals by far exceeds what
their salaries and benefits reflected. We work here not only
because we believe in the mission, but we also wish to expand
its progressive spirit. It was also refreshing to work somewhere
where I never heard the pathetic justification for higher
compensation: “Why shouldn’t I get this much? Do you know
what my salary on Wall Street (at Morphosis or Yale or Apple)
would be?” But I am sad to say that I am starting to hear such
views in meetings and hallways. They usually follow the equally
un-imaginative: “Why should The Cooper Union grant
scholarships to the kids of millionaires?” My internal monologue
usually responds with: “What we can all use right now is an
allopathic dose of Peter Cooperism.”
All this to say that I am convinced that most of The Cooper
Union’s staff, librarians, students and faculty are willing to live
within the School’s means provided that we are treated as
partners as we deal with The Cooper Union’s financial health.

And I am sorry to say that last year’s various task forces,
instead of being genuine opportunities to define priorities
and open alternative possibilities for action, resulted in simply
rubber-stamping more-or-less delimited solutions. Prior to your
arrival, decisions about our fate were made from afar, with as
little transparency as possible. Faculty, students, librarians and
staff were treated as spoiled children whose excessive whims
needed to be kept in check. Until you arrived, clearly no one
trusted us with the facts. My sense remains that your
administration has done a tremendous job of identifying our
problems and making them known to us. The trouble is with
your administration’s solutions, particularly that of generating
revenue via tuition from academic programs.
One more point troubles me as well in what you outline:
When you say that we cannot fundraise our way out of this,
I find myself asking: Why do we have a President who, instead
of saying “given Cooper Union’s historically unprecedented story,
I will go out and raise a billion,” says, “I cannot raise $300m.”
We have the most remarkable story to tell, and yet this story
can supposedly only get us $160m in the coming few years?
This, to me, seems short-sighted and timid. I, for one, will
certainly help in any way I can with raising the necessary funds
provided that the story we are telling is the one that I believe
in wholeheartedly. But the story that is being formed at the
moment is frankly one that I would discourage people from
supporting. I also know that you can cite all kind of historical
facts about the impossibility of fundraising our way out of this,
to which I will say: We have to not only imagine but also
accomplish the impossible here. And fundraising our way out
of this is one option. Another would be to truly rethink the entire
meaning of higher education in America today (from our
governance, to our curricula, our division of labor, etc, etc.)
But as long as we cannot tell ourselves (let alone believe)
in the uniqueness of The Cooper Union, this will certainly
remain a fantasy.
BACKGROUND: 62

As an aside: Three years ago, and along with some friends in
Beirut, we started an art school called the Home Workspace.
We were dispirited by the lack of critical arts programs in the
Arab world, and instead of waiting to be invited to join any of the
existing and mostly reactionary universities, we started our own
program. My model was The Cooper Union, and we decided on a
similarly progressive merit-based scholarship to every admitted
student. We recruit heavily in the Arab world, and take in around
15 students a year for 11 months. Granted our program is small
and does not cost $60m to run. Still, we take in rich and poor
Kuwaitis, Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, and others. Some can
most likely afford the $35,000 cost per student of the program.
Still, we decided to initiate the merit-based full-scholarship
education because of our experience with how debt and
dependence on family funds (especially in the Arab world) can
affect the risks we take as artists, writers, and thinkers. We
fundraise with mostly conservative Arabs who have to be
introduced to the idea of merit vs. need. And I cite time and
again The Cooper Union as a beacon of progressive thought,
and as an example of what has been and can be possible. 1850
New York reminds me quite a bit of 2013 Abu Dhabi, Doha and
Beirut. An amazing amount of wealth is being generated, and
incredible infrastructures for culture are emerging. Most
emerging cultural institutions in the Arab world are, I am sad to
say, conservative, reactionary, timid, and lacking in substance
and vision. I keep thinking: Just as Peter Cooper believed he
can do better, so can we. And we are trying in Beirut. But what
a sad day for us in New York, and in Beirut, it would be were
The Cooper Union to become yet another expansionist NYU
or VCU (who must now flock to Abu Dhabi and Doha, begging
autocrats for yet more Petro-dollars to fund ever-growing
expansion plans) while burying every admitted student in
New York under a mountain of financial and psychological debt.
Whose example can we still cite in Beirut then? I hope that you
find something generative in these words. And needless to say,
this is but the beginning of an exchange of ideas. —Walid Raad

Jordan Bowen reflects on the role Cooper plays
in the changing face of New York.

the

Loss
of
Cooper
UNION
Originally published on Kinja in April 2013

This was a long time coming, and like the destruction of the
Chelsea Hotel, marks the end of a certain kind of city, one that
can sustain a viable, non-commercial creative culture. We live
now in a city of unpaid internships and backbreaking rent and
tuition, where hopeful young settlers must one after the other
face the hard reality of a real estate and job market that has
been sealed up in advance by those who got here first. As Patti
Smith answered, when asked her advice to young people: don’t
come to New York. They took it from you. It’s over. Manhattan
is turning into Geneva, a city of great poverty and great wealth,
without a middle class. A homogenous, crowded, tourist-infested,
expensive, and rather dull capital of the world.
Cooper Union’s flagship is the Foundation Building, an Italianate
brownstone that was once the crown of the wide expanse of
Astor Place. Abraham Lincoln gave a famous speech in its Great
Hall. The school was founded to offer free classes to the illiterate
masses boiling up from the slums of the Bowery; Peter Cooper
BACKGROUND: 64
was himself illiterate.

Change has been tearing apart and rebuilding New York since it
was a Dutch colony. There’s no point crying about it. But there is
a poignant loss to Cooper Union, which woefully mismanaged its
money and generously rewarded the upper echelon of its
administration even as the ship began to sink. This culminated
in a new spaceship of a building, built to enhance the school’s
prestige and reviled by students and faculty alike, which it
constructed while boasting the institution had weathered the
economic storm of 2008 in sound financial health. That was
either an illusion or a lie, and within two years the situation had
become unsustainable. The new president of Cooper tried to
break the news softly that Cooper was insolvent, that it might
give up its non-profit status and ‘explore’ the option of tuition.
Like all politically sensitive fiats, the Board of Trustees made a
show of community involvement just to soften the blow, but the
decision itself was final. The school was shocked, then erupted
into a bitter and futile protest.
Cooper Union, because it was free, was anything but dead. That
leverage is, after all, the point of higher education. When Cooper
becomes more like Columbia, an exclusive brand sold to those
who are expensively prepped for admission and able or willing
to pay, it will be yet another rung in the ladder lost to those still
on the lower rungs. It will be another once free space in the city
taken over by wealth, another desirable amenity in the luxury
conclave of New York.

Written during his tenure as Executive Editor of ArtInfo, Ben Davis explains
how tuition at Cooper will ripple through the art world.

Why

Cooper
UNION’s
tuition
fight
matters
for the
future
ofart
Originally published by ArtInfo in May 2013

BACKGROUND: 66

People should be angry about what has happened at
Cooper Union. Trouble has been looming at the historically
tuition-free New York institution for years. Faced with ongoing
deficits, administration figures have floated trial balloons about
charging admission, always insisting ritualistically that they were
exploring all other options. Last year, a student occupation
anticipated the current turbulence.

In the weeks since, there have been protests, symbolic actions,
and scathing exposés. Just yesterday, a transcript of a Cooper
board meeting was released (and promptly turned into a student
play), revealing a body dangerously insulated from the values
of the community it was charged with leading, dismissive of
student protest as “performance art,” hostile to the unionized
faculty, and capable of using the threat of closing the school
entirely to make staff fall in line. Last week, video game guru and
MIT professor Kevin Slavin—who once had a team of forensic
accountants look at Cooper’s 990 forms, only to have
them declare that, in his words, “they haven’t seen anything
this fucked up from anyone who wasn’t being deliberately
obstructive”—won an election for alumni trustee as a write-in
candidate on a transparency platform.
The nine full-time art faculty—Dore Ashton, Robert Bordo,
Christine Osinski, Mike Essl, Dennis Adams, Walid Raad, Sharon
Hayes, Day Gleeson, and Margaret Morton—have very publicly
signed a letter of “No Confidence” in the administration.
Finally, and most visibly, a fresh occupation of the President’s
Office continues to this moment.
Occupations are important but symbolic affairs. After initially
sending in armed guards, the administration is likely waiting for
the ruckus to die down and peter out. A lot depends on how the
issue of tuition gets translated to a broader public—and I realize
not everyone sees this as the burning issue of the day. Cooper
Union is, after all, a very small school, with just 12,000 alumni and
1,000 or so students a year. It has evolved a long ways from its
origins as a college meant to train working-class New Yorkers,
and is widely known these days as an elite institution.
Which is natural: In a culture as ruthlessly market-driven as ours,
founder Peter Cooper’s dictum that education should be as “free
as air and water” is not exactly going to go mainstream. But what
I think is important to highlight is how the issues at stake here
form an almost perfect crystal of the forces buffeting art and

education in the woebegotten 21st century. Felix Salmon has
done yeoman’s work detailing the ways in which Cooper Union’s
managers bear much of the blame for the current sorry state of
affairs. Go read his series of angry, thorough blog posts on the
mess for a sense of what’s at stake. I can’t add to them, only
draw out what I think should make them resonate well beyond
Astor Place:
1. Those who follow the art world will know that its heroes over the boom
years have been hedge-fund millionaires. In the disaster of Cooper Union’s
finances, the hedge-fund complex stands squarely on the side of the
villains: The school finds itself in dire straights in part because its masters,
faced with deficits, sunk its endowment heavily into such investments,
believing in their healing wizardry. Instead, the funds underperformed the
market, while still extracting huge fees. So, in a kind of serpent-eating-itsown-tail representation of finance at its most socially corrosive, you have
a perfect symbol of a system that funds the consumption of art by
undercutting the basis for its actual production.
2. Some of Cooper Union’s problems stem from the need to pay down the
giant $175-million loan it took out to build its flashy Thom Mayne-designed
engineering building in 2006. In constructing the facility, Cooper was
simply joining in on the craze for flashy new buildings that overtook
cultural institutions throughout the United States in the last decade.
By now, it has been established that this starchitect boom was not based
on need, but rather something more troubling: the competition to attract
wealthy donors, whose egos could only be flattered by being attached to
something new and shiny. The grim result has been that U.S. museums
are disastrously overbuilt, saddled with increased expenses based on
only tenuous real rewards.
The Cooper Union affair represents the awful logical climax of this trend:
The school got the expensive new building and its associated costs,
justified by the need to attract a major donor.

