Charting A Path Forward Together: Plans for Safety, Well-being, and Learning at The Cooper Union
We have always referred to our collective group of students, faculty, and staff as the Cooper Community. As a community, we have a shared responsibility to care for and respect one another regardless of our religious beliefs, ethnicities, identities, or political affiliations. The crisis in the Middle East is forming a chasm in our community that we must urgently work to bridge. Our interconnectedness, and our differences, are what make our community so special and what enable us to learn, tackle hard questions, challenge conventional thinking, engage in vigorous and respectful debates, and forge a better path forward – for all of us.
We have heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about your safety and/or the safety of fellow students and others on campus. That this concern exists is not acceptable to us as a community. You have expressed your desire to ensure The Cooper Union remains a place committed to the safety and security for all. We are dedicated to exactly that – to ensuring our campus is a safe place of learning.
I want you to know that we see and hear all of you and will continue to do everything we can to support you and help our community heal. While I am thankful that last week’s protest did not result in any physical harm as has been the case elsewhere, the sense of fear and division that exists in our community, on college campuses across the country, and around the world is the cause of great anguish.
There is no tolerance for targeting members of a particular religion, race, identity, or ethnicity at Cooper Union. This must be a place where a multitude of perspectives and opinions can coexist and where dissent and debate can be productive and respectful.
We must return to our foundation of civil discourse. Peter Cooper wished this for us. He was a deeply religious man who wanted people of all religions, genders, races, and walks of life to learn, to improve their own lives, and to engage as participants in collective society. He founded this institution on the eve of the Civil War, when political opinion in the country was also vehemently divided, and as a place where diverse viewpoints on urgent social issues could be expressed, discussed, debated, and addressed. We must live up to that vision.
This doesn’t mean we must all agree or that we should shy away from our disagreements. Instead, we must create spaces for disagreement and civil discourse, for opportunities to learn from one another, to understand another person’s experience and the perspective it informs, to sit with the discomfort of another view, and to respectfully debate these perspectives, but not to the exclusion of anyone in our community and not so any member of our community questions their safety or their belonging on our campus. The world can be a threatening place. Cooper Union must be our safe haven.
In light of these principles, we are implementing a plan to address campus safety and care, including for times when the world is in turmoil.
Let’s Start with Ensuring a Safe Campus:
As of last week, we have increased the presence of campus security officers. Our security officers are familiar faces to our students and deeply care for our community, always ready to assist anyone should they be in need of security’s help. We have maintained a close relationship with the NYPD 9th Precinct, and they are eager to collaborate in safeguarding our campus. The NYPD and its officers are ready to be on our campus in a moment’s notice to protect the safety of individuals in our community. NYPD officers were on campus during last week’s protest and continue to engage and remain in communication with us. We know that a history of police violence in this country has created significant distrust and fear. We are in the process of scheduling a community meeting with our Precinct leadership to foster familiarity. Our Precinct officers would like to do what they can to build trust and be a welcome partner in safeguarding our campus alongside our security staff.
That Upholds Our Policies and Student Code of Conduct:
The College is committed to preserving academic freedom and fostering civil discourse while adhering to Cooper Union’s established policies and Code of Conduct. At Cooper Union, all students are subject to a Code of Conduct that clearly outlines expectations, rights, and responsibilities. We take the Code of Conduct very seriously. Students are expected to abide by it, and we will continue to enforce it. At the core of the Code’s Student Rights is the freedom to engage in open discussion, inquiry, and expression. It also affirms the right to freedom from discrimination, harassment, or intimidation of any kind.
The Cooper Union holds itself accountable to the expectations of this community and to upholding the rights and dignity of every member of our community. Any member of our community who poses a threat to another’s safety or engages in hate speech will be held accountable for their actions. Cooper Union maintains a Policy Upholding Human Rights and Title IX Protections which continues to be enforced on our campus.
