In Simple Terms: Lipton on Enrollment

By Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)

When charging tuition at Cooper Union became a reality, a fear began to take root in the community that we were going to dilute the excellence of our students by charging tuition—a fear that we might now let in anybody who could pay to attend. The fears were understandable, and indeed, there have been perceptible shifts in the type of student that now enrolls at Cooper Union. Moreover, the fact that tuition is now charged has drastically changed the questions on the minds of prospective students as they weigh Cooper against other schools.

Though only two years have passed since tuition was first levied, there is now some concrete basis of fact to begin to understand the enrollment trends. In a recorded interview with The Pioneer last month, Dean Mitchell Lipton, Vice President of Enrollment Services, and Dean John Falls, Associate Dean of Admissions, explained some of these trends. The Office of Admissions also submits an annual “Admissions Summary” report to the Board of Trustees, with enrollment statistics and demographic data. The Admissions Summary for Fall 2015 was shared with The Pioneer to supplement this interview.

What follows here is a brief overview of the analyses without any jargon. In simple terms:

The academic quality of students has not changed.

The Admissions Summary report includes historic data on the quality of incoming students stretching back 15 years. In the report, the academic profile consists of high school average grades and SAT scores. By the numbers at least, the quality of students has not changed significantly.

In theory, SAT scores are a direct way to measure aptitude of students. The big caveat, however, is that SAT scores are also indicators of wealth. Broadly speaking, students with higher income levels tend to achieve higher scores on the SAT—and Lipton is aware of that. So maybe that means Cooper Union just has wealthier students now, not smart ones?

When asked to scrutinize the SAT for its use in the admissions process, Lipton responded, “it’s only one [indicator], and it’s not the only indicator we use. Standardized tests like that SAT are only way to compare students from different schools and education systems. Two students coming from two very different educational backgrounds, how do they perform on this one test on this one day?”.

Lipton was quick to point out that there are other indicators, too. The Deans of the three schools are in the position to comment on the performance of students after enrolling.

The admissions team is focused on choosing students who are able to survive and thrive in the intense academic setting at Cooper. Lipton: “the million-dollar question is how do we find a way to take students that are disadvantaged by a lower socioeconomic level, and so on average have test scores lower than we’re used to seeing at Cooper Union, and figure out which of those students will be successful here?” Lipton continued by saying that this is the motivation for having home-tests in the admissions process for the schools of art and architecture—and perhaps a home-test for engineering in the future.

More students from higher income backgrounds, more students from lower income backgrounds, and fewer students from the middle. 

That’s not to say Cooper is only seeing high- and low-income students or that the admissions office is doing this in a targeted way. The trend is one of stratification: more movement to the upper and lower ends of income. This is a result of financial considerations on the minds of students applying and enrolling at Cooper.

For all students, regardless of income, there are non-tuition costs of attending school in New York City. That’s living costs like food, rent, books and other supplies. It adds up to $9,000 on the low end and $24,000 on the high end, per year. Even with a full-tuition scholarship, it still costs money to come to Cooper.

Lipton explained how some students with lower incomes are now in a better position than before. Right now, they may receive the full-tuition scholarship from Cooper; other private grants from Cooper and many are also eligible for Pell grants from the federal government. These are parts of the ‘sliding scale’ that makes up financial aid. Any combination of these can help to offset the costs, even the non-tuition ones listed above.

Middle-income students are typically not eligible for Pell grants. And with only a half-tuition scholarship, the costs of attending Cooper are even greater.

On the other hand, students with higher incomes could probably afford to pay higher tuition ($30-50k) elsewhere, but they choose to come to Cooper instead.

The concerning part is, Lipton said, “What we’re struggling with now is how do we do our best to help middle-income students?” The people in the middle will go to college somewhere, but right now, that’s more likely to be somewhere other than Cooper. Particularly for middle class New Yorkers, the option of attending state schools like SUNY and CUNY is now more affordable. Again, that’s not to say there are no middle-income students at Cooper—just that the choice of enrolling at Cooper is tougher for them right now.

