Silent Protest on the Grand Staircase

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

At 12:30 in the afternoon on March 6th, students from The Cooper Union came together to sit on the Grand Staircase.  The original plan was for the student body to meet on the grand staircase and then move to where the Board of Trustee’s mythic March meeting was taking place.  According to a Facebook post advertising the protest, “The protest will be non-violent and completely silent, but it will be an opportunity to show the board that we can stand as one whole in support of our school.”

At 12:35, the protestors turned completely silent.  The Grand Staircase was entirely covered in students, save for a small aisle to allow the occasional passerby to walk down.  There were far too many students there to count.  Every whisper seemed loud enough to be heard as passersby stood around in the lobby.  Students were walking around on the fourth floor, taking pictures of the protestors.  From the second floor, the sound of each of these shutters clicking was very audible.  It was a deafening silence.

A few minutes later, student Pete Halupka, an organizer of the event, singled out each of the three majors and asked all students of that major to raise their hands.  The representation from each of the three majors was fairly even.  He then asked that all students raise their hand, in an effort to show that our majors are merely a superficial boundary we must conquer.

Halupka then informed the silent protestors that the Board of Trustees meeting had been moved to an off-campus location, and that this is the first time that such a meeting has been moved off-campus.

Another student, Caleb Wang spoke briefly about the planning of the silent protest and explained that the differences in opinion between students can only be a good thing, and encouraged interdisciplinary discussion and civil debate.

Near the end of the protest, a student stood in lobby and asked the protestors to raise their hand if they agree with the mission statement of the school as it is currently written.  Nearly every protestor raised his or her hand.  He then asked if the protestors agree that “an injury to one is an injury to all.”  Again, nearly every protestor raised his or her hand.  This was followed by applause.

Wang spoke a few words before the protest ended, again encouraging inter-major discussion and debate as Halupka wrote “We Care” on pieces of duct tape that he handed out to the protestors.

The event ended a little before 1 pm.

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