In Brief

Cooper Union Trustees Offer to Sacrifice School President to Appease State Attorney General

A message painted on a window of Cooper Union's Foundation Building in April 2013. (courtesy Free Cooper Union)
A message painted on a window of Cooper Union’s Foundation Building in April 2013. (courtesy Free Cooper Union)

The board of trustees of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (CU) has offered not to renew the contract of the school’s current president, Jamshed Bharucha, if it would help bring an end to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into the university’s management and a lawsuit against the trustees and president.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the trustees voted last week to inform Schneiderman’s office that they would effectively fire Bharucha when his contract expires at the end of 2015 if it would cease its investigation and end a lawsuit brought against them by a professor and a student. Bharucha and the board have been under fire for the past three years for a series of financial and administrative decisions that resulted in the art, architecture, and engineering university charging students tuition for the first time in its 150-year history. It’s unclear whether the trustees’ offer to let Bharucha go would have the intended effect; a spokesperson for Schneiderman declined to comment for the Journal‘s story.

Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha (photo by Gimpylion2000, via Wikimedia Commons)
Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha (photo by Gimpylion2000, via Wikimedia Commons)

“The board fired the messenger that delivered the bad news,” architect Daniel Libeskind, a CU alumnus and trustee, told the Journal. “I think he cares more about Cooper’s ability to sustain itself and not having the financial plan interrupted. He has prospects if he leaves Cooper, but I think he’d like to keep going on the work he’s undertaken. It’s early days to know how this is going to play out.”

Last month the attorney general’s office announced it would investigate the actions of CU’s board of trustees and president in the lead-up to the decision to start charging tuition.

“Somewhere between my appointment being announced, and my arrival, I realized the actual [budget] shortfall was twice that,” Bharucha told the Journal. “That changed the whole calculation. There was going to have to be some extremely disruptive intervention.” The ensuing disruptions have spurred protests, occupations, and lawsuits by students, faculty, and alumni.

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