Coronavirus Update -- Students-- March 18

Dear Cooper Union Students,

Normally, we look forward to Spring Break as a chance to break up our everyday routines. This past week has felt anything but routine, but it’s certainly not the kind of change we had in mind less than two short weeks ago. The unique nature of the Coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented impact on our daily lives. While our commitment to our collaborative project of a Cooper Union education has remained steadfast, decision-making about the remainder of the semester has been an evolving process, as our responses and plans have had to keep pace with various directives from our federal, state, and city governments. 

Over the past few days, your deans and other members of our leadership team have been in constant communication about the growing number of challenging decisions this situation has introduced. I want to assure you that we have had the health and well-being of each and every one of you and your education in mind through all of our conversations. Holding these things in balance has been at the heart of each decision we have made. 

It is with these elements in mind that I write to share the news that the remainder of the spring semester will be fully conducted online. I expect this news is saddening to many, including myself. However, not only is the safety of each of our students, faculty, and staff at the forefront of our minds in this decision, the health of the collective public is a paramount concern. 

Some have asked whether we could still leave open the possibility of finishing out the semester at Cooper, particularly for students whose work typically relies on use of labs, studios, and fabrication tools. We understand this, and it has been a difficult decision to make. The reality is that health experts and local, state, and federal governments are suggesting that limitations on travel and gatherings of even reasonably small groups of people may last at least eight weeks, putting us at the end of the semester. Even if the guidance from experts and government changes, and restrictions on gatherings and travel are lifted, a transition back to on-campus teaching will create even more disruption for the vast majority of students and faculty. 

We are cognizant that some of you have been wondering whether you should travel home with the outside chance that we would return to in-person instruction. Transitioning fully to distance learning will eliminate the difficult decisions about whether to stay or leave at this time, and provide a bit of certainty in these uncertain times. 

For those of you living in the Residence Hall, please know that your housing is secure should you need or want to stay. Dean Chamberlin will follow up with additional information on that front. He and the deans of your academic programs will also follow up on how you can retrieve things from your studios, lockers, rooms, etc. We are not asking people to rush back to gather their things. If you need extra time, we will work with you on an extended schedule that takes into account the constraints of travel, cost, and other factors, though if you are able to pack up now, it may be easier to do that than to plan for a pick-up date later.

It is with a heavy heart that we also must cancel the May Commencement ceremony in its traditional on-campus format, as well as the End of Year Show, Senior Shows and Exhibitions, and all other events planned through the spring semester. To the Class of 2020: Commencement is a rite of passage. We are determined to still celebrate your accomplishments, especially your fortitude during this unprecedented time, through an alternative format. As we consider what these options would be, we welcome your suggestions for how to make sure this celebration is meaningful to you.

If you have concerns about any of these decisions or need help working through your plans, please know that you have our support. I encourage you to contact Dean Chris Chamberlin, or your academic deans, who are prepared to answer your questions and assist you during this transition. Hala Alkasm is also a resource for international students with questions specific to their situation.

One of the many benefits to being a school that is small in size is that it is easier to know one another and to stay connected to each other. We plan to stay a community, though a virtual one, throughout this semester. Please continue to check your Cooper email, tune into our social media channels, and reach out to your dean, faculty, and fellow students to stay in touch. The need for distance may be a physical barrier, but we won’t let it be a barrier to our social and collegial connections. We are in this together.

In solidarity,

  • 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.