News

Cooper Union Board Suspends Student Trustee Elections

by Mostafa Heddaya on November 12, 2013

cooper

The Cooper troubles continue (image via Free Cooper Union)

In an announcement made through Cooper Union’s Office of Student Affairs yesterday, the university’s trustees canceled the upcoming elections for a student trusteeship previously ratified at their September board meeting. A student voice on the Board of Trustees had been a long-standing demand of the Free Cooper Union activist movement at the school; the decision made by the board at their September 18 meeting to allow a single, non-voting student trustee with a two-year term was itself a compromised implementation of Free Cooper’s demands for voting student trustees representing each of the university’s three schools: art, architecture, and engineering.

Linda Lemiesz, who had been previously served as Dean of Students and head of the Office of Student Affairs, was let go two weeks before the start of this term and replaced by Dean Baker, formerly director of athletics. At the same time, the university also appointed Chris Chamberlain, who had previously managed student housing, to the Office of Student Affairs. Victoria Sobel, a student and organizer with Free Cooper Union, described the new leaders of the Office of Student Affairs as “administration puppets” who precipitated the nullification of the student trusteeship. “We were not involved with determining the criteria decided upon in the September board meeting,” Sobel added, noting that the board reserved the right to interview three candidates presented by the student body before selecting one.

Reacting to this constraint, Cooper students kept the field of candidates purposely small, with the intention of nominating only a single candidate to the board — despite the stipulations presented in September. According to Sobel, three students, all of them affiliated with Free Cooper Union, attained the 100 signatures required to be eligible to run for office. This field narrowed to two when one of the candidates was deemed academically ineligible. Though the administration’s tone suggests that insufficient student interest yielded a weak field of candidates, Free Cooper Union organizers maintain steadfastly that once again, the school’s board is relying on technocratic tactics to suppress widely held student demands. In its statement on behalf of the board, the Office of Student Affairs suggested that the appointment of a student representative on the board is eventually within reach. “It should be possible to complete such a process in time to allow the trustees to interview and confirm a Student Representative to assume the position beginning with the March 2014 meeting,” the statement reads.

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  • DAVID E. KEARNS

    Is that a “decorative fuse” on that timebomb in the photo? Fail safe mechanism? Looks like Art Dep’t needs to consult w/ Engineering Dep’t.

  • Mostafa Heddaya

    Not sure what you’re talking about. This is directly discussed in the second and third paragraphs.

  • Baruch Skeer

    Does the BoT require that the alumni elect three alumni trustees to serve four year terms, and then they select which one? Do we elect three candidates to become President of the CUAA, then the BoT decides which to allow to serve ex officio on the BoT? Will this “policy” – if three candidates are not “elected,” then there will be no student representative – be repeated in future years? Sorry, but the BoT executive committee can’t remove one of the original three candidates, then claim the process was wrong. This isn’t “the way it works” – it’s a process that the executive committee of the BoT sabotaged. The last hurrah of an extremely unpopular BoT Chair. No guarantee his lawyer successor will be any better.

  • Baruch Skeer

    It was a problem before the completely legitimate election. It would be one thing for the BoT to reject a student representative who received the most votes, and ask the JSC to provide the name of the candidate who was the runner-up. But the process dictated by the BoT, whereby the BoT decides which of three to allow on, was roundly criticized by students, and it is a shame there is no mechanism whereby the BoT could hear and respond to that criticism. It is even more of a shame when people who didn’t make this decision are forced by default to become apologists for those who did.

    I understand the Board as a whole approved the resolution for a student rep, and then approved the process. But where was the consent of the governed? When were those who would “abide” by that process given a voice in forming, molding, or modifying that process? Ironically, this is exactly what a student representative would have provided.

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