By Daniel Galperin (ChE ‘18), Arnold Wey (EE ‘18), Brenda So (EE ‘18), Mary Dwyer (ChE ‘19)
You could say, “It has been a long summer.” In the course of the past three months, several administrators, including now former President Jamshed Bharucha and former Dean of Engineering Teresa Dahlberg, have ended their tenure at The Cooper Union. Richard Stock and Nader Tehrani were appointed as the Acting Dean of Engineering and Dean of Architecture, respectively. Bill Mea, former Vice President of Finance and Administration, was appointed as Acting President, and is to serve until the presidential selection committee decides on a new president. Dean of Students, Christopher Chamberlin, now reports directly to Acting President Mea. Others, such as Dean Baker and Dean O’Donnell will remain at Cooper, but have had a change in responsibility.
Former President Jamshed Bharucha announced his resignation on June 10, 2015. The Board of Trustee’s decision to not renew his contract came partway through his term. The nonrenewal and his subsequent resignation came at a critical moment in the Attorney General’s investigation.
A defining moment of Bharucha’s time at Cooper came when he made the announcement that charging tuition would be unavoidable. Following community backlash and the 65-day occupation of the President’s office by student protesters, his continued insistence that tuition was unavoidable made him unpopular among students, faculty, and alumni.
Some people applaud his frankness regarding Cooper’s fiscal situation, which his predecessor Campbell hid with accounting tricks and misrepresentations of Cooper Union’s finances. Others continue to criticize Bharucha for his administration’s failures in oversight and management of proposed revenue generating programs.
Following the nonrenewal of his contract by the Board of Trustees, Bharucha announced the decision to step down from his position as President of the Cooper Union, a year before his contract would have expired. He will be taking a post as a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.
As Jamshed Bharucha stepped down, William ‘Bill’ Mea, former Vice President of Finance and Administration, was appointed Acting President. Mea began his career in higher education at Philadelphia University, eventually holding the title of Assistant Vice President for Business and Finance. He joined Cooper as Vice President of Finance and Administration in September 2014 and was appointed Acting President in July 2015.
On the subject of Cooper’s financial issues, Mea said that “One of the real roots is that we spend more money than we earn,” and right now “the goal is to become operationally adequate so we can at least break even and spend no more than we earn.” As to whether Cooper could buy and use real estate for much needed revenue, Mea states, “I don’t think that’s [buying real estate] short term. I think we need to get to the point where we are living within our means… and then we’ll see where we’ll go.” When asked about whether tuition is included as revenue for Cooper, he responded, “The numbers I put together, the budget and the future projections, include tuition for now.”
In response to the strained relationship between students and administration, he said that, “There’s deep caring, even within the administration, for this place. Everybody I meet wants this place to succeed. Sometimes the views on how to do that might be different.” In his interim role as Acting President, one of his goals is to “deliver to the community a new president, with the trust partially rebuilt, the healing at least partially done.”
Mea sees his role as an opportunity to have the administration invariably follow through on its word to the community and to build a foundation of trust for the President that follows him. In addition, Mea is also looking forward to “a really great year where we celebrate the faculty, celebrate the students and return to the core roots of who we are.”
Former Dean of Engineering and Chief Academic Officer Teresa Dahlberg submitted her resignation on May 4, 2015 and left The Cooper Union on June 30, 2015. Having come to The Cooper Union from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she was the Associate Dean of The College of Computing and Informatics, Dahlberg was hired with tenure and took on her duties at The Cooper Union in August 2013.
At Cooper, Dahlberg’s most notable work was the attempted establishment of the Computer Science (CS) program. The CS program did not come to fruition due to opposition from the student body, faculty, and ultimately intervention from the Office of the Attorney General.
Dahlberg also led in the publication of the Minority Report, a report that formally refuted the suggestions made by the Working Group to find an alternative to implementing tuition. The Working Group was a group of students, faculty and administrators who came together to propose alternative strategies to establish financial stability at Cooper Union. The Minority Report, in which Dahlberg was one of four authors, claimed that the Working Group’s Report did not “constitute a cohesive, well-considered, implementable plan.”
She is also credited by former President Jamshed Bharucha for increasing the applicant pool of the class of 2019 by 67% compared to the previous year, and 33% larger than ever in the history of The Cooper Union.
After almost two years of service to The Cooper Union, Dahlberg will begin a new role as Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University as of August 1, 2015. Cooper’s new Acting Dean of Engineering is Richard Stock, former President of the Cooper Union Federation of College Teachers.
Dr. Bonnie John (ME ’77) resigned from her position as Director of Computation and Innovation after taking on the role in December 2014. She originally accepted the position in order to provide insight and advice on the Computer Science program in the works.
As the CS program’s questionable academic rigor raised concerns in the community, John stepped down, remaining as director of the NYC Summer@Cooper program, which offers participants experience with IBM Watson, developing business ideas that use Watson’s artificial intelligence and natural language processing capabilities.
Stephen Baker, formerly the Vice President of both Student Affairs and Community Relations as well as Dean of Athletics, has also seen a change in responsibilities under Acting President Mea. As of August 14, 2015 Baker remains the Vice President of Community Relations as well as Dean of Athletics, but is no longer Vice President of Student Affairs.
When asked what his plans were moving forward in light of this change, Baker responded: “I intend on continuing to focus on the students and remaining peripatetic in my work with students, alumni and the Cooper community.”
Christopher Chamberlin, who joined the Cooper community in 2013 as Director of Residence Life and the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, was named Dean of Students in 2014. As of August 14, 2015, all of the responsibilities of the Vice President of Student Affairs have been allocated to Christopher Chamberlin as the Dean of Students.
Although his title has not changed, Dean Chamberlin now reports directly to Acting President Bill Mea. Mea commented, “Elevating the Dean of Students to report directly to the President, in both in real terms and symbolic terms, allows us to focus on our students and our faculty [which is the main goal of the administration].” Chamberlin substantiated this point by saying, “Having a direct reporting structure is a signifier of how important student affairs is to the institution. It ensures the student’s voice can be heard.”
Elizabeth O’Donnell, having been Associate Dean of Architecture for eleven years, became Acting Dean of Architecture on August 1, 2012 as Former Dean Vidler began a nine-month sabbatical and stepped down from deanship on June 30, 2013. Dean O’Donnell remained Acting Dean until the appointment of Nader Tehrani as Dean of Architecture in July 2015. Professor O’Donnell has returned to her position as Associate Dean of Architecture and continues to teach courses in the School of Architecture.