September 2013 Board Report

Below is a summary of the actions taken by the Board of Trustees Meeting at its September 18, 2013 meeting:

New Trustee

The President of the Cooper Union Alumni Association serves ex-officio as a Cooper Union Trustee. The Board welcomed its newest member, John Leeper (AR’85), who was elected as President of the Cooper Union Alumni Association effective July 1, 2013.


The Board of Trustees elected Kevin Slavin (A’95) as Alumnus Trustee to begin his term at the December 2013 Board of Trustees meeting for a four-year term. Mr. Slavin is Assistant Professor and Founder of the Playful Systems group at the MIT Media Lab, and is a former ad executive, entrepreneur, seed capital investor and educator.

Succession Planning

Consistent with the timeline distributed in June (2013), the Committee on Trustees reported on its selection process and recommended a candidate to succeed Chairman Epstein upon the expiration of his term in December. Upon motion duly made and seconded, the Board of Trustees placed Trustee Richard Lincer’s name in nomination for election at the annual meeting of the Board in December as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The trustees and the president expressed enormous satisfaction with this choice. Mr. Lincer is a Partner with the firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in New York. He is the son of a Cooper alumnus (CE ’42) and has been a trustee for nine years.

Student Representative to the Board of Trustees

In June (2013), the Board of Trustees approved a motion affirming the Board’s intention to have student representation on the Board of Trustees, with details to be determined at the September Board of Trustees meeting. The Committee on Trustees was charged with researching and recommending to the Board the procedures and parameters for the student representative position. The Committee on Trustees consulted with other private institutions of higher education, higher education best practices organizations and legal counsel to develop the recommendations listed below for the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees is pleased to have taken this important step to bring the students’ perspective to the Board at a critical time in the institution’s history. The Office of Student Affairs, led by Stephen Baker, will now begin to work with the Joint Student Council to have the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees in place in time for the annual meeting in December.

Following a review and discussion of the recommendations presented by the Committee on Trustees, the Board unanimously adopted the following:

• Establish a Student Representative to the Board of Trustees with effect from December 2013.

• The Student Representative will be a full-time undergraduate matriculated student in good standing (the definition of which will be determined by the Office of Student Affairs).

• To be eligible to serve as the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees, a student must be able to serve a term defined by two consecutive academic years. The first Student Representative to the Board of Trustees would serve for a two-year term until the June 2015 meeting, and would be succeeded by a new Student Representative approved in the spring of 2015 to begin his/her term in September for two consecutive academic years .

• The Joint Student Council will establish the election process by which three candidates will be selected to interview for the Student Representative position with the Committee on Trustees.

• The Committee on Trustees, working with the Office of Student Affairs to meet with all three candidates will select one for confirmation by the Board of Trustees as Student Representative to the Board of Trustees. Upon confirmation of the nominee by the Board, the student will serve as the Student Representative for the term outlined above. The student would commence service immediately upon approval at the December meeting of the Board of Trustees.

• The Committee on Trustees will work with the Office of Student Affairs to educate prospective candidates on the responsibilities, duties, etc. of a Student Representative to the Board of Trustees and to further define the role of the Student Representative.

The student representative to the Board is intended to represent the voice of student body. The student representative will attend all board meetings and, to the extent determined by the chair, executive sessions of the Board. Consistent with the approach adopted by many university boards, and recognizing that there are certain recurring decisions that involve inherent tensions between the role of student and board member (such as tenure decisions), the Student Representative will not have a formal vote (or the same level of fiduciary liability as a voting board member), but his or her concurrence, objection or abstention will be reflected in the minutes.

Working Group

It was agreed on July 11 of this year that a Working Group comprised of trustees, administrators, full-time faculty, alumni and students, co-chaired by Trustees Michael Borkowsky and Jeff Gural, would be established. The Working Group co-chairs later agreed to include a part-time faculty member and a member of the staff.

The Working Group’s charge, as stated in the July 11 agreement is to explore ways for The Cooper Union to:

  • Revert back to providing full-tuition scholarships for all enrolled students,
  • Establish a sustainable financial model, and
  • Preserve and invest in academic excellence.

The Working Group is to submit its recommendations to the administration and Board of Trustees by December 1 for consideration at the Board’s December meeting. The members of the Working Group, selected either through appointment or election, are listed below.*

Jakob Beirnat

Student (Art)

Michael Borkowsky (Co-chair) (ME'61)


Robert Brumer

Student (Engineering)

Lawrence Cacciatore


Teresa Dahlberg


Barry Drogin (EE '83, MEE '86)

Alumni (EE '83, MEE '86)

Atina Grossmann

FT Faculty (HSS)

Jeffrey Gural (Co-Chair)


Catharine Hill


Diane Lewis (AR'76)

FT Faculty (Architecture)

Sue McCoy


Christine Osinski

FT Faculty (Art)

Arta Perezic

Student (Architecture)

Victoria Sobel (A'13)

Alumni (Art '13)

Robert Tan (AR'81)

Alumni (AR '81)

TBD (election not yet held)

FT Faculty (Engineering)

TBD (election not yet held)

Staff Representative

TBD (election not yet held)

PT Faculty Representative

* Representatives as of September 23, 2013

It was also agreed that the definition of a sustainable financial model would be provided to the Working Group by the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees. That definition was approved by the Finance Committee, and was accepted by the Board of Trustees at the September meeting.

Trustees Borkowsky and Gural reported that the elections of representatives by the various constituencies are nearly complete. They anticipate calling the first meeting of the Working Group within the next week or two.

  • 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.