Letter from the Deans: June 16, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
Last week we were in receipt of an impassioned and urgent student letter which outlined a call to foster an actively anti-racist institution. The letter was concurrent with our own communication amongst the faculty and Cabinet, asking how we might respond to the systemic discrimination and unjust racial disparities that have continually impacted our country, and indeed, our own institution.
In an attempt to further understand the contents and concerns within the letter that directly address the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, we promptly convened students, faculty and staff into a town hall forum last Wednesday evening, the first of many. The meeting, though just a start, was sincere and insightful, and a clear indicator of how much work we need to do. Within the meeting we heard the urgent need to listen, to self-assess, and to collaborate towards a broader horizon. The themes as outlined covered topics about the integrity of communication and outreach, the decolonization of our pedagogy, the empowerment of our staff, faculty and students, as well as the resources for mental help, among other things, that will be made available to ensure that action may be taken.

To that end, this is an initial response to advance our school together as a community, through a set of actions --not just words, beginning with a number of focused areas: to foster diversity within the student and faculty body, reevaluate the curriculum through an Anti/Post/De Colonial lens, expand environmental competence to intersect across more courses, address the inequities of labor, health and power in the built environment, build alliances with our design studios, and develop a more robust system for emotional support and mental health. We understand that these talking points do not cover all concerns, and thus, we will also be calling more town halls meetings to round out a range of issues that have not yet had the chance to surface; we also understand that not all students and members of our community have been able to enter into this discussion, so this is an opportunity to invite participation from everyone.

Over the summer and beyond, we will engage the community and assemble a task force, comprising of our faculty, students, staff, and alumni, to work together to enact real transformation across these areas. We will also convene regular workshops to restructure the curriculum and directly confront the pedagogical questions around decolonization as an epistemological project. As we do so, we will share a detailed plan of action to achieve these measures. We know we have work to do and will hold ourselves accountable. We look forward to your partnership in this process as we strive for positive change that is long overdue.  

In support and solidarity,

Nader and Hayley

  • 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.