In a message sent at 4:07 pm to the Cooper Union community, Jamshed Bharucha announced today an agreement with the activist group Free Cooper Union, which had ended its occupation and vacated his office on Friday. The email, which was preceded a few minutes earlier by a campuswide message containing the text of the agreement drawn up with the students, ended on a conciliatory note: “We may not all agree on everything we face but I am committed to lead Cooper Union in a way that places the institution in a strong position for the future.”
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, “the embattled New York college” (Art in America).
New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz preceded me in Jamshed Bharucha’s office by only a few minutes. He was there, as I was, for tonight’s opening of Step Down, the Free Cooper Union-organized companion to the school’s official year-end Show Up exhibition. Saltz’s appearance at the year-end show of one of Manhattan’s leading art schools is not a surprise, but his signing of Free Cooper Union’s statement of no confidence (as well as their guestbook) was just another blow to what by now can only be characterized as the Cooper Union PR piñata.
An exhausted-sounding Peter Cafiero, outgoing President of Cooper Union’s Alumni Association, took to the Rose Auditorium stage on Monday night to introduce the annual Alumni Council Forum, noting that “hopefully this will continue the process of better connecting everyone, and build a community which we of course desperately need to keep doing.” Despite the future promise embodied by Cafiero’s recently-elected successor, Kevin Slavin, desperation is a good starting point as we enter the third week of Free Cooper Union’s occupation of President Jamshed Bharucha’s office.
Last night, at a little before 11 pm EST, Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha spontaneously ended a community forum he was holding in the basement of the Foundation Building and ascended to his seventh floor office to face his critics for the first time. The result was a rather long and uninspiring chat punctuated by raucous and disruptive moments of commentary by many long-silent insiders, including untenured faculty, administrators, and engineering students.
At roughly 11 am today, a group of 30 students occupied the offices of embattled Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha. Bharucha himself is not present, however, and unlike the previous occupation, the students have not barricaded themselves in and are being allowed to freely enter and exit the building. Black banners signifying the takeover have also been unfurled from the second floor windows of the Foundation Building.
In a memorable appearance at St. Mark’s Bookshop in the fall of 2011, Slavoj Zizek held forth on the importance of saving the bookstore from its then-impending eviction from a Cooper Union-owned building, referring repeatedly to the predatory landlord as “the Union Cooper.” The mangy Slovenian’s malapropism seems downright prescient these days, as the university’s community of students, faculty, and alumni looks inward to rebuild the century-old promise of their institution.
Cooper Union is not reeling in the wake of today’s historic board announcement, but it is hurting. The beleaguered institution’s decision to scrap its founder’s vision for free education was a long time coming, borne on the back of a boom-time cupidity that has crippled many university endowments. This evening, Hyperallergic sought to get a feel for the student reaction and the way forward.
Today, a representative of the Cooper Union board announced that they will be reducing all scholarships by 50% for next year, though some additional scholarships will be available for students.
Not long after the faculty of the Cooper Union School of Art rejected plans to begin charging tuition, the college’s administration has struck back: it is now refusing to accept any School of Art applications for early admission, instead deferring all of them to the general admission pool.
It’s been two months since the Cooper 11 students ended their clock tower occupation, but the battle at the Cooper Union over the question of tuition is far from over. The latest news is that the faculty of the School of Art has taken a public stand against the idea of charging tuition.
The recreation of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” may be the most internet-friendly image of a protest movement that locked itself for a week in the clocktower of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan’s Astor Place, but that wasn’t the only work being made by the eleven art students who were fed up with the school’s plans to upend a 150+ year tradition of free education.