In general terms, Cooper will remain less attractive to middle income students for the foreseeable future. Lipton said, “The Office of Development has been trying to make more money available for financial aid. Until that happens, the concerns about making it easier for middle-income students will remain.”

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Attracting students to apply is more difficult now. Cooper is expending more effort to attract students from outside the New York area.

“When I first came here 20 years ago, there were no tours for prospective students. There was just an open house once a year in the fall. So I asked, what happens if you’re not able to come to that event?” That’s to say the sentiment in the past was “we’re really good at what we, people want to be here. They’ll find a way to look at us, find a way to apply and find a way to come here”—even if the school does little to make itself accessible and known to prospective students.

In the spring of 2013, when the Board decided to charge tuition, it obviously damaged Cooper’s attractiveness to prospective students. This was no surprise however. Lipton: “We knew that there was no way we were going to just survive on our contacts in the local area.” In the past, Cooper has consistently accepted students from magnet schools in the New York area like Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School, and others outside New York like New World School of the Arts, Design and Architecture High School and Interlochen Arts Academy. But enrollment from these high schools will not drastically increase to make up for Cooper’s reduced attractiveness now.

In other words, it was immediately obvious that Cooper would have to spend more energy to actively attract applicants. “We can’t just sit back and say ‘we’re still this great school and people are going to find us on their own.’ We have to be more aggressive about seeking out applicants.” And further, in Lipton’s opinion, “we need to do that in a way that maintains our integrity and identity. It doesn’t mean we should sell out and do things that are cheesy.”

So where is the Office of Admissions looking outside of New York? There have been trips to Texas, Florida, California, and Lipton confirmed that there were international trips to China and India, too. Lipton: “Yes, we visited schools in China to try and find students who would be interested and appropriate for Cooper. We’ve had some really strong students from Beijing No. 4 High School, for example.”

But, why were these places picked in particular? The short answer is that these efforts are limited by cost. “We might go for a week and try to visit 15-20 high schools so that we can meet as many students as we can.” The shortlist is made through Cooper’s membership in a network called World Leading Schools Association. Through this network, Cooper finds high schools that have exchange programs with American universities, and so by Lipton’s argument, are places that his team can potentially find students who will fit in and do well at Cooper.

Beyond that though, the Cooper community has a perception that international students perhaps have more money and so are being admitted in greater numbers.

When asked to reconcile with this perception, Lipton responded, “My main goal was not that we can find students there that can pay. My main goal was making sure we have a large pool of quality applicants.”

An increase in the number of women applying and being accepted to engineering.

Lipton credits this to the annual Women in Engineering event that the admissions office puts on, strong initiatives from student clubs like the Society of Women Engineers and the fact that the electrical engineering department hired a female full-time faculty member. “We moved the needle a little bit, but not to any great degree just yet,” said Lipton. “It continues to be an area that we clearly need to do more.”

A drop in the number of applicants to the School of Art; more engineering applicants than ever before

For the first time, the art school saw fewer applicants than the engineering school. There was a decrease in the total number of applicants across all three schools in 2014, but that bounced back in 2015 due to a vast increase in the number of engineering applicants. The number of art applicants, meanwhile, has remained low. (Caveat: two years doesn’t fully make a trend. Look at the charts on reverse).

A drop in the number of engineering applicants who choose to enroll at Cooper after being offered admission

It used to be that around 65% of engineering applicants who were offered admission would follow through and actually enroll. After tuition, it dropped to 52% in 2014 and 45% in 2015. In simple terms, this happened for two main reasons: first, and most obvious, tuition means an increased cost of attending; so fewer applicants choose to enroll. The second reason, according to Lipton, was that Cooper’s applicant pool has always been at the higher end of the academic profile. We always have smart students apply. After tuition, the admissions team has been sending offers to students that have shown even higher levels of achievement. Lipton puts it this way: “All else equal, if you admit a student with near perfect scores—well, that person has many options and offers from other schools and is less likely to choose you [Cooper].”