In a literally monumental act of
institutional incompetence, its
bosses built it before bothering to get
any sponsor to put a name on it—
and that sponsor never showed up.
3. Anyone following the austerity debate will recognize, in mutated form, the
pattern of narrow-minded or even destructive ideology masquerading as
hard-nosed realism. Cooper Union has one real income-generating asset,
its claim on the land below the Chrysler Building. (Indeed, in 2018, the
terms of that deal are set to change in a way that will improve the school’s
finances). The fact that New York City, in effect, subsidizes an elite private
school has been historically controversial. By jettisoning the one thing that
gives the school a special, progressive claim on the public’s imagination—
free tuition and merit-based admission—the board has made a decision
that sounds like pragmatism, but could easily help cut its last leg out
from under it.
BACKGROUND: 69

4. Cooper is a private institution which makes it all the more striking that the
pattern here resembles one which we’ve lately become familiar with in the
greater economy: A crisis stoked by short-sighted gambling, which will be
solved by shifting the burden onto the public, in this case onto the families
of the next generation of students.
The school’s board members have said that its alumni need to step up and
give more for the school to flourish—after having pursued the one strategy
guaranteed to alienate those potential donors. “The great schools in the
U.S. are all too often just places that make rich families richer. Cooper
Union was the exception,” artist and alum Zak Smith told Molly Crabapple
in the first days of the recent occupation. “Not anymore. If it wasn’t for
Cooper, people like me wouldn’t get to be artists.”

Lifelong activist and organizer Cindy Milstein writes about the
merit of patient organizing and community-building.

ORGANIZING
AS IF

SOCIAL
RELATIONS
MATTER
Originally published on Outside the Circle in February 2013

This evening, February 20, 2013, several hours after standing
around outdoors in chilly winter weather at a rally beneath the
clock tower of Cooper Union and a giant “free education for all”
red banner high above, a young Egyptian revolutionary, an active
and articulate organizer these past couple years in Tahrir Square,
said that freedom isn’t just a word; it’s how one practices it and
tries to enact it.
I couldn’t walk away from Cooper Union, even though my toes
began to feel numb. The 1:00 p.m. rally was about the deferral
of early-decision applicants by the school’s administration, which
is trying every trick in the book to tear asunder the founding
mission of free education, paying particular attention to the
pesky art students.
BACKGROUND: 71

There’s an aspirational quality—or “hope,” as one prospective
student noted—in imagining that education could indeed be free
for all, not only monetarily, but also in terms of freedom. That
no tuition, even within a hierarchical and select structure, still
manages to engender a tangible freedom to imagine social
goodness, and the freedom (of thought and financial constraints)
to organize in more imaginative as well as qualitative ways,
seems distinct in relation to other US student organizing in
places that cost tens of thousands annually.

When people, students or otherwise,
are freed up from the burden of
struggling to survive, it creates space
for a different kind of human being,
with time to pursue one’s dreams
alongside others.
It supplies a sense of already-there promise and possibility.
Fighting for lower or no tuition is—or at least could be—
a path toward opening up minds to critical and creative thought,
which is essential in moving us humans toward forms of social
goodness, thwarted as that is by a commodifying structure/
system that does its best to inculcate uncritical and uncreative
thought at every turn, or just make us so damned tired and
dispirited that we don’t have the energy for envisioning and
organizing toward better communities and better tomorrows.
That Cooper Union is one of the last remaining “free schools”
in the United States also underscores how pivotal this battle
is in terms of siding with increasing public goodness or
squashing it still further.
Aspirations, however, aren’t enough. What is noteworthy and
compelling about the Cooper Union resistance beyond the
already-extraordinary sense of a common good embedded in all
its slogans is how, when you take freed-up art students and give

them a cause they are personally and collectively
passionate about, well: watch out! They will unleash their
imaginations, in the same way that a plethora of upwardspiraling imaginative interventions marked the Quebec spring
and summer. Yet there also seem to be twists in the cultural
production for this rebellious campaign to keep education free,
such as transparent banners asking for transparency from
administrators even as they reveal how transparent the student,
alumni, allied teachers, and community supporters are being in
this contestation. Or an oversize Cooper Union student ID for
one of the now-defered prospective early admissions, with a
cutout indicating their potential absence come fall 2013 (happily
filled in, for a photo-op moment, by a probable current
Cooper Union student).
There’s a way in which the spectacle and end-run maneuvers
that the administration keeps trying to make just get
outspectacled and outrun by the dynamism of the art students
conjuring up new visuals, new visions, new strategies—again
only underscoring the “value” of free and freeing education.
Perhaps most important, though, I was reminded today of
what good organizing looks like. Or to be more precise, I was
reminded of what organizing—versus activism—is all about.
There’s aspirations, imagination, and also substance backing
up these students’ resistance, and the substance is all about
both winning and doing so by forging increasingly widening and
deeper circles of social relations, and social relations that appear,
from my outsider vantage point, to be far more comradely and
nonhierarchical than those in many social struggles. That’s
not to say that this cold afternoon’s rally was large; it wasn’t,
attracting maybe a couple hundred folks at most. But as nowdeferred prospective student after student got up to read their
varied, often-eloquent remarks, or have them read by a current
Cooper Union student or an alumni, for upward of an hour,
it became clearer and clearer how much work went into finding,
BACKGROUND: 73

educating, involving, and gaining the support and participation
of these frequently far-afield potential students. In fact, one of
the statements mentioned how current Cooper Union students,
faculty, and alumni had reached out to the current higher
schooler applying for early admission to explain the deferral (an
administration tactic and, as several prospects noted, “betrayal”)
and draw them into this cause—a cause, as several of the
prospective students mentioned, that wasn’t about them
necessarily getting into Cooper Union but instead about
extending the idea that education should be free and available,
sustaining people’s self and social exploration in a life of the
mind and arts, and thus bettering our world.

Organizing, good organizing, is to my
mind the slow, steady, 1 on 1 building
of relations and interconnections that
are at odds with how people are treated
under capitalism.
Instead of instrumentalizing people for what they can give us or
do for us, we look to each other as having worth unto ourselves,
and for how we can cement relations of sociability, collaboration,
and solidarity—as some of the speakers observed today.
Expedient activism falls apart under its own flimsy weight;
there’s little there to sustain it, especially when the going
inevitably gets rough or disappointing. Here, patient and what
appears to be joyful organizing might just have a fighting chance
of leaving something in its wake: a win for free education
perhaps, or if not, a yardstick of how we can reignite our
imaginations and rekindle qualitative social relations.

BACKGROUND: 74

Political analyst, historian, and founding editor of The Baffler,
Thomas Frank demystifies the dream of American higher education.

Academy
fight
song
Originally published by The Baffler in January 2014

The university deals in dreams.

The higher education mantra is possibly the greatest cliché
inAmerican public life.
And so the dreams proliferate. Education is what explains income
inequality, chime the economists, and more education is what will
roll it back. In fact, education is just about the only way we can
justify being paid for our work at all; it is the only quantifiable
input that makes us valuable or gives us “skills.”

No one really knows the particular
contents of the education that is
supposed to save us. It is, again,
a dream, a secret formula, a black box
into which we pour money and out
of which comes uplift or enrichment
or wish-fulfillment.

Then several years pass, and one day we wake up to discover
there is no Santa Claus. Somehow, we have been had. We are
a hundred thousand dollars in debt, and there is no clear way
to escape it. We have no prospects to speak of. And if those
damned dreams of ours happened to have taken a particularly
fantastic turn and urged us to get a PhD, then the learning
really begins.

Maybe college is able to work its magic because college grads
hire only college grads, and after decades of “networking”—
which everyone knows is more important than book-learning—
they have managed to colonize the entire economy. No one
knows for sure how it works, but everyone can see that it
does work, and that’s good enough.

College and Mammon Both

We don’t pause to consider that maybe we’ve got the whole thing
backwards—that the big universities expanded in their heyday
to keep up with industry demand, not to build the middle class.
Instead, what everyone agrees on is this: higher education is the
industry that sells tickets to the affluent life. In fact, they are the
only ones licensed to do this. Yes, there are many colleges one
can choose from—public, private, and for-profit—but collectively
they control the one credential that we believe to be of value.
Another fact: This same industry, despite its legal status as a
public charity, is today driven by motives indistinguishable from

Go to college, or else your destiny will be written by
someone else. The bachelor’s degree that universities issue is
a “credential” that’s “a prerequisite for 21st century jobs,” says
the White House website. Obama himself equates education with
upward mobility—more schooling equals more success—as well
as with national greatness. “The kinds of opportunities that are
open to you will be determined by how far you go in school.”
BACKGROUND: 76

the profit-maximizing entities traded on the New York
Stock Exchange.
The coming of “academic capitalism” has been anticipated
and praised for years; today it is here. Colleges and universities
clamor greedily these days for pharmaceutical patents and
ownership chunks of high-tech startups; they boast of being
“entrepreneurial”; they have rationalized and outsourced
countless aspects of their operations in the search for cash; they
fight their workers nearly as ferociously as a nineteenth-century
railroad baron; and the richest among them have turned their
endowments into in-house hedge funds.
Now, consider the seventeen-year-old customer against whom
this predatory institution squares off. Either he goes to college
like the rest of his friends, or he goes to work. All he needs to do
is sign a student loan application, binding himself forever and
inescapably with a financial instrument that he only dimly
understands and that, thanks to the optimism of adolescence,
he has not yet learned to fear.

Grant to an industry control over
access to the good things in life;
insist that it transform itself into
a throat-cutting, market-minded
mercenary; get thought leaders to
declare it to be the answer to every
problem; mute any reservations
the nation might have about it—
and, lastly, send it your unsuspecting
kids, armed with a blank check drawn
on their own futures.
BACKGROUND: 78

It is the same lesson taught us by so many other disastrous
privatizations: in our passion for entrepreneurship and
meritocracy, we forgot that maybe the market wasn’t the
solution to all things.
An Accounting of Sorts
The truth is that rip-offs like textbook publishing abound
in academia—that virtually every aspect of the higher-ed
dream has been colonized by monopolies, cartels, and other
unrestrained predators—that the charmingly naive American
student is in fact a cash cow, and everyone has got a scheme
for slicing off a porterhouse or two.
Consider the standardized testing industry and its shadow, the
test-prep industry. One of them is supposedly charitable, the
other ebulliently profit-minded, but both of them have raked it
in for years by stoking a pointless arms race among the anxious
youngsters of the nation, each one fearful lest her dream be

cancelled out by someone else’s. The testing companies, each
of which holds a monopoly over some aspect of the business,
charge students hefty registration fees, pay their executives
fantastic salaries, and scheme endlessly to enlarge the empire
of the standardized test.
Consider the “enrollment management” industry, which helps
colleges and universities acquire the student body they desire.
Since what this means in many cases is students who can pay—
the opposite of the “inclusiveness” most universities say they
treasure—enrollment management is a job best left to quiet
consultancies, who use the various tools of marketing to
discover a student’s “price sensitivity.”
Consider the sweetheart deals that are so commonplace
between university administrations and the businessmen who
happen to sit on the university’s board of directors. Consider
universities’ real estate operations, which are often thuggish
and nearly always tax-free. Consider their army of Washington
lobbyists, angling for earmarks and fighting accountability
measures. Consider their massive investments in sports. Or their
sleazy arrangements with tobacco companies and Big Pharma
and high-tech startups.
And lastly, consider the many universities that have raised their
tuition to extravagant levels for no reason at all except to take
advantage of the quaint American folk belief that price tags
indicate quality. From this faith in price correctness the nation
apparently cannot be moved—there is simply no amount of
exposure or reporting that will do it—and so the university
inevitably becomes a luxury good, like a big Armani label you
get to wear through life that costs a fortune but that holds no
intrinsic worth at all.
Where the Money Goes
The most poignant educational scandal of the moment concerns

Cooper Union. The reason everything had to change is that
Cooper Union, like…well, like every other institution of higher ed
in America, decided a few years back that it needed to think big
and embrace change and build the brand. The first step in that
process: erecting a fantastically expensive bit of trophy
architecture across the street from its main building. (There
was also a growing corps of administrators, and a departing
president who needed to be paid close to $1.1 million, but we
won’t go into that now.) Unfortunately, Cooper Union couldn’t
pay for this glamorous new tower, and so it had to borrow an
enormous sum, like other corporations do. The “free education”
thing was collateral damage.

