All posts by The Cooper Pioneer

Miles of Movies: The Disaster Artist (2017)

By Miles Barber (CE ’18)

The Disaster Artist is about the making of the famously “so bad it’s good” movie called The Room. It starts with Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), whose shyness is starkly in contrast with Tommy Wiseau’s (James Franco) willingness to put himself out there. So Greg and Tommy, having been rejected by Hollywood, team up to make their own movie. The chaos and craziness that ensues is what makes up the meat of this film.

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Miles of Movies: The Room (2003)

By Miles Barber (CE ’18)

The Room is affectionately known as one of the worst films ever made. It’s intended as a drama about Johnny (Tommy Wiseau), a loving man whose girlfriend Lisa (Juliette Danielle) is starting to develop an interest in Mark (Greg Sestero), Johnny’s best friend, just a few weeks before their wedding. Throw in a bunch of other characters that never quite seem like they belong in the movie and you have The Room, a hilariously bad movie with some of the worst line delivery, worst acting, and worst writing I’ve ever seen. 

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Two Weeks of Leaks

Joseph T. Colonel (EE ‘15) & Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)


Department of Finance and Administration Organizational Chart found in Leak three. Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.552562291491260.1073741865.391957684218389&type=3

On November 13, Free Cooper Union began to post a collection of anonymously leaked confidential documents pertaining to the Board of Trustees and the Administration of the Cooper Union. At the time of publication, Free Cooper Union has leaked a total of ten documents that run the gamut from a detailed breakdown of how to prepare a salad for former President George Campbell to a copy of the Code of Conduct for Cooper Union allegedly annotated by Bharucha to a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Dream Scenario” concerning the “Reinvention of the Cooper Union.”

Free Cooper Union, the group responsible for the ubiquitous image of the “Free Education to All” banner draped across the foundation building, formed during the student lock-in of the Peter Cooper suite of December 2012. A major goal of Free Cooper Union is to steer the Cooper Union away from an expansionist education model and towards a more sustainable model dedicated to operating within the constraints of a non-profit educational institution. Free Cooper has previously demanded that Bharucha step down, that the administration publicly affirm the Cooper Union’s commitment to free education, and that the Board of Trustees restructure the administration of the Cooper Union in order to implement more democratic decision-making structures. As a result of Free Cooper’s 65 day occupation of the President’s office in the Foundation Building, the Board of Trustees approved the creation of a student representative to the Board and a working group that will propose and alternative, tuition-free model to the Board this December.

The following are brief summaries of the leaked documents at the time of publication. These summaries are not meant to replace engaging these texts in their entirety but rather are meant to serve as an outline of the content contained within the documents. All of the documents mentioned in the following may be found on Free Cooper Union’s Facebook page or by going to the link bit.ly/183n8jw

Leak one. “The Dream Scenario”

On February 11, 2013 the Pioneer printed an interview with then Dean of Engineering Alan Wolf. During the interview Wolf commented on the response to the five reports presented by the Engineering faculty to the Board of Trustees: “I was told by some trustees shortly after the December 5th meeting that they were very impressed with our hard work, our creativity, and with the sophistication of our models. […] We expect to hear back from them in March.” On March 1, 2013 the Board held an open forum Q&A in the Great Hall in which the Board dodged questions concerning the deferral of early applicants to the Art school as well as mentioning that an important meeting would take place on March 6, 2013 (a meeting that took place off campus). It was not until April 23, 2013 that the Board of Trustees announced its intentions to charge tuition to the incoming class of 2014.

Leak one is a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Dream Scenario: Trustee Reinvention Committee” and dated February 12, 2013. The slides of this presentation contain few full sentences; instead, they contain an average of four to five bullet points. One slide entitled “Ingredients of a Transformational Vision” has a bullet point saying “Build on Peter Cooper’s vision, not the contemporary narrative.” A slide with the title “Design” contains a point “Launch a new School of Design that includes Architecture [… ] Phase out current fine arts program.” The following slide (with the same title) has the point “Leverage synergies across current schools.” Another entitled “Science and Engineering” has a bullet point “Provide 50% tuition scholarships to all admitted students” followed in the next slide by “Hire a few computer scientists who are thought leaders […] to oversee MOOC-based curriculum” [editors note: MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course]

Leak two. “Helpful Information for Administrative Assistant Position”

George Campbell, current Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Webb Institute, was hired by the Cooper Union in 2000 and was President of the Cooper Union until his retirement in 2011. In a 2009 article with The Wall Street Journal, Campbell claimed that the Cooper Union had weathered the financial crisis of 2007/2008. It was during Campbell’s presidency that the New Academic Building, so named because no one donated enough money during Cooper’s capital campaign to justify having their name put on the building, was constructed. In his last year at Cooper, Campbell was paid $668,473, making him one of the highest paid college presidents in America. In 2011, Campbell was paid a total of $1,307,483 by the Cooper Union.

