So the legendary arts and engineering college of New York City, Cooper Union, is now occupied. The kids at Coop have locked themselves into the top floor of the foundation Building to protest new tuition rules. The one-hundred and ten-plus-year-old school has, as a part of its founding principle, not charged tuition to students. The school was created for working class students to gain an education at a time when robber barons ruled and education was for the elite.
According the the founder Peter Cooper (a philanthropic industrialist, who laid the first transatlantic telecom cables) the college should be open to any one who qualities; "independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status". Since 1904 the school has awarded full tuition for every student accepted. currently only 25 undergrads are admitted per year, making it one of the most competitive schools in the country.
The new president of Cooper Union was hired in July 2011 to figure out a way for the school, which has has been running at a deficit, to get back into the black. Cooper Union has covered its operating costs through a $600 million dollar endowment as well as real-estate holdings which include the land the Chrysler building sits on.
You'd think that would be enough of a cushion for a Board of Trustees and a President to figure out a way to raise some cash without charging a tuition after a hundred years? That's what the students think too, their letter of demands can be read here:
We will hold this space with moral insistence and safety precaution until action has been taken to meet the following demands:
- The Board of Trustees must immediately implement structural changes with the goal of creating open flows of information and democratic decision-making structures. The administration’s gross mismanagement of the school cannot be reversed within the same systems which allowed the crisis to occur. To this end, we have outlined actions that the board must take:
- Record board meetings and make minutes publicly available.
- Appoint a student and faculty member from each school as voting members of the board.
- Implement a process by which board members may be removed through a vote from the Cooper Union community, comprised of students, faculty, alumni, and administrators.
- President Bharucha steps down..