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My Two-Minute Interview With Cooper Union’s President

by Mostafa Heddaya on June 21, 2013

Cooper-appointed mediators chat with students at an introductory session earlier in June. Last week, Free Cooper Union announced a rejection of the mediation. (photograph by the author for Hyperallergic)

Cooper-appointed mediators chatted with students at an introductory session earlier in June. Last week, Free Cooper Union announced a rejection of the mediation. (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

I was walking around the East Village this morning, as is my wont, and happened upon a familiar face. The kindly visage in question belonged to not-quite-mediagenic Jamshed Bharucha, president of Cooper Union. Given that a number of student activists have been living in his office for the last six weeks, painting rooms black, watering the plants, holding unauthorized exhibitions, and in general not being terribly congenial about the whole “ending 150 years without tuition” thing, I thought it would be worth politely checking in on how he’s doing and gauging his outlook on the halcyon days of summer ahead.

This is a Maine Lobster. Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha may be eating some on his summer vacation in Maine — possibly with butter, while wearing a bib. (image via Wikimedia)

This is a Maine Lobster. Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha may be eating the crustacean on his summer vacation in Maine — possibly with butter, maybe while wearing a bib. (image via Wikimedia)

After approaching him as we waited at a crosswalk, I asked if he’d take a couple questions (he was with two adult companions), and he agreed. What’s on his mind, now that the Occupy-pedigreed mediators assigned to defuse the Free Cooper Union movement have failed? “We’re taking it as it comes,” he replied, channeling a bit of Jim Morrison (see below). He then turned the table: “Is that a microphone?” — yes — “[laughs with great mirth] give me, uh, send me an email.” Sure. (We haven’t heard back as of press time).

One last question: are you staying in New York for the summer? “For most of the summer, yeah. We have some vacation planned.” Where to, Mr. Bharucha? “Maine.” He then declined to hand me his card, offering one last question as he accepted mine: “Are you a Cooper alum?” No, just a journalist, said I. A small chuckle, and he continued on in the direction of Fish House, the landmark 1804 townhouse at 21 Stuyvesant Street where he lives, hardly a block from where we stood at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and East 9th Street. A terrible joke involving his retreating from a Fish House to a lobster shack occurred to me as I sat on the L train to Hyperallergic’s offices some minutes later. Too little, too late. Much like Cooper Union’s handling of its snowballing endowment crisis.

* * *

This has been brief interviews with embattled academicians. Tune in next week as I accost Marty Peretz on a pedicab and ask him to rank his favorite brands of hummus.

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