Better to be known for “vibrant”
architecture, I guess, than for some
old-fashioned nonsense about
uplifting the non-wealthy.
The story of Cooper Union is a typical anecdote of the
age of collegiate capitalism, and it’s easy to come up with
other examples of the lavish, unnecessary spending that
characterizes American academia nowadays, that makes it
“the best in the world.” It’s not just the showy new buildings,
but the sports teams that give the alumni such a thrill, the
fancy gymnasiums and elaborate food courts that everyone
thinks you have to have if you want the cool kids to choose
your diploma mill over all the others. It’s the celebrity professors
everyone has decided they must furnish sinecures for regardless
of whether those celebrities know anything about the subject
they are hired to profess.
But what has really fueled the student’s ever-growing
indebtedness, as anyone with a connection to academia can tell
you, is the insane proliferation of university administrators.
BACKGROUND: 81

Political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg tells the sorry tale in his
2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty. Back in the day, Ginsberg tells
us, American universities were governed by professors, who
would take time out from their academic careers to manage the
institution’s business affairs. Today, however, the business side
of the university has been captured by a class of professionals
who have nothing to do with the pedagogical enterprise itself.
Administrators: Their salaries are generous, their ranks expand
year after year, and their work requires no peer review and not
even much effort. As Ginsberg reminds us, most of them don’t
teach courses, they don’t squabble like English professors at the
MLA, and no one ever suggests replacing them with adjuncts
or temps. As tuition balloons, it is administrators who prosper.
In fact, their fortunes are an almost exact reverse image of the
tuition-indebtedness of the young.
Naturally, an ugly new class conflict has begun to play
out amidst the leafy groves. Administrators, it seems, have
understood that the fortunes of their cohort are directly
opposed to those of the faculty. One group’s well-being comes
at the expense of the other, and vice versa. And so, according
to Ginsberg, the administrators work constantly to expand their
own numbers, to replace professors with adjuncts, to subject
professors to petty humiliations, to interfere in faculty hiring,
to distill the professors’ expertise down to something that can
be measured by a standardized test.
That the people who hold the ultimate authority at our
institutions of higher learning are dedicated to a notorious
form of pseudo-knowledge is richly ironic, and it is also telling.
The point of management theory, after all, is to establish the
legitimacy of a social order and a social class who are, in fact,
little more than drones. The grotesque top-heaviness of the
American corporation is an old story: we have more supervisors
per worker than any other industrialized nation, and quite
naturally we have developed an extensive literature of bogus
social theory assuring those supervisors of the rightfulness of

their place in the world—a literature that also counsels everyone
else to acquiesce to their subordinate station in the Great Chain
of Free-Market Being.
Professors, Of Course
The de-professionalization of the faculty is another long-running
tragedy that gets a little sadder every year, as teaching college
students steadily becomes an occupation for people with no
tenure, no benefits, and no job security. These lumpen-profs,
who have spent many years earning advanced degrees but
sometimes make less than minimum wage, now account for more
than three-quarters of the teaching that is done at our insanely
expensive, oh-so-excellent American universities. Their
numbers increase constantly as universities continue to produce
far more PhDs than they do full-time, tenure-track job openings,
and every time cutbacks are necessary—which is to say, all
the time—it is those same full-time, tenure-track job openings
that get pruned.

There is zero solidarity in a
meritocracy, even a fake one.
We Have Only Words Against
The system can’t go on this way. It is too obviously a rip-off
on too many levels, with too many victims. One of these days
a breaking point will come, just as it did with Enron and the
dot-coms and the housing bubble, and all the fine words spoken
by our thought leaders will once again be recalled to make them
look like imbeciles. The means by which cosmic justice will make
itself felt is not clear just yet: free online courses, maybe, or a
national tuition strike, or the debt-driven failure of a prestigious
U or two, or maybe a right-wing backlash that finally figures out
how the university’s economic logic corrodes its social liberalism.
BACKGROUND: 83

What ought to happen is that everything I’ve described so far
should be put in reverse. College should become free or very
cheap. It should be heavily subsidized by the states, and robust
competition from excellent state U’s should in turn bring down
the price of college across the board. Pointless money-drains
like a vast administration, a preening president, and a quasiprofessional football team should all be plugged up. Accrediting
agencies should come down like a hammer on universities
that use too many adjuncts and part-time teachers. Student
loan debt should be universally refinanced to carry little or no
interest and should be dischargeable in bankruptcy, like any
other form of debt.
And so we end with dystopia, with a race to the freemarket bottom.

The only way out is for students
themselves to interrupt the cycle.
Maybe we should demand the nationalization of a few struggling
universities, putting them on the opposite of a market-based
footing, just as public ownership reformed the utilities in the last
century. Maybe the college-aged should forgo the annual rituals
and turn their eyes to German or Argentinian universities, in the
same way that their grandparents use Canadian pharmaceuticals
to hitchhike on a welfare state that hasn’t yet been completely
compromised. Maybe it’s time for another Free Speech
Movement, a nationwide student strike for tuition reform and
debt relief. Whatever we do, it’s time to wake up from the dream.

BACKGROUND: 84

Former humanities adjunct professor Litia Perta recalls one of the first community
summits following the announcement of Cooper’s financial problems.

WHY
COOPER
UNION
MATTERS
Originally published by The Brooklyn Rail in December 2011

On a clear night in early November 2011, hundreds of
people filed into the Great Hall at Cooper Union. By 7:00,
the auditorium’s 900 seats were full and hundreds of people
crammed into standing room at the back. The event was not
open to the public and security guards in the lobby were
checking everyone for some form of Cooper ID. The current
student body is counted at 918, so it only took a quick glance
around to see that the event had drawn far more than just
current students. Both faculty and alumnae had also come out
in great numbers for the emergency meeting that had been
called with Cooper Union’s [then] Chairperson of the Board
of Trustees, Mark Epstein, and his much quieter fellow Board
member [and now Chair] Richard Lincer.
At issue was the recently leaked information that the
Board of Trustees was considering charging tuition to Cooper
students—a move that many believe radically undermines
the philosophy that is at the institution’s core. Financial
newspapers and business journals have reported widely in the
last few years on the safety of Cooper’s endowment and on the
wisdom of many of its investment strategies, and so the news

that the school carried a deficit of over eight million dollars
during the summer of 2011 year sent shockwaves throughout
the community. When, only some months later, that deficit was
recalculated and announced to be over 16 million, it sent people
reeling. The late October leak that the Board seemed to have
decided that converting Cooper Union to a tuition-based
institution may be the only way to keep the school solvent was
met with bewilderment by students and faculty members alike,
who demanded to know what, exactly, was going on.
While financial transparency was unfortunately not one of the
results of the November meeting, what did become clear was a
paradigmatic divide between the representatives of the Cooper
Board and the people who actually comprise the institution.
In the current educational climate where astronomical tuition
and routine hikes are the norm, Cooper’s policy is both unusual
and unique. It may be a rapidly receding notion, but the students
at Cooper are engaged in nothing less than the pursuit of
knowledge and thinking for their own sake. The philosophy
that courses through the institution is that education is a higher
good, one that enriches the individual and, in so doing,
enriches the human community. In this framework, education
has its own value—and this is what makes Cooper Union radical
and worth saving, perhaps even worth imitating: It is operating
on a fundamentally different idea of what education is, and what
it can be. So unfamiliar has this notion become, so fully has it
been absented from current educational discourse, that it now
rings of privilege or luxury—some kind of Enlightenment-era
credo available only to the patriarchal elite. But when did it
become okay to think that if an idea or a theory does not have
an immediate, measurable, quantifiable economic use value it is
a privilege to learn about it? When did such complacency
develop around this kind of argument, enabling it to become
the silent and seemingly obvious norm?
BACKGROUND: 87

88

89

Since the 1980s, universities have responded to the pressures
of economy by increasingly commercializing themselves, selling
their educations as a product. That education has faltered as a
result of this is evident all around us. The discourse has become
one of investment: Exorbitant loans are justified on the grounds
of the value of the product they purport to put out—namely,
students that generate income (which then, in theory, enables
them to pay off their educational debt). This model keeps
education squarely in the place of an instrument within a
distinctly capitalist frame, and it has far-reaching consequences.
It has already shaped the way schools prioritize disciplinary
weight inside the curriculum so that humanities and arts budgets
have dwindled to almost nothing. It has limited the nature of
discussions in the classroom and the priorities of the students so
that it has become commonplace for students to demand higher
grades for mediocre work, because of an over-concern with their
own marketability once they pass through the institution’s walls.
The danger of losing Cooper Union to the privatized,
tuition-based educational model is not simply that we would lose
one of the last bastions of non-instrumentalized education. The
danger lies also in the fact that it would be like jumping out of
the frying pan and into the fire, as even tuition-based institutions
are faltering everywhere. And we are only now beginning to
conceive of the economic impact that six billion dollars of
collective student loan debt will have for generations to come.

