A Message from the President of Cooper Union 5-11-13
May 11, 2013
Dear Members of the Cooper Union Community:
The occupation of the president's office expresses an abiding passion for Cooper and a traumatic response to the change in the scholarship policy. Full-tuition scholarships for all enrolled degree students have been central to Cooper's identity, and have enabled a kind of meritocracy that is rare. As we mourn this loss, the students who painted the third floor of the Foundation Building black have expressed beautifully the solemnity of this passing. The feelings that led to the occupation are understandable. I want to commend students who organized the Why Cooper initiative, which showcases the unparalleled work of our students to the world.
Seeking to avoid removing students from the occupation involuntarily, we offered the participants the opportunity to leave within a stated period, assuring them that there would be no consequences if they did so. In order to manage the process, we designated an area from which students could exit but into which entrance was restricted, sealing off certain areas as required. Some exited the occupation and others chose to remain. The plan was overwhelmed when our personnel were unable to hold back attempts to enter the restricted area. In the process, I regret that some students reported minor injuries. I also regret that two staff members reported being shoved, one falling on his back, and one staff member reported receiving a minor shoulder injury.
Much has been alleged online about the conduct of our staff and security personnel, including claims that they engaged physically with students unprovoked. Our personnel are trained and repeatedly instructed not to initiate any physical contact. There is no evidence that any of them has done otherwise.
There has been a concern on campus that some guards may be armed. Vice President Westcott periodically hires security guards for events or when crowds are expected, because Cooper has only a minimal security staff. These are NYPD-trained security personnel, who have received the best training in safety and legal procedures available in New York City. We were unaware that some carried concealed weapons, and regret the needless apprehension that was caused when a guard was asked if he was armed and responded in the affirmative. It is not uncommon for security guards in New York offices to be armed. Nevertheless, Vice President Westcott assures us that, since becoming aware of this, no guards will carry arms.
Cooper Union is a place of vibrant exchange of ideas, in which disagreement, however vehement, is conducted in a civil manner and is a catalyst for intellectual growth. I recognize that some do not approve of my administration's decisions or style. They have every right to express that, and I shall endeavor to earn their respect. We have been faced with an almost impossible task of placing the institution on a sustainable financial platform in a highly telescoped period of time. I have had to make some tough and swift decisions; it is natural in an academic environment for some to feel that these decisions were too much too soon, or that they would have preferred a gentler process. Now that the institution is on a solvent path, let us heal ourselves. I commit myself to reaching out to all our constituents to do so.
I would much rather we could maintain our full-scholarship policy if we could. I agree that education is a right, and that our society still has not fulfilled this ideal. Cooper Union has been in the vanguard of providing access based on merit, and we are committed to that going forward. Even as I anguish over the need to change our policy, I urge you to join me in working to ensure that we thrive well into the future, preserving the outstanding quality of the students we recruit and the education our faculty provide. Cooper has so many extraordinary and unique qualities, among them: a student body that thrives on an intimate, immersive, rigorous conservatory-style education; a unique set of schools; a commitment to access for those who can least afford it; the historic Great Hall; and the most vibrant location on earth.
The Cooper Union