Cooper Union in New York’s East Village. (Flickr/CC, 2.0)
The occupation at Cooper Union has continued for twenty days with little public or media attention—certainly nothing on par with the profiles written on Zuccotti Park in the fall of 2011. Part of that lukewarm reception has to do with the Cooper occupation’s modest numbers (the occupation is sustained by a group ranging between fifteen and twenty-five students), and another part with their mission, which is more specific and less sexy than an anti-capitalist revolution. Cooper Union students are protesting the school’s decision to charge undergraduate tuition for the first time in 150 years, and they’re doing so out of the public’s view, between the walls of president Jamshed Bharucha’s office.
The occupiers quickly gained support from nine full-time members of Cooper Union’s art faculty, who signed a petition and released a statement:
Out of deep concern about the direction of the Cooper Union under President Jamshed Bharucha, the full-time faculty of the School of Arts adopts a resolution of a vote of No Confidence in President Jamshed Barucha.
A Village Voice investigation revealed that the board of trustees have been less than forthright about the dire situation at Cooper Union. While alumni trustee Peter Cafiero claimed a shutdown scenario was never taken seriously, the Voice obtained a transcript from a trustee meeting that paints a different picture.
“[A shutdown] is a real option and I will only recommend it if we do not have a constructive, positive way for that particular school, in which case I will say I don’t see a light at the end of this tunnel, let’s begin to close it down,” a trustee said during a meeting in September.
The transcript also shows that trustees reviewed an option to shutter the entire institution for five years with plans to reopen it in 2018 when group rent on the Chrysler building, Cooper Union’s primary asset, would jump.
Former trustee Stanley Lapidus appears indifferent to the idea that a faculty turnover could bust the staff union, calling the jobs “cushy” and “un-economic.”
That casual indifference continues when trustees refer to the process of closing the school, forcing current students to transfer to other schools, as “flushing.”
Check out Democracy Now!’s debate on what caused Cooper Union’s financial woes and whether charging tuition will fix the problem:
Saar Shemesh, a Cooper Union occupier, expressed her and her fellow students’ frustration at the board of trustees when they announced the school would start charging tuition.