At a time when conventional structures
are failing all around us, this seems
like the moment to re-invent,
re-imagine, re-conceive of what
education is, and so what a school like
Cooper might be—perhaps even how
other schools can follow its model.
BACKGROUND: 90

Instead, the current Board of Trustees threatens to revert to
examples that arguably don’t work. Both the new president,
Jamshed Bharucha, and the Board of Trustees repeatedly talk
about needing to generate more revenue in order to sustain the
school. There are students of wealthy families at Cooper Union
who could conceivably afford to pay tuition fees but as soon as
the institution ceases being need-blind, it would find itself in the
same strange boat as so many other schools that tend to have
two admissions lists: those for the students they actually want
and those for the students who can afford it.
Perhaps more concerning is that if Cooper entered into the
tangle that would inevitably ensue by trying to charge tuition,
it stands to jeopardize the peculiar tax status it now enjoys. In
1902, Cooper Union acquired the land that the Chrysler building
now stands on. Each year, the owners of the building come up
with property tax that would usually be paid to the city of New
York but, in a strange series of contested court proceedings
stretching back to 1931, that property tax gets paid directly to
Cooper Union. This tax equivalency status is one of the
institution’s major sources of revenue. While President Bharucha
has dismissed the idea that charging tuition could undermine
this agreement, the precedent is one that has been historically
difficult to defend—and it seems to hinge on the argument that
the institution is of direct benefit to the city. In many ways, Peter
Cooper’s intention to provide an education specifically for
underserved communities—for the working classes and poor
women—is a mandate to which it would be wise to recommit.
In all of these discussions, the emphasis tends to be on the
need to generate more revenue. What goes unmentioned or
obfuscated are the institution’s itemized expenditures.
Of the commonplace tuition fees, how much goes to what
are known as “administrative costs” and how much is direct
instructional expense? It seems that in the turn towards
privatized education, a Wall Street mentality has slipped into the

mix: If you deliver a product and you do it well, you get a bonus,
and that bonus—that administrative cost—is shouldered by
the students you supposedly need more tuition from in order
to educate.

How much does it really cost to
educate someone?
The annual operating budget at Cooper Union has been quoted
at 61 million dollars per year. While numbers have been bandied
about that show total expenses, they are slippery at best and
a clear picture of how much it costs to run the institution has
yet to be released. Some information is available in the public
tax record that Cooper, along with any other institution of higher
learning, is required to file with the state. And these documents
reflect a very disturbing trend. In the last 10 years,
administrative costs at Cooper have doubled. Payments to
the officers of the institution (the president and the various
administrative and academic deans) have also doubled in
a decade. This does not seem to have any direct relationship
to an increase in the duties of these officers, nor does it seem
to have a logical relationship to the number of students for
which each officer is responsible.
Similarly, while full-time faculty salaries have gone up only 2.5
percent per year, as is regulated by their union, salaries of the
administrators have increased at much higher rates. In 2009,
then President George Campbell’s total compensation package
was $668,473—which included a cash bonus (for what,
exactly, it is unclear) in the amount of $175,000. I have had
a somewhat illustrious career as a second-class faculty
member—i.e., an adjunct professor—teaching at some of the
country’s most esteemed institutions: Wesleyan University,
Bard College, U.C. Berkeley, and Cooper Union among them.
I was hired to teach at Cooper in 2006 when I was a
doctoral candidate and my semester’s fee for 14 weeks was

$4,500. Sometime later, after completing my Ph.D. and
spending a year as a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for the
Humanities at Wesleyan University, I returned to Cooper Union.
It was the fall of 2009 and I was re-hired by the college’s dean of
the humanities at the exact same rate I was paid in 2006. I was
told at the time that the budget could not accommodate any fee

increase for having received my Ph.D., nor could it afford paying
any increase for the standard annual rates of inflation. That same
year, the dean who hired me received a compensation package
valued at $239,724.
Seventy percent of Cooper Union’s classes are taught by people
like me: non-tenured faculty. For the most part, we have no job
security, no health insurance, and no hope for a salary increase;
moreover, we are generally considered expendable in that, if we
won’t work under those conditions, the school can easily find
someone who will. I find it troubling that the institution now
justifies the need for more revenue without making public its
detailed expenses.
BACKGROUND: 93

The vast disparity between the
value Cooper assigns to my work as a
teacher and to a dean’s work as an
administrator makes questionable the
idea that it costs a lot to educate someone. Exactly where is the money going?
That there is a need to re-evaluate our educational priorities
seems clear. Something that has gone unmentioned during the
discussions around charging tuition at Cooper is the fact that
student loan debt is the only kind of debt that can never be forgiven. Even a declaration of bankruptcy will not absolve you of it.
Of all the many places I have taught, Cooper Union is the only
place where the openness of thought, the eagerness around
intellectual exploration, the transformative nature of a liberal—
a liberating—education is both palpable and electric. If the
institution is now in trouble, let all that are a part of it see the
numbers so that everyone is part of the solution. Now is the time
to re-think and re-structure, to move toward a future model: one
that chooses to protect future student generations from the kind
of debt peonage that is everywhere. A question worth asking
is whether the current Board of Trustees is up for this kind of
re-imagining. Is it wise to entrust those who got the school into
this predicament with the task of getting it out?
What is needed now is a vision: a way of seeing long down the
line to a time when perhaps there will be many all-scholarship
schools, when the value of a free education is once again
understood, proclaimed, protected. This debate does not only
affect the community of Cooper Union. If you believe that all
people should have the chance to broaden their minds, if you
hope to engage in higher education, if you have children you
want to send to college, if you struggle under the weight of
student loan debt—then this is your fight, too.

BACKGROUND: 95

School of Architecture Faculty, David Gersten answers the question what do elevators,
undersea cables, democracy, and Cooper have in common?

Removing
Barriers
Mobilizes
Resources
Originally published by The Brooklyn Rail in October 2012

This is the text of an address delivered by David Gersten in
the Great Hall of the Cooper Union on December 5, 2011.
I think we all recognize that our Cooper Union faces an
existential crisis.
I for one, have been blessed with…a moment in education…where I have
had…a Social Contract and many of the people sitting today in this
audience, have made my life…more understandable, because of their
understanding of the Social Contract. —John Hejduk

It is not that: The Cooper Union holds up free education, but that
free education holds up The Cooper Union. It is not that: we can
no longer afford to: freely educate, but that we cannot afford to
break the promise of Free Education

BACKGROUND: 96

The largest single financial asset that the Cooper Union
currently holds is its promise of free education: TO ALL.
The value contained within this promise far exceeds our

current endowment as well as the physical properties held by
the institution including the land under the Chrysler Building.
Our challenge and obligation, our social contract, is to
comprehend and make more understandable how to mobilize
the resources contained within this promise.
Peter Cooper was directly involved in countless inventions.
There are three specific inventions that offer direct lessons to
the questions we face. When this Foundation Building was
constructed it was one of the tallest buildings in New York City.
It contained an elevator shaft that waited four years until
Elisha Otis invented the “safety elevator,” an elevator containing
a mechanism that secured the elevator cab if the cable was cut.
This securing mechanism mitigated the risk of injury or loss from
collapse and created the credibility necessary for the elevator
to be widely used by the public.
The safety elevator removed the vertical barrier of walking
above eight stories and the city EXPLODED upwards, creating
an entirely new geography of human inhabitation. Removing the
vertical barrier mobilized the resources that fueled the 150-year
vertical rise that is: New York City.
Peter Cooper was also directly involved in pulling the
Transatlantic Telegraph Cable between the two continents,
compressing weeks into seconds, in the exchange of: information
and ideas. The Transatlantic Cable removed the communications
barrier of shipping speeds and the exchange of ideas EXPLODED
between the two continents, creating an entirely new
geography of human interaction and exchange. Removing the
communication barrier mobilized the resources that fueled the
150-year continuous transformation of Global communications.
The massive resources invested in creating each of these
transformations were mobilized as a direct result of removing
barriers and articulating a credible vision of the consequences

of their removal. Peter Cooper’s years of struggle in pulling the
Transatlantic Cable were overcome by his clarity of vision, that
through this connection, “Knowledge shall cover the earth as
waters the deep.”
Articulating this vision, keeping this promise, required the
third invention, I believe, Peter Cooper’s greatest invention: the
removal of barriers to education. Education is by definition a
transformative pursuit, individuals come together and engage in
transformative interactions and experiences: Knowledge evolves.
Creating circumstances of proximity and interaction among
a great multiplicity of ideas and questions, leads to mutual
transformation and new forms of knowledge. Peter Cooper
invested in the profound idea that removing the barriers to
education creates a dynamic crucible of free thought where
a great diversity of people and their questions can interact
and co-evolve, developing new linkages, new thought
processes, and new questions.

Peter Cooper understood that the
barriers to education were not only
unjust to those that they excluded,
but those barriers impoverished the
internal life of an institution. Barring
any segment of the population creates
a diminished geography of human
knowledge and experience within the
educational community.
Like the vertical barrier removed by the safety elevator, the
invention of the Cooper Union removed the artificial age limit
above which people could freely participate in the transformative
interactions of education. Like the Transatlantic Cable, the
removal of the financial barriers to education collapsed the

distances within the vast and uneven geographies of resource
distribution and accumulation, bringing into direct proximity
those who would otherwise have an ocean between them.
Removing the barriers to education creates an entirely new
geography of human: proximity, interaction and transformation,
a new geography of knowledge and imagination. The value
and meaning of the Transatlantic Cable and the global
communications revolution that it unleashed is found in the
exchange of: knowledge and ideas that pass through it. The
Cooper Union is Peter Cooper’s greatest transformative invention, because it creates transformation itself. It is the invention
that sustains invention and contributes to the continuously
expanding universe of knowledge that elevates mankind.
There are many forms of interaction where the introduction of a
financial barrier to participation dramatically alters the meaning
of the interaction. I would offer the example of participatory
democracy. While the process of participatory democracy
requires the mobilization of vast resources, gathered together
from all of the participants, requiring an individual fee to
participate in voting would alter the meaning of the process, to
such an extent, that it would collapse the value of participation,
it would no longer be participatory democracy.
In fact, the ultimate safety device, the mechanism that secures
individual agency and gives credibility to all forms of collective
judgment, is the: Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each
and every Right guaranteed by this United Nations declaration
requires the mobilization of resources. These rights are of such
fundamental value to mankind that the burden of these
resources must be borne by US ALL. Assigning an individual fee
to those who are the supposed beneficiaries of these rights is to
collapse the value of all of our rights. I imagine this principle was
in mind when crafting:

BACKGROUND: 100

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, the Article that
designates education as a Human
Right and specifically says: “higher
education shall be equally accessible
to all on the basis of merit.” They must
have been quoting Peter Cooper.
This institution is a shining demonstration of the transformative
powers of removing the barriers to education. We have been
pulling this cable for 150 years and now we face the risk that we
are out of resources, that our debt load is too heavy and the only
way to keep moving forward, may be to “cut the cable” and
introduce the barrier of tuition. This would not be moving
forward at all, this would be a collapse in the value of the entire
endeavor. For, in this journey, there is no other shore to reach;
we are pulling the continuously expanding geographies of
knowledge and imagination. We must invent and construct the
safety mechanisms that secure the continuous evolution of
knowledge without barriers. We must articulate a credible vision
of the value and consequences of removing the barriers to
education, and this WILL mobilize the resources to continue the
journey. As a way-finder at sea uses the force of the storm to
out-run the storm we must keep the promise of free education to
all, in order to secure the many promises of free education to all.
In moments of existential crisis, time has a tendency to
collapse, whole chains of events that may usually require years
and decades to unfold suddenly happen overnight. If we can get
this right, the transformative consequences will far exceed those
of the “safety elevator” and the Transatlantic Cable. We will have
shifted the trajectory, unleashing new geographies of knowledge
beyond our wildest imaginations.

