Message from Laura Sparks -- June 12, 2020

Last Thursday, amidst active protest, we paused.  We paused because Black lives matter.  We paused to gather and reflect on the structural racism that continues to permeate our lives and result in the killing of Black people. Many of us came together to support each other, to reflect on our individual and collective responsibilities, and to challenge each other to do more, much more, to eradicate racism at Cooper and beyond. Others took time to pause and reflect on their own. Many in our community have risked their safety to publicly protest the intolerable situation and to demand a better way. These are important steps. We also know that what is ultimately required is action – specific and lasting change to the way we do things as individuals, as an institution, as a city, and as a country. As I said last week, that work must start at home and I am committed to leading this effort.

On Monday, I convened all of the deans and heads of administrative departments, to begin articulating a set of concrete actions that we will take. We also read through a letter, which proposes a set of actions as a starting point, that was sent to this group by a collective of Cooper Union students and other members of the alumni, staff, and faculty.  We welcomed that letter and commit to responding to it in word and deed in the short and long terms.  (The letter will be posted to The Pioneer.) We are sorry that you needed to write the letter as a way to be sure your voices were heard.  We hear you.  We know that some ideas for positive change can and will be implemented quickly. Other requests will require further discussion, education, and training.  Please know these discussions are already underway and will continue. In an effort to bring the whole community together in these efforts, I also reached out to the Board of Trustees this week and will be contacting other stakeholders and community members. The issues must be addressed at every level.  My commitment to you is that we will act in a way that is both urgent and sustained, recognizing the singular purpose of ensuring that The Cooper Union is a place that feels safe, joyful, and equitable while working to reverse, collectively, the impact of centuries of systems, policies, and behaviors of white supremacy, structural racism, and inequitable access to power, privilege, health, and economic opportunity that have led us here and continue to define our daily lives.

We must take action, as individuals and as a community, if we are to truly live out our potential as an institution. Our founding vision, ongoing mission, and institutional values demand this of us.  If you are unsure of where to start or what to do, please take the time to educate yourself. You can begin by accessing the growing list of resources on our website. If you find additional resources that you think would be helpful, please share them.

This continues to be a painful time. Our desire to move quickly toward action should not diminish our ability to mourn and take care of ourselves. Rather, it should reinforce our commitment to supporting one another. As those who have been pursuing this work over lifetimes know, the work is arduous, and it can be draining. Those who do it take risks in the name of a brighter and better future for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, not the least of which is the physical distance that makes it harder to comfort and connect with one another, and the pandemic is still with us. Please continue to check in on each other. Take care of yourself. We need each and every one of you in this march toward justice.

In peace,


  • 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.