Cooper Union Students End Their Occupation

One of two student speakers at the press conference announcing the end of the Cooper Union occupation today (screen shot via ustream)

The 11 Cooper Union students who barricaded themselves in the school’s Foundation Building clock tower have emerged, ending their occupation a week after it began.

The students were there in protest of the current administration’s plan to start charging graduate tuition. Cooper Union has historically been a free school, awarding full scholarships to all of its attendees.

At the outset, the occupiers issued a set of three demands, which Hyperallergic contributor Janelle Grace outlined in a report last week:

… that the administration “stops pursuing new tuition-based educational programs;” a greater degree of transparency of the school’s finances and the board of trustees’ actions; and that Dr. Bharucha – newly inaugurated last year — resigns as president.

None of the demands have been met. Instead, three students worked their way into a board of trustees meeting on Wednesday and issued public minutes as well as a recording of the proceedings, while the Cooper Union administration responded to the occupation with a press release stating that the board stands fully behind President Jamshed Bharucha.

The occupiers’ sign at Cooper Union (photo by Janelle Grace)

Given the lack of progress, it’s not clear why the occupiers — whom Reverend Billy called the “Free Tuition 11” in at today’s press conference — left their post. Perhaps they feel they’ve called sufficient attention to the situation, and/or realized that they could be more effective by acting on the ground. In remarks at the press conference, two students emphasized the group’s plans to take matters into their own hands.

“Now we feel empowered to meet these demands ourselves,” said one speaker. A second called thir actions thus far “the beginnings of structural changes that will create open flows of information and truly democratic decision-making at Cooper Union.” She went on:

Today we make a promise to the administration, to the Board of Trustees, and to the general public: there will be student and faculty participation at the next board meeting, and the next board meeting, and the next. As we move forward, we will implement a process by which board members may be removed through a vote from the Cooper Union community comprised by students, faculty, alumni, and administrators. And finally, with regard to leadership. Jamshed Bharucha’s absence and lack of direct communication over the past week has made it clear that he is a liability to this institution. We can declare without hesitation that Jamshed Barucha is no longer our president.

Seeking more information about how the group plans to implement these plans moving forward, Hyperallergic attempted to reach a number of the occupiers by email and phone. We received no response. But perhaps predictably, the students ended their press conference by painting the occupation as a success: “These are not merely antics,” said one of the speakers. “They are a shift in power. Our only regret is that we didn’t lock-in sooner.”

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