In an editorial published in the school newspaper in Fall 2013, then freshmen Sam Rosner
addressed the danger of willful ignorance amongst the student body.

AN

APPEAL
TO THE
COOPER

COMMUNITY

The school has been crumbling at our feet. It’s been slower
in the past, albeit, but things seem to be deteriorating at an
accelerating speed. I feel as though relations between the
schools are more estranged than ever. In times of strife, it’s easy
to withdraw into our comfort zones. It’s easy to decide to focus
on your work, to say “fuck the school I’m going to just do me and
get the hell out.” It can’t possibly fail, it’s been standing for 155
years, why not 155 more? This passivity will be the death of
the Cooper Union.
What do you want to look back on in five years? Will you be
ready to look back? How about 10 years? 20? 30? How about
50 years? Let’s look back.
What are you most worried about right now? Is it your calculus
final? Completing a model? Finishing your sculpture? Is it that
HSS essay that’s due the day before break? Understandably,
present obstacles seem the most pressing. They’re easy to look
at, to face, to conquer. You can count on the power of a single
individual and you have the skill-set necessary to complete the
task. That’s what you go to school for. To gain the necessary
skill-sets in order to be successful and innovative in the field
of your choosing.
But how do you fix a school? Do you know how to do that?
How would you even start? Sign your name on a petition,
make a meme, say “I know it’s bad and I don’t like it but it’ll
work itself out.”

Originally published by The Cooper Pioneer in December 2013

Stop what you’re doing. Take a good look around. Look out the
window and look out into the hallway. Have you spoken to
anybody outside of your school today? If you’re an engineer,
have you talked to an artist today? Artists, have you spoken to
an engineer today? Architects, have you left your studio today?
BACKGROUND: 102

What will this school be like once we have a paying class? We will
no longer be the Free School. There’s the New School down the
street, but somehow the Free School has a better ring. Now we
will be the “School That Was Once Free”. The melodrama of our
situation will resound in the nomenclature.
So come next year, assuming that indeed, we are charging
tuition, Cooper will be caught in a divide. It will be both the

Free School, and The School That Was Once Free. Two schools.

An open letter to incoming freshmen about self-care and Cooper politics
from School of Art transfer student Jakob Biernat.

Can a school divided stand?
But you go to the Free School, so it’s all cool. Those kids who go
to the School that was Once Free won’t be here till next year and
that’s practically a lifetime away.
Your inactivity is perpetuating the cultural shift which will
eventually destroy the Free School. You are a frog sitting in warm
water, not noticing that it’s getting hotter. You’re sleepy, drifting
away, but you’re slowly, degree by degree, boiling away.
Jump out.
So what do you see yourself leaving behind? You’ll eventually
leave this school. You personally won’t have paid a dime towards
tuition and you’ll be patting yourself on the back for having
escaped the binds of throttling student debt. But what will be
left? A school that is but a shell of its former self. The seniors will
graduate, the current juniors, the current sophomores, and last,
the current freshmen. And who will be left? The Free School will
have been abolished, its ideals forgotten, its legacy diminished,
its future dismal.
And how is your class going to be seen? Will you be the class
that sat quietly, twiddling their thumbs, letting the Board destroy
155 years of tradition? Or will you be the class that stood up,
and said “This is a Free School and it will stay Free!” Will you be
the class that enabled destruction? Or will you be the class that
took action, unified, and changed the paradigm of student
empowerment?
Think about what you’re leaving behind. Think about your legacy.
BACKGROUND: 104

Two

Educations
for the
Price of

None
Originally published in May 2013

It is often written that the crisis and scandal of Cooper Union
is a crystallization of a national and global struggle in higher
education, most recently in ArtInfo’s article by Ben Davis:
BACKGROUND: 105

The attack on education in our era of austerity is a nationwide—rather,
worldwide—phenomena. Without changing the larger picture, the same
forces that are affecting institutions of higher learning everywhere are
going to continue to press Cooper. Turning the tide of policy towards
respecting the value of education as a public good is the only real
sustainable solution for everyone. Conversely, accepting the inevitability
of the situation at Cooper without anger only helps further set the limits
of what is “realistic” to expect from the system—which right now isn’t
working very well, saddling young people with ever-greater levels of debt
in return for pursuing their dreams. One way or another, Cooper Union
will end up being a symbol—either of an ideal to be reached for, or of
the terrible present-day wisdom that says that ideals only matter for
those who can pay.

I firmly believe this to be the case. If you’ve ever yearned to
be an actor in history rather than just a member of its audience,
there is hardly a more exhilarating place to be as a college
student than here at Cooper, here in a small, swiftly-beating
heart of something much larger and more long lasting than each
of our singular educations, whatever that means for each of us.
This is an opportunity to act, to do excellent things, to serve and
protect a tremendously worthy and fragile ideal.
It is also a responsibility…you all know you’ve been given an
amazing gift, an unbelievable chance. Your lives will be changed
forever, I guarantee it.

Cooper’s gift must be repaid in
citizenship, in contribution to our
small community. It will be difficult,
extraordinarily so, to juggle your
work and your participation in the
politics of the school and your
personal growth, but you have to try.
By responsibility and citizenship, I mean a responsibility to try to
confront that anxiety head-on rather than avoiding it, to do the
research, to look at the history of the school and particularly the
history of the last two years, the problems facing the school, the

divisions, the range of possible solutions, the actions, the words,
the politics, all of it.
A lot will be asked from you: good faith to your fellow
classmates, who are just as much your teachers as anyone else
will be; good faith to yourself and your work. You will make until
you can’t make any more. Then you’ll make more. Get sleep, try
to eat well. You’ll need it to get used to sleepless nights and
constant stretching of your capabilities. You’ll be taken apart,
laid bare, and empowered to build again with new clarity. Your
classrooms will take the diffuse light of you and your fellow
students and refocus it into something shockingly coherent,
collectively, a light that lets you see further into your work and
into each other as a community of learners, a light that makes
the paths we all must take more visible.
This is an urgent moment, a historic moment, but please pay
attention to yourself as well. Your responsibility is not to act
rashly, but rather to develop your understanding, to be critical,
to pay attention deeply. Read. Think. Reflect. But whatever you
do, don’t ignore things. Be a member of the school, in all the
ways that the factors of physical location (little scraps of land
in the deep of Manhattan) and situation (ideological, vast,
complex, widely implicating) and people (dedicated, remarkable,
nourishing, challenging, sometimes adversarial, healing,
empowering) exist and create a school. Whatever results of the
attention I ask that you pay — whether or not you agree with x, y,
or z — what is essential is that you have thought about things.
Don’t waste this chance.

BACKGROUND: 107

FOOT

Reference documents that translate confusing
jargon; highlight important events, key people,
and groups; and provide links to media
coverage, ideas for action, and further reading.
Print Resources:
1. Glossary
2. Spectrum of Allies
3. Relevant Institutions
4. Further Reading
5. Tools for Organizing
Additional Online Resources: freecooperunion.org/disorientation
6. 198 Methods of Direct Action
7. Dynamic Timeline
8. Why Jamshed Bharucha Must Step Down
9. Frequently Asked Questions
10. Solidarity Map
11. Press Log

NOTES
108

FOOTNOTES: 109

glossary
A
Abbreviation for School of Art alumnus.
AAUP
American Association of University
Professors. A standards body for higher
education that defends academic freedom and
tenure, advocates collegial governance, and
develops policies ensuring due process.
ABET
Accreditation Board for Engineering and
Technology. Accredits School of Engineering.
Adjuncts
Part-time, non-salaried, non-tenure track
faculty who are paid for each class they teach.
Adjuncts have no office, materials, or supplies,
limited technology and administrative support,
are not paid for office hours, and have little to
no job security.
Administrative Bloat
A term used for inflated ratios of
administrators to faculty. In the past decade,
at a time when tuition and student debt are
skyrocketing, the ratio of administrators to
faculty has more than doubled.
Administrators
College employees responsible for
the maintenance and supervision of the
institution separate from the faculty.
Administrative responsibilities can include
academic affairs, school finances, fundraising,
public affairs, and press.
Affinity Group
A small group of people that share common
goals and philosophies that work together to
organize and take part in direct action. Each
affinity group acts autonomously but can
chose to work with a network of similarly allied
groups. Key concepts are autonomy both as a
group and for the individuals that make up the
group, and consensus.

Affirmative Action
The practice of improving the educational
and job opportunities of members of groups
that have not been treated fairly in the past
because of their race, sex, etc.
AG
Attorney General. The chief lawyer of the
state who represents the government in legal
matters, and key to Cooper’s situation,
oversees trusts.
Alumni Affairs
The Cooper Union Office of Alumni Affairs &
Development is the administration’s vehicle
for raising money from the alumni. Formerly
the CUAA was charged with heading alumni
relations, but ties have been severed and the
administration has reclaimed all resources
to itself including contact lists and
website access.
Alumni Pioneer
A website analyzing and commenting on
Cooper politics founded by Engineer alumnus
and Working Group member Barry Drogin.
AR
Abbreviation for School of Architecture
alumnus.
ARSC
Architecture Student Council
ASC
Art Student Council
ASSE
Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale
Étudiante (Association for Student Union
Solidarity). A temporary coalition to counter
tuition hikes and coordinate 2012 Quebec
student protests.