Leak two is an annotated document bearing the title “Helpful Information for the Administrative Assistant Position.” The 17 page guide begins with a piece of advice: “Unless you like being admonished by the President about using his office as a highway [by walking through it], it’s advised that you refrain from doing [so] while he is around.” The document details the duties expected of an administrative assistant at the Cooper Union during the Campbell administration, including how to prepare the President’s salad (Campbell is allergic to cucumbers; having the salad delivered unmixed allows the assistant “to construct the salad [himself/herself] and make it look nicer”). The document also instructs the administrative assistant to book luxury hotel suites for Campbell’s trips along with “a luxury SUV during the winter, […] a luxury Cadillac in the summer/spring […], [or a] convertible” should an SUV or Cadillac be unavailable.

Leak three. “The Cooper Union Organizational Chart” (Entitled “The Assistant Directors of Blahblahblah” by Free Cooper Union)

Leak three is a series of block diagrams that visually demonstrate the hierarchical structure of the administration of the Cooper Union as it was on December 3, 2012. As pointed out by Free Cooper Union, these charts are out of date as demonstrated by their mentioning of T.C. Westcott as Vice President of Finance and Administration and Linda Lemiesz as Dean of Students, who both no longer work at the Cooper Union.

Leak four. “Reinvention Media Strategy”

On October 31, 2011, Bharucha held an open forum in the Rose Auditorium to discuss the future of Cooper Union and comment on rumors that full tuition scholarships would be phased out. About six hours earlier, The New York Times published a piece named “Cooper Union May Charge Tuition to Undergraduates.” The open forum was the first time that Bharucha publicly spoke to the Cooper Community about Cooper’s financial problems.

Leak four is a “Media Strategy 10/17/2011 Confidential Draft 2 for Review.” The document outlines the media strategy of the Bharucha-administration and is dated a full two weeks before Bharucha’s open forum. The document mentions that discussion about St. Mark’s bookstore “remain a possible [media] flash point, but should not propel us, even advertently, to engage in the larger issues prematurely. To the extent possible, from a pr standpoint, it is certainly best to disjoin the two [sic.]” At no point does the document identify what “the larger issues” are. The document also discusses the need for “re-invention [sic.] and innovation to strengthen the institution.” Finally, the document considers two media outreach scenarios. The first scenario details an exclusive outreach to The New York Times after the inauguration. In this outreach, the administration will “Begin by presenting the challenge and then lay out the development of a dynamic action plan within the context of Peter Cooper’s far-reaching vision.” It continues: “The plan is more than just a means for a renowned college with the highest academic standard to survive – it is a chance for reinvention.”

Leak five. Untitled. (Entitled “Accountability?!” by Free Cooper Union)

Leak five consists of a letter written from Phillips Lytle LLP, a full service law firm located in NYC, in response to T.C. Westcott’s inquiry concerning “the principal governmental authorities to which Cooper Union has an ongoing accountability.” Phillips Lytle LLP referred Westcott to two publicly available documents: the New York State Office of the Attorney General Chartites Bureau’s “Right from the Start: Responsibilities of Directors of Not-for-Profit Corporations” and “Internal Controls and Financial Accountability for Not-for-Profit Boards.” The end of the letter to Westcott states that “[b]oth the New York and Federal governments have granted Cooper Union tax exempt status. As such, the school must adhere to the standards and submit filings specified for a charity.” The letter was dated January 18, 2012 and has a large “JAMSHED” penned in the upper right-hand corner

Leak six. “Reinvention: A Ten Year Road Map”

Allegedly written by Bharucha on October 30, 2011, leak number six documents possible solutions to Cooper’s financial crisis. One section considers the closing of the engineering school as well as the exiting of 30 Cooper Square, yielding a net savings of $7,962,817. A similar section considers the closing of the art and architecture schools as well as the exiting of the 30 Cooper Square, yielding a net savings of $7,995,871. At Bharucha’s open forum on October 31, 2011, Bharucha stated that he would not be the president to close any of Cooper Union’s schools.

Bharucha then follows by discussing immediate actions. He details the creation of a Revenue Task Force and mentions that he will announce it on October 31st. According to the document: “The Task Force will be charged with coming up with $7 million in FY2014, $14 million in FY2015, $21 million in FY2017, and $28 million in FY2018.” Bharucha writes, “it is too late to consider any significant changes in our scholarship policy for the class entering in the Fall of 2012, because recruiting in the high schools has been predicated on our existing policies and applications have already been coming in.”