Where Hate and Discrimination Will Not Be Tolerated:
We are a close-knit community, and to preserve this, we must respect each other and accept our differences, free from hate or discrimination. If anyone believes that they have been discriminated against, they should immediately report this to the proper contact in this link to Cooper Union’s Nondiscrimination Policy. The College acts expeditiously to review potential actions of discrimination. All signage within Cooper Union must be respectful and comply with Cooper Union’s Posting Policy. Postings must also adhere to other College policies, as well, such as they cannot be of a discriminatory nature or depict/suggest harm or violence to a group or person. We require that everyone follow the rules of the Posting Policy and ask that we all live up to its spirit, as well. So many of us have been and continue to be directly and indirectly impacted by the violence and suffering in Israel and Gaza, and we implore all members of our community to engage in meaningful and respectful expression, considering how our words, posts, and actions may affect others in our community.
Where We Will Care for Each Other:
The recent events both across the globe and here at Cooper Union have affected many members of our community; these events trigger deeply personal responses for each of us based on our lived experiences, including historic, inter-generational traumas.
We take pride in being a community that values caring for each other and addressing individual needs. When we cause pain or harm, we must take ownership of the impact of our actions, regardless of intent. I urge all of us to act from a place of genuine care and concern for our fellow community members, especially when we are engaging with difficult topics and with views that may not be aligned.
For resources related to individual care, our Student Care team has expanded on-campus, in-person, drop-in sessions for students and has added additional providers to our on-campus team, ensuring that students have options to seek support. This includes our full-time Cooper Union-employed Student Care Coordinators, as well as external clinicians with experience and training in supporting students through difficult, challenging, and potentially traumatic experiences. We will continue to make these resources available to students and adjust our services based on student need and feedback.
Our Student Care team remains actively engaged in the work of supporting our entire student body. Our student care and support resources, including many available 24/7, can be accessed here.
In addition, yesterday we provided free, on-site counseling services for all faculty and staff from our Employee Assistance Program and will be providing additional on-site sessions. Employees can also utilize Cooper’s EAP by phone; the EAP hotline number is 800-252-4555, and all calls are strictly confidential.
And Where We Will Talk, Listen and Learn from One Another:
We will host a series of gatherings in a variety of formats for members of the Cooper community to express their concerns. These forums will be organized in the spirit of the traditions of learning and civil discourse at Cooper Union.
To dedicate specific time and space to hearing your thoughts about the climate at Cooper during these challenging times, this month, Student Affairs, Human Resources, and I will partner with an outside facilitator to host listening sessions in a variety of formats to meet the needs of students, faculty, and staff. More information will be shared on this shortly.
Also this month, we will launch our work to develop a series of sessions with external experts to facilitate educational sessions and substantive discussion about free speech, hate speech, bias, harassment, and more. Antisemitism on college campuses and beyond is on the rise. It is one thing to condemn antisemitism as we emphatically do. It is another thing to really understand what it is, the histories that underpin it, and the meaning behind words and phrases. Islamophobia is also on the rise, and it is critical to understand its origins, meanings, and implications. Each of these sessions and others we will offer will seek to substantively unpack the issues. An internal task force of students, faculty, and staff will recommend the list of sessions we will host, suggest content requirements, and help to select the outside partners for sessions. We will identify the task force members by the end of this month.
Later in November, to help ground our discourse, we will also invite scholars from within and outside of Cooper to share their research and perspective on topics related to the current situation. I am also calling on our academic leaders and faculty to identify curricular and co-curricular opportunities that can be offered to all students, faculty, and staff to learn about and discuss the complex history of the Middle East so that when people form positions, it can be with a thorough understanding of the history and current sociopolitical and humanitarian issues that underpin much of the debate on these issues.
As we engage in that work, more immediately, this semester and next, we will offer workshops, film screenings, information sessions, and small group discussions that will allow the Cooper community to build spaces where difficult issues can be addressed in a productive manner. These events will provide opportunities to exchange ideas and points of view; to observe people in rigorous, respectful debate; and to engage in the same. Learning these skills is critical to productive engagement as members of a shared society.
This month, we are also reinstating the community dinners we used to have before the pandemic. Perhaps one of the most important things we can do right now is to be in each other’s company, to share a meal, to talk, to listen, to support one another, to build and rebuild relationships.
As we work to develop ways to come together and enact constructive modes of communication, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. Please feel free to send suggestions to Demetrius Eudell (email@example.com) and Chris Chamberlin (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We live in incredibly challenging times. Some may say that we cannot chart a path forward together, but precisely at times like this, we must. The world needs a better way, and I can think of no greater institution to model this than The Cooper Union.