This trend has not been observed in the schools of art and architecture, which both continue to enjoy around 90% ‘yield’ as they always have.

News Bulletin

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19) and Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19) 

Elections for student council representatives for the upcoming school year are happening right now. Architecture reps have already been chosen, art reps are being chosen now, and elections for engineering reps open today and are to last for the next week.  The link to vote will be sent to each student—make sure to vote!

The student body has voted Clara Zinky (Art ‘18),
Julian Mayfield (Art ‘18), and Jacqueline Baum (Art ‘18) as the top three candidates for Student Trustee. Zinky and Mayfield each earned 68 votes while Baum trailed by a small margin with 66 votes. A total of 314 students voted in the elections. The Board of Trustees will interview each of the three candidates and ultimately select one for a two-year term as Student Trustee.

The Cooper Union’s accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education will take place in spring 2018. In preparation, Cooper Union will undergo a series of planning and review activities, according to a campus-wide email from Acting President Bill Mea. The Cooper Union’s mission statement (last approved in 2000) must be “reassessed and updated” in order to comply with particular requirements and standards published by Middle States.

On April 9, a team of Cooper civil engineering students won first place at the 2016 regional Steel Bridge Competition hosted by American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) at

the City College of New York.  The students designed a steel bridge according to strict specifications that emphasized strength, short build-time and cost. The team was led by Co-Captains Brian Wong and Nolana Wong, Design Captain Amos Chung, Fabrication Captain Zach Chang, Build Captain Nina Berlow, and Outreach Manager Miles Barber. The team hopes to compete in the national competition, held in Utah, in the end of May.

This week is Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
Organized by RAs Jessica Marshall (EE ‘17) and Stephanie Restrepo (Arch ‘17) in conjunction with the Office of Residence Life and Student Affairs, the week-long sexual assault awareness campaign aims to increase the visibility of sexual assault and to break down stigmas. The Clothesline Project, in the lobby of the NAB, is an installation exhibiting anonymously submitted stories from Cooper students.

Coming Soon: The Cooper Union Library Initiates Friends Program. Cooper Union alumni have always been welcome to use, but not borrow, the Library’s books and materials. Coming soon, the Library will initiate its Friends of the Cooper Union Library program. For a nominal annual fee, with a special discount for this year’s graduates, alumni will be able to borrow circulating items. (Please note: borrowing privileges are valid only at the Cooper Union Library, not at other libraries associated with Cooper’s Library Consortium.) Watch for detailed announcements soon via campuswide email and on the Library website.

Dean of the School of Art, Saskia Bos, plans to resign her position and move to Europe by June 30. She has spent over ten years in that position. The announcement comes as the School of Art is seeking candidates for a full-time faculty position. Dean Bos wrote in a campus-wide email that she is “leaving on a high note” now that Cooper Union is “on the way back to its original mission.” She indicates that the move will provide her more time to travel, work on new projects, and reconnect with friends and family. Dean Bos adds: “Cooper will remain forever in my heart as a place where talent and critical thinking are the key components of a small and very special student- and faculty-focused community.”

All three student councils are coming together to reform the Joint Student Council this summer. The JSC constitution hasn’t been updated since 1998 and is being edited by a proposed Constitution Committee that will consist of two representatives from each of the three student councils. The structure and reps that will sit on the committee have not been decided yet.

The Pioneer’s own Monica Chen (ME ’18) was named the Grand Champion of this year’s game of Assasins. “Most kills goes to the generally incompetent and probably just lucky, Chris Panebianco (ChE ’16).” Meanwhile, Andrey Kovalev (CE ’16) won second place.

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Student Trustee candidates at the open forum hosted by The Pioneer on April 4. Within strict time limits, candidates answered questions about their understanding of the role and their personal stances on free education, transparency, and governance. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE ‘19).