FOOTNOTES: 110

Associates of Cooper Union
A yet to be formed organization called for in
the college’s charter which has several
functions, most crucially providing oversight
to the Board’s decisions and having the
authority to remove trustees. CSCU lawsuit
calls for its formation.
B.Arch
Bachelor of Architecture degree
BA
Bachelor of Arts degree
BDA
Beau Dietl & Associates. Private security firm
hired by Cooper’s administration in 2014 to
replace FJC, but fired following backlash.
BHQFU
Bruce High Quality Foundation University.
Alphabet City based extra-curricular art
school with free night classes, founded by
Bruce High Quality Foundation, an anonymous
art collective composed largely of Cooper
alums. Served as a space for Free Cooper
organizing in Fall 2013.
BOT
Board of Trustees. Governs the college by
establishing broad policies and objectives.
Cooper’s board is composed of about twenty
unpaid members that meet about four times
a year. The board appoints the President,
and the President is also currently a
voting member.
BSE
Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree
Bureaucracy
A hierarchical organizational structure that
has many complicated rules and ways of doing
things. See also: Lemon

Capital Campaign
A plan of action, typically by a non-profit
organization, to raise a large amount of money
over a given period of time. An organization
may implement a capital campaign if they
need to raise funds for a significant purchase,
such as *cough* a new building *cough* or
simply to help take care of normal budgetary
items. The money is often raised through
donations or fundraising events.
CHARAS
East Village community center founded in
the 1960s that is controversially being
redeveloped into a luxury dormitory. Cooper’s
administration signed a deal with developer
Gregg Singer to be an anchor tenant. In 2013,
Free Cooper marched with the CHARAS
community against the redevelopment.
ChE
Chemical Engineer
CivE
Civil Engineer
Civil Disobedience
The public act of willfully disobeying the law
and/or the commands of an authority figure to
make a political statement.
Community Commons
A space for organizing on campus that
]was promised as part of the Occupation
negotiation, which the board later reneged on.
Conflict of Interest
The situation in which a person exploits their
relationship with an institution for personal
benefit, typically financially. For example:
a board member’s son getting awarded a
big construction contract (as it happened at
Cooper). Conflicts of interest are sometimes
considered acceptable with appropriate
disclosure, oversight, and agreement by
all parties in advance, but often this is
not the case.

Consultant
An expert in a specific field who gives
professional advice or services to companies,
organizations, or institutions for a fee.
Consultants provide deeper levels of expertise
than would be feasible for an institution to
retain in-house, and an institution may
purchase only as much service from the
outside consultant as desired. Cooper’s
administration has spent millions on outside
consultants, often cycling through them.

Egalitarianism
The principle that all people are equal and
deserve equal rights and opportunities.

Cooper Exceptionalism
A dangerous cultural attitude that because
Cooper has a low acceptance rate, our
students and faculty are patently superior
to others. Don’t be this way.

Endowment
Funds or property donated to an institution,
individual, or group as a source of income.
Cooper’s endowment includes the land under
the Chrysler Building.

CSCU
Committee to Save Cooper Union. Founded in
late 2013 by alumni and faculty to preserve the
mission of free education through legal and
political efforts.

Enrollment Management
Enrollment Management is a term coined by
Maguire Associates, a consulting firm hired by
Cooper’s Board. It describes an organizational
concept and a systematic set of activities
to give administrators more influence over
student enrollments. Tactics include
marketing, reshaping admission policies,
retention programs, and financial aid awarding.
Enrollment Management is heavily informed
by the collection, analysis, and use of data to
project successful outcomes. Activities that
produce measurable improvements in yields
are continued and/or expanded, while those
activities that do not are discontinued or
restructured. Competitive efforts to recruit
students is a common emphasis of
enrollment managers. In 2014 Mitchell Lipton
was promoted from Dean of Admissions to
Vice President of Enrollment Services.
Enrollment Management stands in contrast
to the fact that Cooper’s admissions, up to
last year, has largely been decided by faculty
sitting around a table.

CUAA
Cooper Union Alumni Association. An elected
body of volunteers who meet on a monthly
basis, as well as in subcommittees to make
motions, organize events, and communicate
with alumni.
CUFCT
Cooper Union Federation of College Teachers.
Full-time faculty union.
Cy Pres
A process by which the court can re-interpret
the terms of a trust to authorize a decision
that would otherwise be illegal.
DASNY
Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Approved $11.5 million in financing to build
Cooper’s dorms in 1999.
Debt-Free Education
A model beyond tuition-free, that scarcely
exists, in which an institution makes sure no
members graduate with debts for cost of living
or materials while pursuing their education.
Development
The fundraising department of a not-for-profit
organization.

EMT
Emergency Management Team. A group
of appointed administrators which was
supposedly put together to deal with events
like natural disasters, however the only time
the group has been officially convened was
to deal with the Occupation.

EOYS
End of Year Show. At the end of each school
year, students and faculty from all three
schools push furniture into storage areas
and convert the entirety of campus into an
exhibition. In 2012, students organized to give
a large portion of the works away for free to
attendees. In 2013, Free Cooper took over the
7th floor for an unauthorized exhibition in
support of free education.
ERTF
Expense Reduction Task Force.
See also: Task Forces

Direct Action
The use of strikes, demonstrations, or other
public forms of protest rather than negotiation
to achieve one’s demands.
FOOTNOTES: 112

ESC
Engineering Student Council
Escalation
A rapid increase in the intensity or seriousness
of something; an intensification. Escalation can
be used as a tactic or it can be observed as
part of an opponent’s strategy.
EVT
East Village Thai. Delicious food on 7th street
between 2nd and 3rd Ave.
FAFSA
Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to
determine eligibility for student financial aid
including Pell Grants.
FCU
Free Cooper Union
FFC
Fuck Free Cooper Union, an ongoing
counterculture-inspired reflection on political
organizing, influenced by the San Francisco
Diggers.
Financial Aid
Governmental and private funding in the form
of grants, scholarships, and loans that are
intended to help students pay educationrelated expenses including tuition, fees, room
and board, books, and supplies for education.
Financial Realities
Something that is often referenced as the
reasoning behind unpopular decisions.
(E.g. “we were forced to take out the loan
because of financial realities”) This phrase is
usually a red flag representing the evasion of
a sufficiently detailed answer to a question,
or the reframing of a non-financial question
in financial terms.
FJC
Former private security, replaced in August
2014 with BDA (Beau Dietl & Associates).
FOCU
Friends of Cooper Union, founded 2011, is a
coalition of students, faculty, staff, alumni and
friends dedicated to Cooper’s mission. The
group is most widely known for publishing The
Way Forward, hosting community summits,
writing open letters, and launching an online
Vote of No Confidence in Epstein and
Bharucha with 2,300+ signatures.
http://friendsofcooperunion.org

For-Profit Education
Also known as the “education services
industry” or “proprietary education” refers to
educational institutions operated by private,
profit-seeking businesses. Though they exist
for primary schools in the form of charter
and private schools, another major category
of for-profit schools are post-secondary
institutions which operate as businesses,
receiving fees from each student they enroll.
Free Since 1859
A fundraising campaign done by alumni
where people were encouraged to donate
multiples of $18.59 and include a note about
free education. In the end all the money went
to the administration, rendering the
campaign ineffective.
FY
Fiscal Year, in accounting terminology.
GOLF BALLS
A way to call out incorrect and
exaggerated claims about protests,
referencing the administration’s gross
overreaction to when ping-pong balls were
released down the grand staircase of the
NAB. In a campus-wide email condemning the
action, the administration misconstrued the
online comments of one professor’s dad as
a threat that ‘the drop’ would be repeated in
the future with golf balls, never apologizing
for the invasion of privacy or confusion
they had caused.
Governance
Establishment of policies, and continuous
monitoring of their proper implementation,
by the members of the governing body of
an organization. It SHOULD include the
mechanisms required to balance the powers
of the members (with the associated
accountability), and their primary duty of
enhancing the organization.
HBCU
Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Institutions of higher education in the United
States that were established around or before
1964 with the intention of serving the black
community.
Hedge Fund
A fund, usually used by wealthy individuals
and institutions, which is allowed to use
aggressive strategies that are unavailable to
mutual funds, including selling short, leverage,
program trading, swaps, arbitrage, and

derivatives. Hedge funds are exempt
from many of the rules and regulations
governing other mutual funds, which allows
them to accomplish aggressive investing
goals. Unless, that is, they flop — as in the
case of Cooper. Notably, Cooper’s board invested in hedge funds administered by board
members themselves, which presents
a potential conflict of interest.
Huron Group
Financial consultants hired by the Board
throughout Bharucha’s Reinvention process.
Credited with popularizing the controversial
“Responsibility Centered Management” style.
Huron principals Robert Spencer and John
Curry were appointed as interim financial
leadership between Bharucha’s firing of T.C.
Westcott and hiring of William Mea.
IE
Interdisciplinary Engineering
Indirect Action
Asking or pressuring an existing authority to
make the change you wish to see.
JAC
Joint Activities Committee, student body that
administers club funding.

implemented. Some consider meritocracy to
be integral to Cooper’s mission.
MOA
Memorandum of Agreement. A deal between
the CUAA and the administration that traded
organizational autonomy for several alumni
seats on the board. The contract is available
MOOC
Massive Open Online Course. Ivory Tower
takes a critical look at several of the for-profit
companies behind these courses including
Coursera and Udacity. Bharucha was in secret
talks to launch MOOCs with a partnership
between Cooper and The Minerva Project
but the deal fell apart. In 2014 Cooper’s
administration announced they would be
launching engineering MOOCs in partnership
with Ed-X.
MSA
Middle States Association of Colleges and
Schools. A voluntary, peer-based, non-profit
association which conducts peer evaluation
and accreditation of public and private
universities.
NAAB
National Architectural Accrediting Board.

JB
Jamshed Bharucha (current president)

NAB
New Academic Building, 41 Cooper Square

JSC
Joint Student Council. All student councils
come together on a regular basis to pass
resolutions on common issues.

NASAD
National Association of Schools of Art and
Design

Kicking the Can Down the Road
Phrase used by the administration to discredit
any efforts to obstruct or prolong the decision
to charge tuition, claiming it was post-poning
the inevitable.
Lemon
Something you buy that turns out to be no
good, or breaks down and costs you money.
ME
Mechanical Engineer
Meritocracy
A political philosophy which holds that power
should be vested in individuals according
to merit, advancement in such a system
is based on intellectual talent measured
through examination and/or demonstrated
achievement in the field where it is

Need Aware
A need aware, or need sensitive, policy
means that that university makes most
of its admissions decisions without
considering the student’s need for college
money. In other words, they may reserve some
spots for students who are able to meet the
college program’s full cost of attendance
(COA) without the need of loans, grants
or scholarships.
Need Based
Need-based means that your family’s
financial resources, as measured by a formula
established by the federal government, are not
sufficient to cover your educational costs. This
formula analyzes a family’s income and assets
to determine its Expected Family Contribution
(EFC) toward the cost of college.

