Update on Academic and Financial Planning: 2/13/13

February 13, 2013

Dear members of the Cooper Union Community

With the spring semester well underway, I want to take this opportunity to provide an update on our academic and financial planning, and to invite you to a Community Forum with Trustees on March 1st.

Following the Board of Trustees meeting in December, the Chairman appointed a Reinvention Review Committee of the Board to review all proposals to address Cooper Union's financial condition, including the reports that were developed by the faculty.  This committee will make recommendations to the full Board.  Last semester I indicated that the Board would make important decisions about the future of the Cooper Union sometime in late January.  That timeframe has been adjusted to late March, to allow for a thorough review of options and a careful analysis of risks and opportunities.  The guiding principles in this process match the principles I laid out to the academic deans and faculty in August - our plans must be financially sustainable while also building a future characterized by academic excellence and a distinctive vision. Since at least the late 1960s (as evidenced by a report by President White and dramatically curtailed real growth in Chrysler revenues in the 1990s), Cooper's principal funding source (revenue from the Chrysler building) has not kept up with inflation. This shrinking funding source triggering a series of steps to downsize, including parting with the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Green Camp, physics degree programs and a variety of assets. We now must make the tough decisions necessary to build a sustainable future without kicking the can further down the road.

As you may recall from my memo in December, the Faculties of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering and the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture have forwarded their reports to me, and I have forwarded them to the Board for study and analysis. The Faculty of the School of Art, while endorsing the excellence of the programs they developed over the Fall semester and presented orally to the Board on December 5 (these include pre-college, summer, certificate and master's programs), has reversed its course and on January 25th issued a statement to me and Dean Bos, and later to the Board of Trustees, stating that they "can neither propose nor vote on a motion that moves these proposals forward," stating that "any solution to The Cooper Union's current financial crisis that depends, even in part on tuition compromises and irreversibly damages the ideals of art, education, freedom, and citizenship". Pending the Board's decisions in March about the future of the institution, and in the absence of a sustainable model for the School of Art, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has directed the administration to notify students seeking early admission to the School of Art that their applications will be considered as part of the art school's general application pool. We apologize to our early admission applicants to the School of Art for the delay in the decision process.

The Board of Trustees Community Forum on March 1st will convene at 6:00 PM in The Great Hall.  The Forum will be a structured opportunity for students, faculty, staff and alumni to ask questions of trustees before decisions are made. Dean Stephen Baker, Cooper Union's newest honorary alumnus, will convene and introduce the event.  I encourage you to attend. 

I want to thank everyone in our community who has contributed ideas to the reinvention process.  With challenge comes the opportunity. We will get through this and come out poised for a vibrant future.

Jamshed Bharucha
President
 

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.