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.
If getting fired is unpleasant, what of that special hell where hundreds of your staff and colleagues publicly call for your resignation? Just ask Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha, whose imperious refusal to communicate even the most threadbare reaction to his mounting critics has added a new, Spartan character to the meaning of “embattled.”
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.
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.