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The Peter Cooper Standard

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The Committee to Save Cooper Union is fighting more than tuition. We want to hold Cooper Union’s Administration and Board of Trustees to the very highest standard of stewardship—to Peter Cooper’s standard.

Peter Cooper abhorred debt and distrusted bankers and real estate speculators. That’s why his Trust and Charter made Trustees responsible for Cooper Union debts over $5000 and forbade the mortgaging of the school’s real estate assets. Perversely, the Trustees petitioned the NY Supreme Court for cy pres “relief” from those restrictions claiming they had to be freed from them to preserve the school’s free education mission.

Unfettered from the practical and prudent restrictions written into the Trust, the Trustees borrowed $175 million dollars to pay down debt from the construction of dorms, buy a trophy building, and add millions to their irresponsible* speculation in hedge funds.

But our concerns go deeper than poor fiscal judgment and mismanagement. In a clear conflict of interest, Robert Bernhard’s money management firm, Munn Bernhard & Associates, managed approximately 20% of Cooper Union’s investable endowment from 2000–2006, including while he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees (2000-2004). According to allegations in the lawsuit, the funds managed by Mr. Bernhard’s firm underperformed significantly when compared to the school’s other investments. Today, the Board won’t disclose details about Cooper Union’s hedge fund investments. Mr. Bernhard is still a member of the Cooper Union Board.

Again, we don’t just act to stop tuition, we also require an Administration and Board of Trustees that is committed to Peter Cooper’s mission as articulated in the Trust, acts only in the interests of the school (without even the appearance of self-interest), and works with, not against, the Cooper Community.

We have petitioned the Court to stop the imposition of tuition; to remove Trustees who failed to defend the Trust or acted improperly; to investigate troubling issues in the handling of real estate negotiations and other investments; and to form the Associates of Cooper Union (as called for in the Trust) to provide a check and balance to the Board of Trustees.

We are trying to restore Peter Cooper’s standard of behavior in stewardship of his Trust.

You can save Cooper Union. Join the thousands of Alumni, Faculty, Students, and others who are determined to restore Peter Cooper’s Union. We need your voice, your help, your donations.

The Committee to Save Cooper Union
Founding Directors:
Adrian Jovanovic, CU BSE ’89
Mike Essl, Associate Professor of Art, CU ART ’96, M.F.A.
Toby Cumberbatch, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Ph.D.