April 19 Primaries, A Guide To Success and Happiness

By Michael Pasternak (ME ’17) 

Tomorrow, April 19, are the New York primaries for the President of The United States.  Uniquely, this primary could very well decide the Democratic Party’s nominee alone.  On the Republican side, it could make or break a victory for Donald Trump in terms of giving him a clear mandate as the nominee or showing a clear warrant for a contested convention.  This may be the most significant vote any of us ever cast, in fact.  For that reason, below are the steps any local Cooper student will need to take in order to vote, assuming they have already registered.  Polling will be open from 9 am to 9 pm, there’s no excuse not to vote!

To Check Registration
Status you should visit the voter lookup website and enter your information. Once entered, you can follow the link to find the nearest polling place. If you are not in their system or your details are incorrect, immediately call (212)-866-2100 and ask about your registration status.  You may need to bring an ID to the polls if there was a mistake with your registration; it’s best to get ahead of it by calling them.  It’s important to note that you can only vote in the primary of the party for which you are registered.  Sanders and Clinton are Democrats, Trump, Cruz, and Kasich are Republicans.

If You Live in the Dorms:
Your polling place is the NYU alumni hall across from the dorms, couldn’t be easier.  Please bring your whole room and have voting parties!

If You Live in Stuy Town:
Your polling place is 451 East 14th Street (Stuyvesant Town IX).  Same advice applies as far as bringing as many people as possible!

If You Live Elsewhere:
Follow the voter lookup instructions from the link above to find your nearest polling location.

Not the March Madness You’re Thinking of, the Other One

Toby Stein ( CE’18)

March Madness 1 PC Winter

Professor Yecko (above) and Professor Baglione (below) present at the 2nd Annual March Madness event on Tuesday, March 29. Photos by Winter Leng (ChE ‘18).

March Madness 2 PC Winter

It was March, and it was Madness. What can only be summarized as a semi-packed Rose Auditorium gathered to hear our own professors orate on the topics that they held most near, and most dear to their hearts. As professors slowly trickled into Rose, the excitement in the air was palpable, like the buzz before a championship game. All week the professors practiced their three-minute drills. What they would do under pressure? How would they keep their composure after a call did not go their way? Only time would tell.

After a quick coin flip and introductory statement, Dean Anita Raja took the snap, and handed it off to the first back, perennial contender, Professor Mintchev. Starting of the game strong, and setting the bar high, Mintchev spoke about his interest in mathematical neuroscience, however, he drew a five yard penalty due to his lack of regard for the apparently strict ‘only five words after the buzzer goes off’ rule.  Following right after him was the rapid-fire duo of Professor Cataldo speaking about the green roof on the Javits Center, and then Professor Baglione explaining possible energy efficiency improvements to the engineering building, as well as research within the vibrations lab. Batting cleanup was Professor Davis who hit an absolute tape measure home run with his explanation of designing chemical processes that are more sustainable and have less impact of on the environment. Much to the tangible anticipation of everyone in the audience, Professor Yecko stormed the stage, ignoring the doctor’s advice, and boldly playing through his broken hand to deliver a MVP performance in discussing the intricacies of transport and control in time dependent and stochastic flows. As the first quarter wrapped up, it was shaping up to be an absolute blowout, but the oncoming professors were confident primed for a strong inning in the next round.

Unfortunately, the second period began with a bit of a sad start, as Professor Topper was reported out for the rest of the game due to sickness. The fans, however, were still given a show, watching his power point in silence for the duration of what would be his time. The audience described it as “the most hard hitting presentation of the day” and “the silence spoke volumes to his research”. Similarly, Professor Cumberbatch also reported an injury, as he had a case of ‘being in Ghana’, and his
presentation had to be delivered by his replacement: perennial senior Chris Curro. Blazing through the middle innings were Professor Dell with his description of engineering the impossible, Professor Raja with her crusade towards predicting preterm birth, and Professor Wolf with his use of high speed video cameras to study a variety of engineering and science topics as well as building with magnetic fields.

