Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)
On January 15, 2014, the Cooper Union Alumni Association (CUAA) held an emergency meeting to present the Huron Group report, state the annual fund report, and discuss the Board of Trustee’s decision to not adopt the Working Group’s financial plans.
Richard Lincer was asked many questions regarding the decision and its consequences. What follows in this paragraph is a list of a few of the points made by alumni in response to the current donation situation at Cooper. Alumni are asked to donate but then are blamed by the administration for not donating enough and, at the moment, it feels as if there is no other way to support the school other than giving individual support, words, and talks. Forty-percent of Cooper alumni who had received the full-tuition scholarship have given back. Donors also need a metric of percentage, dollar value, and quantity of the fund that will work towards the deficit because it is hard to fundraise without a metric. There were 54 pages from the Working Group but there was no opportunity to revise or discuss the plan before it was given to the Board of Trustees.
The following answers by Lincer stood out as notable. Each school funds itself and donors can specify which school they donate to. MOOCs are not favorable because they degrade student experience. In order to have well-qualified people for administration positions, the Cooper Union needs to pay them. There are various events and Cooper employees that are helping to bring attention to Cooper Union. Dean Dahlberg has a long track record of large gifts. The Invention Factory video on the Rapid Packing Container went viral over winter break. There are donors who give six to seven figure gifts but the school has to respect the donor’s wishes to which part of the school the gift is given to.
Michael Lebron, an art alumni, asked Richard Lincer about the proprietary information of the algorithms used to show how the tuition model will affect the quality of the applicant pool. Lincer replied by stating that there is a confidence low and the information is not public because then applicants could look at it. As mentioned numerous times during the meeting, it is clear that alumni and the Board of Trustees are fighting two different battles. An alumni had stated, “You have the right to do it, but [that] doesn’t mean it’s right to do.”
The up-to-date statistics of the annual fund were then announced. The entire annual fund is $7.98 million. Last year, the fund was $3.5 million. The restricted part of the fund is $6.4 million while last year it was about $2 million.
Robert Spencer, a former assistant vice chancellor for treasury at Vanderbilt University and the director of the Huron Consulting Group, presented the group’s slides. Risks were weighed since there is no direct answer to the current situation. Spencer stated that he has never seen a Board so engaged with numbers. The Board has continually asked for data. The presentation slides can be seen here: http://www.cooperuniontaskforce.com/staticdata/doc/huron-20140115.pdf. ◊