Need Blind
Colleges and universities with a need blind,
or full need, admissions policy do not consider
your financial situation when deciding whether
to admit you as a college student. In most
cases, the majority of college aid will go to
students who prove financial need, but the
school may also award scholarships, such as
athletic scholarships.
NYSED
New York State Education Department
Paradigm
Paradigms are a society’s unstated
assumptions and deepest set of beliefs about
how the world works. “Paradigms are the
source of systems,” writes Donella Meadows.
Two examples of cultural paradigms include
“growth is good” and “one can own land.”
Pell Grant
Money the U.S. government provides for
students who need it to pay for college.
Federal Pell Grants are limited to students with
financial need, who have not earned their first
bachelor’s degree, or who are not enrolled in
certain post-baccalaureate programs, through
participating institutions.
PGP
Prefered Gender Pronoun. The practice of
asking individuals what pronouns they use for
themselves in an effort to respect the diversity
of gender identities beyond male and female.
Some pronouns are: I, we, he, she, all, it, they,
their, etc. Gendered pronouns are those that
indicate gender: he, she, him, her, hers, his,
himself and herself. All others, like “it”, “one,”
and “they,” are gender-neutral.
PILOT
Payment In Lieu Of Taxes. Because Cooper
owns the land beneath the Chrysler Building,
all of its tenants’ taxes go to support Cooper.
(This is a sum of 10s of million of dollars per
year, which jumps up every decade.) It’s a rare
and historical tax exemption granted by the
city to Peter Cooper because the college was
founded for the benefit of New York’s working
class. Tuition damages the argument that
Cooper is still providing the city with such a
benefit, therefore jeopardizing the continued
existence of the PILOT agreement. The Board
went through several sets of lawyers until they
found what they wanted to hear: that charging
tuition wouldn’t jeopardize the PILOT, so now
they flaunt this myth.

PLT
Presidential Leadership Team.
POC
Person of color (plural: people of color,
persons of color) is a term used primarily in
the United States to describe any person who
is not white. The term is meant to be inclusive
among non-white groups, emphasizing
common experiences of racism.
Private College
A college or university not operated by the
government, although many receive tax
breaks, public student loans, and grants. Not
all private institutions classify as non-profit,
some are for-profit, and depending on their
location may be subject to government
regulation.
Public College
A college or university predominantly
funded by public means through a national
or subnational government, for this reason all
public colleges are non-profit.
RA
Residential Advisor, helps out in the dorm.
RCM
“Responsibility Centered Management”
is a model theorized by the administration’s
consultants The Huron Group. RCM has
since been disproven as an ethical style of
leadership, because of the way it can be
misused to claim that all parties participated
in the creation of a pre-determined plan.
By delegating increasingly specific tasks down
a chain of command, RCM creates an
appearance of stakeholder agency and
collaboration at all levels of a bureaucracy,
when in fact it simply fullfills directives set
by top-level admistrators. Crucially, RCM
leaves no room for dissent or challening the
bounds of a problem.
Red Clock
Building off of the 2012 Quebec student
movement against tuition hikes, symbolized
by the carré rouge (red square), student
occupiers at Cooper illuminated the clock
tower with red lights. The red clock has since
been a symbol of Free Cooper Union
supporters.
Rose for Democracy
Slang for a facetious victory, or a poetic
moment that means nothing.

FOOTNOTES: 115

RTF
Revenue Task Force. See also: Task Forces
Salty Cookies
A terrible mistake at the 2014 freshmen
Disorientation. Some students insisted they
liked the cookies, while others acknowledged
that they may have been too salty.
Shared Governance
A delicate balance between faculty and staff
participation in planning and decision-making
processes and administrative accountability.
The phrase “shared governance” is so
hackneyed that it is becoming what some
linguists call an “empty” or “floating” signifier,
a term so devoid of determinate meaning that
it takes on whatever significance a particular
speaker gives it at the moment.
Sisu
Sisu is a Finnish word generally meaning
determination, bravery, and resilience.
However, the word is widely considered to lack
a proper translation into any other language.
Sisu is about taking action against the odds
and displaying courage and resoluteness in
the face of adversity. Deciding on a course
of action and then sticking to that decision
against repeated failures is Sisu. It is similar
to equanimity, except the forbearance of Sisu
has a grimmer quality of stress management
than the latter.
Son of a Surgeon
A straw-man argument used by some trustees
in reference to students at Cooper whose
families could afford to pay the cost of tuition.
e.g. “Why should we give a scholarship to the
son of a surgeon?”
Stigmergy
A mechanism of indirect coordination between
agents or actions. The principle is that the
trace left in the environment by an action
stimulates the performance of a next action,
by the same or a different agent. In that way,
subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build
on each other, leading to the spontaneous
emergence of coherent, apparently systematic
activity. Stigmergy is a form of selforganization. It produces complex, seemingly
intelligent structures, without need for
any planning, control, or even direct
communication between the agents. (For
more, read Heather Marsh’s “Binding Chaos”)
Sunset Clause
A proposed administrative structure in which

Cooper would bring on a final president
whose job is to bridge the institution from
a structure of hierarchical bureaucracy to
that of a self-governing community, and then
eliminate the very position of president by
the end of their tenure. It has nothing to do
with Santa Claus.

community buy-in, wasting time and money
that the community did not have to lose.

organize and have a voice as decisions have
become more centralized within institutions.

TC
Theresa C. Westcott, former Vice President of
Finance and Administration, fired by Bharucha
in Summer 2013

Sustainability
In its most basic definition, sustainability
means having the financial resources to
continue operations into the future. However,
sustainability has come to mean almost
nothing, having been thrown around by
administrators and trustees for years to justify
their decision to implement tuition. In August
2013, the Board published a document on
sustainability to which the Working Group was
asked to conform. See also: Financial Realities

Tenure
A senior professor’s contractual right not to
have their position terminated without just
cause. In 1975, 57% of all college professors
had tenure or were on a tenure track, in 2007,
that number had fallen to 31%.

Vincident
In May 2014, Vincent Hui, a student instructor
with the Saturday Program, refused to shake
Bharucha’s hand at a public event. Within
several days, Hui was informed that he had
been kicked off his sports team and barred
from teaching in the Saturday Program going
forward, over a vague and unspecified recent
allegation of incivility. The events, which came
to be known as the “Vincident,” are evidence
that when protocol gets in the way, the
administration will circumvent it with impunity.

TAP
Whereas Cooper used to not have a price
associated with its education, President
Campbell established “tuition” at Cooper in
order to become eligible for Tuition Assistance
Program (TAP) funds for needy students. This
“tuition” was automatically refunded upfront
in the form of full-tuition scholarships for
all admitted students. While this may have
opened the door to additional funds, it also
marked a conceptual shift in which a montary
value—supposedly based on comprable
institutions—was assigned to Cooper’s
education. This paved the way, linguistically,
for the Board to be able to call what they’re
charging now “half-tuition.”
Task Forces
At the same time that Bharucha announced
Cooper’s “fiscal crisis,” he launched two
“Reinvention Task Forces” devoted to Expense
Reduction (ERTF) and Revenue Generation
(RTF). These were framed as community
efforts, but it quickly became apparent that
their results had been pre-determined by
Bharucha. An online forum was launched to
collect community input, but all posts were
moderated by a Cooper administrator, and the
entire site has since been deleted. Taskforce
members initially sought to look around
tuition, but Bharucha manipulated the process
and appointed members in such a way that
tuition became a major part of the Taskforce’s
reccomendations. Several Taskforce members,
including faculty member Christine Osinski,
later publicly spoke out against the document
and the process. The most egregious fact
about the taskforces is how Bharucha spent an
entire year to fake the appearance of

The Pioneer
Cooper’s student newspaper. The first issue
was printed in 1921.
Transparency
The full, accurate, and timely disclosure of
information related to the institution’s finances
and governance.
TWF
The Way Forward is a document by Friends
of Cooper Union putting forward a holistic
alternative to the Board’s agenda, including
reccomendations on finances, community,
and academics. Leaked board minutes showed
trustees openly discussing ways to avoid
meeting with members of FOCU, as well as
sharing strategies to diffuse their questions.
When FOCU’s financial modeling was
obstructed by a lack of access to Cooper’s
detailed financial information, the group
went through the trouble of engaging an
independent financial analyst. Still, Bharucha
deemed this document a “laughing stock.”

Vote of No Confidence
A statement or vote that a person in a superior
position—be it government, managerial, etc.
—is no longer deemed fit by the signatories
to hold that position. Bharucha and Board
members have ignored multiple Votes of No
Confidence numbering in the thousands
of signatures.
WG
Working Group. See the earlier section in this
reader for more!
Womp Womp
A two-word response accidentally sent from
an admissions administrator at Cooper to
a prospective student, in response to their
impassioned appeal that they couldn’t afford
to attendw. The administrator intended to
forward the message to their colleague, but
instead CC’d the applicant themself.

Umbrella, Flipping of
Colloquialism for witnessing a paradgim
shift within an individual. “Your umbrella just
flipped! I saw it with my own two eyes!”
See also: Paradigm
Unions
Unions are an organization of workers that
have banded together to achieve common
goals such as protecting the integrity of their
trade, achieving higher pay, increasing the
number of employees and employer hires,
and bettering working conditions. Unions in
general are in decline in the United States,
academic unions in particular are under attack,
and a large majority of faculty members hold
part-time, nontenurable jobs that benefit from
collective bargaining power. Some campuses
have made it difficult for faculty and staff to

FOOTNOTES: 117

TUITION

NEUTRAL*

spectrum
of

FREE
Free Cooper Union
Friends of Cooper
Union

Allies

Student Councils
Art
Architecture
Engineering

Staff (Unionized)
Faculties

Art
Humanities
Architecture

Engineering

Board of Trustees
Cooper Union Alumni Association
Administration
Deans

* On Perceived Neutrality Some groups choose to remain neutral, unknown, or undecided
on the issue of tuition at Cooper out of fear of retaliation from the administration, or
because they feel there is not enough information, or that it’s not their job to make
decisions about the way to institution is run. However, conflict occurs within a larger social
context from which aspects of identity and oppression cannot be separated. Neutrality
privileges those who are less impacted by experiences of systemic violence and lack of
access to power or decision-making. It’s our collective responsibility to challenge each
other to acknowledge that perceived neutrality reinforces an existing balance of power.
FOOTNOTES: 118

Vice Presidents
Admissions
Dev. + Alumni

120

FOOTNOTES: 121

A D M I N I S T R A T O R S

Jamshed Bharucha
President; Trustee

Lawrence Cacciatore
Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board

Stephen Baker
VP of Student Affairs

Justin Harmon
VP for Communications

Mitchell Lipton
VP of of Enrollment Services

Teresa Dahlberg
Dean of Engineering;
Chief Academic Officer

William Germano
Dean of Humanities

Saskia Bos
Dean of Art

William Mea
VP of Finance and Administration

Abby Davis
Assistant Director of Admissions

Elizabeth O’Donnell
Acting Dean of Architecture

Chris Chamberlin
Dean of Students

Linda Lemiesz
Former Dean of Students

Simon Ben-Avi
Former Acting Dean, of Engineering

Jeremy Wertheimer EE’82
Alumni Trustee

Ronald W. Drucker CE’62
Chairman Emeritus

Milton Glaser A’51
Trustee Emeretius

?
Carroll L. Wainwright, Jr.
Trustee Emeritus

A D M I N I S T R A T O R S

Robert Bernhard
Chairman Emeritus

Richard S. Lincer
Chairman of the Board

Francois de Menil AR’87
Vice Chairman of the Board

Charles S. Cohen
Trustee

Joseph B. Dobronyi Jr.
Trustee

Thomas Driscoll ME’77
Alumni Trustee

Jeff Gural
Working Group Co-Chair

Mark Epstein A’76
Chairman Emeritus

Raymond G. Falci ME’86
Alumni Trustee

Jeffrey Hersch EE’87
Alumni Trustee

Catharine Hill
Trustee

Eric Hirschhorn ME’89
Alumni Trustee

Malcolm King EE’97
Alumni Trustee

John Leeper AR’85
Alumni Association President

Daniel Liebskind AR’70
Alumni Trustee

Edgar Mokuvos EE’78
Alumni Trustee

Devora Najjar ChE’16
Student Representative Trustee

Daniel Okrent
Trustee

?
Clarence Michalis
Trustee Emeritus

FOOTNOTES: 122

Alex Katz A’49
Trustee Emeretius

Bruce Pasternack ME’68
Alumni Trustee

Lee H. Skolnick AR’79
Alumni Trustee

Kevin Slavin A’95
Alumni Trustee

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
Trustee

Monica Vachher
Trustee

Rachel L. Warren
Trustee

relevant

Institutions
Adelphi
University in New York that became part of a
landmark lawsuit in which the Board of Trustees
was largely replaced by the courts.