Quickly emerging from the locker room, with his “basement prototype” Professor Smyth explained how simple introductory linear algebra could be coupled with some cannibalized Logitech instruments to create a mouse that provided the user with motion with six degrees of freedom. Professor Fontaine quickly asserted his play calling expertise in demonstrating how you “cheat” to represent information with less data than the theory requires. Point guard Professor Sidebotham explained a new theory on space heating technology, much to the chagrin of the chilly audience members who were seemingly affected by the quick change in the rink’s weather conditions.

The bottom half of the genetic engineering set was covered by outside hitter Professor Medvedik, as he explained what is innovative on the frontier of recombinant DNA technology. Next, Professor Luchtenburg discussing his research into modeling and feedback control of complex systems, with specific reference to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Professor Wootton’s investigation into better classifying and quantifying sleep apnea put major points up on the scoreboard, and he left the stage confident that his final score would put his team over the top so that they could snag the victory.

Overall, March Madness was a resounding success yet again, drawing a massive crowd, young and old alike. If you were a complete hooligan of a human and did not show up, but are interested in doing some research into some of the presentations discussed above, I encourage you to talk to a professor, and find out what you can do this summer to help them out!

Make Cooper Great Again – Really!

By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19) and Brandon Quinere (CE ’19) 

There is another very important election in our midst this year. Your friends and family aren’t ranting about it on Facebook, but it should have just as much attention and concern devoted to it, as it affects our student body and your personal experience as a student at Cooper much more intimately. Plus, this one doesn’t involve Donald Trump.

Voting for the Student Trustee opens today, and talk surrounding it has been somewhat sparse. In the weeks leading up to today, students have been relatively silent about the election itself. While signatures were required for nominees to run, students signing were unaware about the plans of the candidates and the candidates themselves, let alone what a Trustee actually does for us. The lack of concern surrounding this election is frightening, as it leaves the Cooper community left with a student vote without the support or awareness from which that vote requires: the students themselves.

There isn’t much history behind the Student Trustee as the position was recently created.  Monica Abdallah (ChE ‘17) and Jessica Marshall (EE ‘17), the current Trustees, are the first students to hold the position, whereas Devora Najjar (ChE ‘16) was the first Student Representative to the board.

Jessica was elected as the next Student Representative in the spring of 2015 but became the Student Trustee as the Consent Decree, approved in November 2015, stated that there should be two Trustees to the board.  The second Trustee was chosen by the board from the two students who ran against Jessica in the previous year; the board chose Monica as the second Trustee. From then on, the process of voting for the Trustee was staggered. One of the first two Trustees, Monica, will only hold the position for one year, which allows for voting for a new Trustee to begin today.

Though both jobs share a lot of similarities, there is one huge difference between the role of Student Trustee and the role of Student Representative: Student Trustees can vote.  But having the ability to vote makes the Student Trustees look at everything from a fiduciary standpoint; As Jessica states, “We have to do what’s best for the Cooper Union, the institution.  Not what’s best for our constituencies, the student body.”

So, what does the board vote on?  The board discusses various issues that range from the budget of the school to the new president search and all of these issues are discussed in separate committees like the Governance, Academic and Student Affairs, Presidential Search, and Free Education Committees.  A lot of the decisions that affect Cooper immediately are made by the administration and faculty of Cooper, what some call “the Cooper bubble.”

In essence, the board deals with long-term goals and fundamentally have “big picture final say, not implementation final say,” as Jessica puts it, which in turn brings in the role of the Student Trustee. The job of the Student Trustee is to listen in on the discussion and voice their opinions when they feel that something in the big picture either does or does not sit well with them.

The role of Student Trustee is very difficult to hold, as there is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained in terms of the relationships between the Trustees and the student body, as well as between the Trustees and the administration. “There’s more going on than what people see; there are confidential ideas that if exposed to the entire Cooper community, would be twisted very quickly,” Jessica states.

