Citywide Rally 12 8 .pdf

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Students for a Free Cooper Union lock-in to Cooper Union’s
Foundation Building to preserve free education
We, the Students for a Free Cooper Union, in
solidarity with the global student struggle and today’s
Day of Action, have locked ourselves into The Peter
Cooper Suite on the top floor of Cooper Union’s
Foundation Building. This action is in response
to the lack of transparency and accountability that
has plagued this institution for decades and now
threatens the college’s mission of free education.
We have reclaimed this space from the administration,
whom we believe is leading the college in the wrong
direction. In recent years, plans to expand Cooper
Union with tuition-based, revenue generating
educational programs have threatened the college’s
landmarked tradition of “free education to all.” These
programs are intended to grow the college out of a
financial deficit caused by decades of administrative
mismanagement. We believe that such programs are
a departure from Cooper Union’s historic mission
and will corrupt the college’s role as an ethical model
for higher education. To secure this invaluable
opportunity for future generations, we have taken the
only recourse available to us.

We will hold this space until action has been
taken to meet the following demands:
1. The administration must publicly affirm the
college’s commitment to free education. They
will stop pursuing new tuition-based educational
programs and eliminate other ways in which
students are charged for education.
2. 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.

Principles

in a growth model and reaffirm our mission, we stand

Higher Education Bubble

to our own community and other institutions as well.

The over-inflated costs of higher education have
placed more than a trillion dollars of debt onto the
backs of students. Higher education should be a
means of social mobility and intellectual liberation,
but it has devolved into an industry that exploits
students for profit. Inevitably this bubble will burst
and what appears to be a healthy and growing
educational system will be revealed as a model that
was always doomed to fail.

– 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.
3. President Bharucha steps down.

to see the principles of free education bring life back

Structures for Transparency
and Integrity
Bloated and visionless administrations have become
an epidemic threatening institutions of higher
education all across America. We must rebuild
the governance of these institutions with open flows
of information and democratic decision-making
structures. Carrying a mission such as free
education will require principled, rather than selfsustaining, leadership.

Grow Down
The administrators who have grown us into this
mess are trying to grow us out of it. Investing in
the higher education bubble is short-sighted and
uncreative. Playing a larger role in one’s community
provides strong roots. If we refuse to invest

Professor David Gersten on Free Education
It is not that The Cooper Union holds up free

to collapse, whole chains of events that may usually

education but that free education holds up

require years and decades to unfold, suddenly

The Cooper Union. We are now confronted with a

happen overnight. I believe that we are in just such

crisis that threatens to collapse this

a moment. The challenges and possibilities of this

structural principle.

crisis call for creative urgency and thoughtful,

It is not that: we can no longer afford to: freely
educate, but that we cannot afford to break the
promise of Free Education. The largest single

considered stewardship. The stakes for what happens
are enormous—how we comprehend and act in this
moment reaches far beyond the institution itself.

financial asset that the Cooper Union currently holds

If we can get this right, we will shift the trajectory,

is its promise of free education: TO ALL. The value

unleashing new geographies of education beyond our

contained within this promise far exceeds

wildest imaginations.

our current endowment.

The Cooper Union currently faces an internal

This institution is a shining demonstration of the

crisis that warrants The Cooper Union’s Great Hall as

transformative powers of removing the barriers

the location for its founding movement, and as we all

to education. We have the opportunity to clarify,

know, “Right Makes Might”.

galvanize and push forward a movement that
recognizes free education as a human right to all
people. If Peter Cooper did anything, surely it was to

David Gersten

plant the seeds of this movement. Now we have the

Cooper Union Architecture Faculty

opportunity to bring them to fruition.

Dec 6, 2012

There are times when communities achieve a
certain momentum; the spirit of place captures the
transformative spirit of a given period. When these
alignments occur, time has a tendency


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