Olin
Engineering college in Massachusetts that awarded
full-scholarships to all for its first several years, and
has since fallen back to a partial-scholarship model.

Antioch
College in Ohio founded by Horace Mann with
a radical history and interesting historical ties
to Cooper. Board attempted to commercially
franchise the school’s brand, resulting in
bankruptcy. A group of alumni bought the
college back and reopened it, granting full
scholarships to all for the first several years,
and instituting a model of cooperativebased self-governance.

Cornell
University in upstate New York with interesting
structures for making students part of its Board
of Trustees.

UVA
University in Virginia at which several
trustees engaged in a secret campaign to
oust the school’s beloved president, who stood
in the way of their agenda. The community
was enraged, successfully exposing the board’s
secret dealings and reinstating the president.
Corcoran
College in Washington D.C., was engaged in a
Supreme Court lawsuit over mismanagement,
but wasn’t awarded standing and is slated to
be absorbed into a larger institution.
Webb
Engineering college in Glen Cove, New York
that awards full-scholarships to all students.
Cooper’s former President George Campbell
is on their board.
Deep Springs
Two year alternative all-male college
in California founded by L.L. Nunn, on an
extremely secluded ranch with cooperativebased self-governance. Free to all who attend,
currently facing a struggle with its board
over co-education.
Berea
Free college in Kentucky where students
contribute by working, why studing.

Valve
Washington-based software company behind
games such as Half Life and game-distribution
platform Steam. Known for their structures of selforganization that are unique within their industry.

further
reading

Historical Cooper Documents:
Charter and Trust Annual reports (archived
online by Library)
Working Group Plan
Report. Put together in three months under
duress and still better financially and culturally
than tuition. Read before you ask if there’s an
alternative to tuition.

Ignorant Schoolmaster
by Jacques Ranciere
Book. French philosopher using the story of
historical educator Joseph Jacotot to cover
pedagogy, human nature, education,
emancipation, and universal intelligence.

The Coming Insurrection
by The Invisible Committee
Book. Insurrectionist political text theorizing the
end of capitalism: “an entity in its death throes
CSCU Legal Documents
Docket. The Committee to Save Cooper Union’s sacrifices itself as a content in order to survive
as a form.”
lawyers filed a lot of important evidence with
the courts about appearances of insider dealing
Binding Chaos
and mismanagement at Cooper, accompanied
by Heather Marsh
by detailed and straightforward explanations.

http://georgiebc.wordpress.com/category/binding-chaos/

Mondragon Corporation
Huge worker cooperative in Spain that also runs a
school. Decentralised and self governed, owned by
students, faculties, and workers.
Summer Hill
English school for 6 to 17 year olds that operates in
a democratic and self-governing fashion with no set
curriculum, behavior codes, or compulsory classes.
Over 100 years old, it has consistently proven itself
under intense scrutiny to be a working model
of education based on the premise that children
are eager to learn and remain that way until their
curiosity is put down by traditional education
structures. Unofficial motto: “Freedom, not Licence.”
Black Mountain
Widely-revered college of art in North Carolina, in
operation between 1933 and 1957. Brought Bauhaus
to America. Influenced Cooper’s art program.
ASSÉ
Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante
(Association for Student Union Solidarity).
A temporary coalition to counter tuition hikes and
coordinate 2012 Quebec student protests.
Successful in halting tuition hikes. Operates by
direct democracy. Popularized the red square.

FOOTNOTES: 124

Fall of the Faculty
by Benjamin Ginsberg
Book. History of how faculty used to play a
larger role in administration, and the rise of
“administrative bloat.”
Leverage Points:
Places at Which to Intervene in a System
by Donella Meadows
Essay. A great introduction to systemsthinking. How to change systems, with
methods organized by effectiveness, up
to the transcendence of paradigms!
Debt: the First 5000 Years
by David Graeber
Book. An exhaustive anti-authoritarian history
of debt as a human phenomenon, from the
origins of money to contemporary rentextraction economies.
Envisioning a Sustainable World
by Donella Meadows
Essay. Influential text on visionary thinking
that also serves as a how-to.

FOOTNOTES: 125

Blog posts and eBook. Provocations on postdemocratic global collaborative methods of
self-governance.
Communique from an Absent Future

http://wewanteverything.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/
communique-from-an-absent-future/

Manifesto. Came out of University of California
occupations. Details the entanglement of university
and capital.
Pray for Calamity

http://prayforcalamity.com/2014/03/08/upward-bound-maintaining-our-collective-clunker/

Blog. Anarchism and the End of Civilization. “Crises
like climate change, peak oil, deforestation, species
die-off, top soil loss – all needed to be addressed
decades and decades ago. Talking about them
solves nothing….Technology is being used to
maintain the status quo as the train of industrial
civilization hurtles towards a gorge.”
Seeing Like a State:
Why Certain Schemes to Improve the Human
Condition Have Failed
by James C. Scott
Book. High-modernist tendencies + authoritarian
government = dire results. Describes the ways in
which states have developed and refined their
administrative sense organs and created highly
legible populations.

further
reading
continued...

University of the Undercommons:
Fugitive Planning and Black Study
by Fred Moten & Stefano Harney
Book. From the back cover: “[Moten & Harney]
draw on the theory and practice of the black
radical tradition as it supports, inspires, and
extends contemporary social and political
thought and aesthetic critique.” Neither for
nor against the university, Moten & Harney
poetically trash shit and reveal another world.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
by Paolo Freire
Book. Theory of the relationships between
teacher, student, and society, advocating for
an oppositional pedagogy and against the
dominant “banking” model of education in the
struggle of oppressor and oppressed.

tools

for
organizing
GroupMe
http://groupme.com
Private chatrooms that work across smartphones, dumbphones (e.g. text messages),
and web browsers. Useful for ongoing banter
and during actions.
Celly
http://cel.ly
Mass text message announcements.
This is a two-way service but not as good
for chatting as GroupMe.
Google Docs
http://drive.google.com
Share documents, spreadsheets, and files.
Useful for collaborative writing and
resource-sharing.
Trello
http://trello.com
Collaborative to-do list that has been used
during actions to coordinate tasks across
a large group.

Github
http://github.com
Social network for code, this is where we’re
hosting the Disorientation website and other
code-related projects.
Hackpad
http://hackpad.com
Collaborative text-editor with wiki features like
document linking, is public by default, and keeps
track of authorship better than Google Docs.
Facebook
http://facebook.com
Social network. Lots of community banter happens
on groups like Save Cooper Union, private groups
are sometimes used for organizing, messages can
be a useful way to reach people who don’t check
their email, events can draw people in to actions
or workshops, and several pages (like Free Cooper
Union) keep people informed or share funny stuff.
Pro tip: if you’re setting up an event, get various
people to download an “Invite All” browser
extension and use it to invite their networks.
Twitter
http://twitter.com
The other major social network for distributing
information, keeping track of banter, and
participating in discussion. There is an official
@FreeCooperUnion account, and other groups
have accounts too. The search function is useful.
Google News
http://google.com/news
Search engine for news. After a press event or
announcement you can refresh the search for
“Cooper Union” to keep track of articles as they
come in. You can also set up alerts that will email
you a summary as articles appear.

FOOTNOTES: 127

tools

for
organizing
continued...

Livestream
http://livestream.com
Stream live video at a public URL in realtime
from your smartphone or computer. Useful to
have ready to go before an action.

Sendy
http://sendy.co
Self-hosted alternative for email newsletters, less
regulation of lists than Mailchimp, and can be
cheaper at scale.

Change.org
http://change.org
Petition platform. Vaguely spammy, but can be
a good display of public support for a position.

Nationbuilder
http://nationbuilder.com
Political organizing platform that can be used to
centralize social media, mailing, and fundraising
activities.

STAY in
the KNOW

These channels are all easy to unsubscribe
from, so try them all out and drop what doesn’t
work for you.

Mailchimp
http://mailchimp.com
Collect email signups and send newsletters.
Vine
http://vine.co
Social network for short looping videos.
Subsidiary of Twitter. Easier than producing a
video and sometimes as effective at conveying
what’s going on in a clip.

Text @FreeCooperUnion to 23559

Moderated text loop for meeting and action announcements.

Follow @FreeCooperUnion
This is us on Twitter and Facebook.

Join FB group SaveCooperUnion

Facebook group full of lively discussion about Cooper.
Great place to ask questions.

Email us cooperunionsos@gmail.com

Group email address. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions.

Visit freecooperunion.org/disorientation
We looked back at this section 100 years in the future and laughed!

Online version of this guide, with extended materials.
FOOTNOTES: 129

A note on abridgement.
Much of the content in this reader has been edited to fit within these pages.
You can access unabridged versions of the content— as well as other media
like videos and an interactive timeline at our website:
freecooperunion.org/disorientation

Correct us if we’re wrong.
We’ve been compiling information for three years, and we’re still learning.
We did our best to fact-check, but we’re happy to make corrections.
Get in touch at the email below.

There are no stupid questions.
Write us an email and we will get back to you:
cooperunionsos@gmail.com

Colophon

Printed at Linco Printing
in Long Island City, New York
September 2014
Fonts Used:
Calibre and Tiempos Text
by Klim Type Foundry
Acropolis by Hoefler & Frere-Jones
FOOTNOTES: 132

133

Item sets