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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The Cooper Union Fights Back
Cooper Union is fighting back. We, Cooper faculty, students, parents, alumni, and other supporters, are not going to accept the abandonment of the unique and viable trust we hold from Peter Cooper. We are done trying to convince the administration and Board of Trustees that Cooper Union’s special nature must be preserved.
As words and protests have failed to move the current administration and Board of Trustees, the Committee has chosen to file a lawsuit that has the potential to compel the administration and Board to do what’s right for the school. While the administration’s reaction to the lawsuit was to express disappointment that we chose litigation instead of “constructive conversation,” after years of our efforts to talk our way to preserving free tution, this response rings hollow: it is clear that the only way to preserve a free Cooper Union is through action. Our goal is to wrest control of Cooper Union from those that don’t appreciate its true value, address the school’s very real fiscal problems, and preserve its defining ideas—including free tuition.
To keep these promises we need your help, starting with a donation to help fund the legal action.
Here’s What’s Happening
The Committee to Save Cooper Union has filed a petition with the NYS Supreme Court that, if successful, will:
- Reverse the disastrous decision to charge tuition
- Remove administration and Board of Trustee members who have not been true to Peter Cooper’s vision
- Allow for the installation of new leadership that will squarely address financial issues while staying true to the ideals that define Cooper Union
- Ensure that The Cooper Union Community has a real voice in the school’s governance
- Guarantee that the school’s financial reporting is clear and accurate and that its resources will not be squandered again
The Committee has spent months working to plan, fund, and file the lawsuit. We’ve been working quietly up to now because we feared that the effort would be quashed before it had a chance to begin. But the time has come for all of us to join in a loud and public declaration that “we are The Cooper Union and we are fighting back.”
It will take all of the Cooper Union Community, it will take your personal involvement, to make this effort a success. We need you to spread the word, keep this in the public eye, and help fund the lawsuit.
Peter Cooper was a believer in free education. He helped to found the NYC public school system and, as you know, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Peter Cooper, and the leaders he gathered around him, were stewards of a trust to provide free education that was equal to the best. Each took responsibility for that trust—including the personal commitment to pay for any shortfalls in the school’s operating budget. Peter Cooper despised going into debt to banks and believed in rewarding invention and work, not speculation.
Fast forward to the recent past where The Board of Trustees (made up primarily of real estate executives and bankers) speculated in real estate and hedge fund investment, saddling the school with a massive new $175 million debt load while losing a large percentage of its cash reserves. Fortunately for them, the charter had been changed to exempt them from personal liability for the school’s debts. After much discussion and protest, the Board of Trustees decided to end the tuition-free meritocracy as a way to extract themselves out of the hole they had helped to dig. For over a year, we have tried to get access to unconsolidated financial information to sort out where the money went and the truth of the current fiscal situation.
Our opinion is that Cooper Union’s administration and board of trustees bear substantial responsibility for the school’s fiscal crisis, that they don’t understand the risks in ‘solving’ the problem by changing the essential nature of the school, and that they do not want to empower the faculty, student, alumni and broader community to play a genuine role in shaping the course of the school. The “working group” effort produced a credible plan to address the school’s financial crisis and preserve what’s best about Cooper Union. It was dismissed by most of the board and the administration. We doubt their motives, their candor, and their respect for the role of the faculty, students, and alumni in charting the future of the school. That’s why we have put such a drastic remedy in motion.
Our website is a good source of information on what’s happened: savecooperunion.org
The best source of information about what we are trying to accomplish is the petition to the court. It is 39 pages, written in plain language that details what has gone wrong at Cooper Union and the remedies we believe can save the school and its mission.
Who are We?
We are part of the larger Cooper Union Community. The Committee to Save Cooper Union, a coalition of students, alumni and faculty, was formed in response to the announcement by President Jamshed Bharucha in April 2013 that The Cooper Union would begin charging undergraduates tuition starting September 2014.
A Strong Start
Considerable money was raised to fund the legal team’s preparation of the petition to the court. The Committee’s legal action has been well covered in the press including in the attached New York Post article (5/28/14) outlining the extravagant and irresponsible spending on the part of the administration. In addition, the Committee’s press conference on commencement day underscored this fiscal irresponsibility and the concern within the Cooper Union community about the institution’s future. The press conference was covered by WABC News, WPIX11, and the Daily News, among many other media outlets.
How You Can Help