It is clear that Student Trustees cannot divulge everything that is discussed during board meetings. Recognizing confidentiality during these discussions is immensely important for the position, as Jessica explains, “Though people want transparency, it’s not necessarily beneficial to the community as many good ideas are lost before they were even thoroughly discussed.”

The nominees for the Student Trustee position are Jacqueline Baum (Art ‘18), Zhenia Dementyeva (Arch ‘20), Julian Mayfield (Art ‘18), Waseem Nafisi (Art ‘18), Kevin Savillon (Arch ‘19), and Clara Zinky (Art ‘18). Speaking to some of the nominees individually over the past couple of weeks revealed an interesting range of motives for each in regards to running.

Regardless if candidates were motivated to run for any reason other than to better engage our student body, the mystery surrounding the sincerity of our candidates’ motives would rightfully generate some suspiciousness in any curious voter. The events of last week in preparation for today’s Trustee election attempted to alleviate that concern, to what many consider subpar results.

The Student Trustee Forum held in Rose Auditorium last Wednesday night was loosely moderated. Though the more Trustee-related questions had the intention of showcasing the candidates’ knowledge about their role, they were executed in a way that allowed nominees to branch off of each other’s answers. The forum became more conversational, and while good for generating healthy discussion, it did not reveal individual views for each, which was important for any student in the audience to hear.

The style of the forum was somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as it did serve its purpose in showing the Cooper community whether some of the candidates truly understood their role as a Student Trustee. Many candidates were confused as to what the role entails and have not done sufficient research to figure out the extent of the job. Case in point, when asked if they sought out advice or knowledge from current Student Trustees Jessica and Monica, the candidates on stage remained silent.

The students in the audience, on the other hand, were not as silent as they had an opportunity to pose their own questions for the candidates. A portion of the forum was saved for this audience Q&A, which still did not aid in understanding the strategies of our candidates, with responses instead focusing on personal ideologies rather than actual plans. This was displayed in the amount of students that stayed in Rose to reflect on the forum after it was over.

Students voiced their concerns to peers as well as to the candidates themselves on how this platform for them to speak was unsuccessfully acted upon. Allowing students to vent these opinions to each other in person, however, was a refreshing change of pace from the slew of passionate rants that has become prevalent on our Facebook feeds.

Cooper students have a tendency to privately complain to their friends or publicly complain on social media about the way our school is run. That is expected to happen for any opinionated student at any institution, but those objections are only justifiable if you actually participate in our student affairs. How can your peers take your grievances about the Student Trustees seriously if you never voted for a Trustee in the first place?

If you don’t feel personally represented by any of the candidates or feel that last week’s forum did not help with understanding the candidates, talk to them and make your own judgment as to who could have the ability to serve as your Trustee for the next two years. The majority of the candidates at the forum stressed how accessible they would be to students if they had any personal concerns. Take advantage of that accessibility this week.

Ultimately, vote and be smart about your vote.  Your votes will decide which three of our candidates will be sent to the Board of Trustees to be interviewed and ultimately selected for the position. It is your duty as Cooper students to exercise your right to vote in deciding who will be our next Trustee.

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  Use this week to educate yourself and make an informed decision. And if you still choose not to participate in this week’s election: this decision to not vote will greatly affect you.

Even if you are at Cooper solely to learn, this election impacts you in ways that you probably don’t even realize. Student Trustees are sitting in on and speaking in discussions that directly affect Cooper. And what affects the institution will, in some shape or form, affect the student body.

One day, you will find yourself up personally affected by a change in our school. You may find yourself up in arms about this change, a perfectly rational reaction. What’s
irresponsible is an inability to take on an opportunity when it’s provided to you to prevent that change from happening in the first place. Regardless of who you choose this week, voting for your next Student Trustee is that opportunity. It would be wise to use it.

So an Artist, an Architect, and an Engineer Walk into a Room…

By Daniel Galperin (ChE ’18) 

Common Ground Photo by Sage Gu CE '19

Photo by Sage Gu (CE ’19).

