Petition filed in NYS Supreme Court pursuant to Article 77 of the CPR, calls for:
- An accounting
- Creation of the Associates of Cooper Union
- Breach of fiduciary duty for charging tuition
- Declaratory judgment
- Injunction against charging tuition
The Petition is the statement of fact and legal claims set forth and the Memorandum of Law is the legal argument to support the petition.
CSCU is pursuing legal action as a last resort after Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees proceeded to stop offering the free education required by the Charter.
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About The Legal Action
The Committee to Save Cooper Union is pursuing legal action as a last resort after Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees and administration proceeded with their plans to abolish a 150 year tradition of free tuition, refusing alternatives that would preserve free tuition.
After carefully evaluating all of the legal options for both legal and cost-effectiveness, the Committee to Save Cooper Union decided that the best approach is to seek an injunction against charging tuition in New York Supreme Court. This option also allows us to petition the court for formation of “The Associates of Cooper Union” as required by the Cooper Union charter. The Associates would serve as a check on the Board of Trustees since the Associates’ elected Council can remove Trustees by majority vote. This route also allows us to petition the court for an audit, as provided for in the charter, to help provide more detail on the fiscal mismanagement happening at Cooper Union.
One especially noteworthy fiscal issue is the Board and administration deciding to build an extravagant new academic building costing over $165 million before raising adequate funds for it. In addition, the Board and administration appear to have severely undervalued the Chrysler building when they renegotiated the lease with Tishman Speyer. There are also more recent examples of fiscal waste including spending $50,000 on celebrity speaker Fareed Zakaria, spending a total of $350,000 for Jamshed Bharucha’s inauguration celebration, excessive spending on private security, and spending about $1.5 million on consultants for supporting President Bharucha’s program of “reinvention” for Cooper Union.
Lack of fiscal discipline on the part of the Board is also demonstrated by their lack of follow-through on their Master Plan commitment to reduce operating expenses by 10% by 2011. This commitment to reduce operating expenses was also explicitly stated in the Board’s 2006 sworn cy pres petition to the New York Supreme Court filed in order to allow the Board to borrow against the Chrysler building revenue. Instead of being reduced, expenses steadily rose from $43.7 million in 2006 to $66.8 million in 2010 (if debt service and depreciation are excluded, the rise was from $39.4m to $49.8m.) Unlike the Board’s fiscal recklessness, the Working Group plan embodies the creative fiscal discipline that enabled Cooper Union to survive as a free tuition institution for over 150 years.
We are raising funds to defray the costs of a legal effort to prevent the destruction of a 150 year tradition of free tuition, require an audit and require the formation of the Associates of Cooper Union as a supervisory body. Thanks to the generous support of a number of donors we are able to bring this lawsuit, but raising additional funds will increase our chances of success. This fundraising will be split into a number of phases.
Phase 1: 45 Day Timeframe
This will help defray the initial costs of bringing the legal proceedings, including legal costs, filing fees, expert witnesses and public relations assistance.
Total needed to raise for Phase 1: $150,000
Phase 2: 45-90 Day Timeframe
Further legal proceedings may involve hearings, depositions, discovery and other legal costs.
Total needed to raise for Phase 2: $200,000
Additional phases could involve appellate work or other legal actions (such as petitioning the Board of Regents) to be determined by how the case unfolds.
As an Article 77 action, our attorney’s fees are potentially recoverable depending on the outcome, which could help defray our attorney’s fees but is not guaranteed.
If our goal of preserving a free tuition Cooper Union is achieved, any remaining funds will be donated back to Cooper Union. If the goal is not achieved, any remaining funds will be donated to some other worthy educational cause.