Everyone knows that we’re a resourceful bunch, but have you ever considered what four Cooper students could do with a medium sized room, some free food and an icebreaker? Anyone that attended the “Common Ground” event on March 24, knows that this is a pretty good recipe for school unity. Approximately 50 students followed the scent of Vanessa’s dumplings and kosher pizza right into a trap: a room full of strangers.

Common Ground was revived, after three years, by a group of four students: Clara Zinky (Art ‘18), Waseem Nafisi (Art ‘18), Benjamin Greenberg (ME ‘17) and Zhenia Dementyeva (Arch ‘20). The night began with some friendly conversation and food—no surprises here—and then progressed into an icebreaker exercise to acquaint people in the room. The organizers put forward a real challenge, one certainly fit for Cooper students. Fifty students were told to close their eyes and were moved around and partnered up. The partners were to get to know each other’s hands in total silence. While keeping their eyes closed and remaining silent, the crowd was shuffled again and made to find their way back to their partners. Needless to say it was an interesting exercise and helped to connect people who’ve never met.

The main event, however, was the tours of the labs and studios throughout Cooper. The organizers divided the students into groups of five or six students, making sure each group involved only people who did not know each other. The groups were then set free and many groups went floor-by-floor through 41CS and the Foundation Building, as engineers showed off their labs and artists and architects showed off their studios. Some groups held their tours until as late as 1AM.

Common Ground was a smashing success all around and was an important step in bonding the students of the three schools. Seeing people set aside any social, political and otherwise ideological differences and getting along was a truly inspiring sight. The importance of unity between students across schools is vital at this junction in Cooper Union’s history, and it is important for people connect with each other through their work and share mutual respect for one another. For anyone out there that missed this event, despair not! The organizers are already working on another Common Ground early next semester. Hope to CU there!

Bill Mea: All Spaces on Campus Degendered

By Monica Chen (ME ’18)

In a campus notice email on March 18, The Cooper Union administration announced  a decision to remove signs of gender identification from all spaces on campus.

The original proposal was made in December 2015, where Acting President Mea attempted to reach a compromise between those who opposed the gender-neutral bathrooms and those who endorsed the idea by proposing the following modifications:

(1) Unlocking and opening all single-stall bathrooms on campus for anyone to use

(2) Opening gender-specified bathrooms to all who identify with the indicated gender

Following this proposal, Bill Mea sought out feedback from students and the rest of the community. The proposal’s mild stance was met with passionate responses by many students seeking a greater degree of change. Mea met with students at length and these conversations strongly influenced the final implementations set in place last month. The new policies regarding the use of bathroom facilities include:

(1) Removing gender identifications from any spaces on campus

(2) Opening single-occupancy restrooms for everyone’s use

Additionally, the NYC Commission of Human Rights’ legal guidance states “that individuals be permitted to use single-sex facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, and participate in single-sex programs, consistent with their gender, regardless of their sex assigned at birth, anatomy, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on their identification.” In short, it explains that New York State laws prohibit any policies that deny transgender or gender non-conforming individuals access to a single-sex facility that is consistent with their chosen gender identity.

The Cooper Union administration’s decision in March to remove signs of gender identification on restrooms has caught the attention of various news outlets. The Guardian quotes Bill Mea, “When there’s a gendered space, there’s a sense of ownership to that space. When people see someone who they think doesn’t belong there, it can create stress for everyone. So we thought, let’s just take that away.”

In response to the reaction of the general student population to the implementation of the policies,  Mea said, “I don’t expect much to change [with the implementation of the new policies]. People will continue to use the restrooms they are used to using regardless of the signage on them. That is what we have seen in Foundation [building] over the past few months. Most of the responses have been very favorable, but some people do not what things to change and I recognize that change is difficult for most people.”

“We, who are in positions of power, have the obligation to not only stand with those without power, but to stand in front of them, clearing a path for them to walk,” wrote Bill Mea.