Bharucha states that “investments in reinvention should provide immediate pay-off [sic.] in academic reputation (when coupled with communications), but only medium to long-term payoff in grants, technology transfer and development.” Additionally, Bharucha outlines “An Institute for Design” at the Cooper Union.

Leak seven. “Code of Conduct: Approved by the Board of Trustees March 14, 2012” (Entitled “Bharucha’s Annotated Disciplinary Guide”)

Leak seven is a copy of the code of conduct for students as approved by the Board of Trustees on March 14, 2012 allegedly marked up by Bharucha. This code of conduct is the code of conduct found at http://cooper.edu/about/policies/code-of-conduct . The most prominent underlined section of this leak is the first paragraph of part three named Presidential Right of Summary Suspension: “Subject to prompt review, the President of The Cooper Union may summarily suspend a student from the College when, in his or her best judgment, such immediate action is necessary for protecting the health and safety of the College and/or any member of the College community.”

Leak eight. Untitled. (Entitled “Bharucha’s Tuition Research” by Free Cooper Union)

Leak eight, allegedly compiled by Bharucha, consists of a tuition-centric history of The Cooper Union. The document contains minutes from a Board of Trustees Meeting on February 6, 1860, in which “it was Resolved, that the Secretary inform the Advisory Council that the Board of Trustees recommend the admission of pay pupils to the extent of the accommodations of the rooms.” The document contains a list of Cooper Union-related cases in which there was “no reference to free tuition.” This is followed by a similar list of “Statutes and Legislative Materials” related to Cooper Union in which there was “no reference to free tuition.” Finally, the document states that Peter Cooper’s 1859 address as well as Cooper’s 1972/2002 bylaws contain “no reference to free tuition.”

Leak nine. “Board Presentation Talking Points.” (Entitled “A Sense of Betrayal” by Free Cooper Union)

In early 2012, the Board of Trustees hired a consulting firm named The Whelan Group “to build capacity to lead the institution effectively through a period of financial challenges and organizational change.” According to Free Cooper Union, the total expense for this five-month consultation was $63,000. Leak nine consists of an email from Evan Kingsley of The Whelan Group to Bharucha in which Kingsley attached “a preview of that Charlie [Whelan] and I will share tomorrow (Wednesday)[March 14, 2012]at the TCU Board meeting.”

According to the document, The Whelan Group interviewed board members and staff as well as participated in committee meetings. The first observation of The Whelan Group: “Almost universally, Board members recognize that there is an issue of ‘community’ confidence in the Board related to fundamental policy and financial decisions that were made during the tenure of the previous administration. There was also almost universal consensus that the Board must address this ‘confidence issue’ in a proactive way … [sic.] in both word and action.” The Whelan Group also comments upon the culture within the Board of Trustees. For instance, The Whelan Groups observed “most [trustee] interviewees referred to the [sic.] time when dissent on the Board was decidedly unwelcome.” ◊

Introducing Your New Student Trustee

By Brandon Quinere (CE’19)

The Pioneer had the chance to sit down and talk with newly-elected Student Trustee Julian Mayfield (Art ‘18) about his role and how students can become more politically involved at Cooper.

This is Simon's Pic_BWJulian Mayfield (Art ‘18) was elected Student Trustee in May, 2016. He serves on the Free Education Commitee of the Board. Photo by Yifei Simon Shao (ME ‘19).

What are your feelings about being elected as our new Student Trustee? 

Julian Mayfield: There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and I feel pressured towards fulfilling my duties in a way that satisfies how I interpret the ethics behind this institution per the Consent Decree. There’s also expectations from people who encouraged me to run for the position, though their expectations are definitely not tempering any of my decision-making. But I definitely feel a desire to get to it and do the best that I can here.

[Editor’s note: The Consent Decree is an agreement worked out by New York’s Attorney General and signed by both the Board of Trustees and the Committee to Save Cooper Union (the litigators in the lawsuit over previous years). The Consent Decree outlines specific measures that the Board must enforce in order “to return Cooper Union to a sustainable, full-tuition scholarship model.”]

Are you excited to get started?

I really wanted to fully grasp the scope of my responsibilities to the beneficiaries of the Cooper community before I jumped in. Luckily, I had a small period of time where I basically got to shadow the Student Trustees at the time (Jessica Marshall (EE ’17) and Monica Abdallah (ChE ’17)) and observe their participation at the meetings. It was encouraging to be reminded that I too have the ability to be as active and forthright with my opinion. There’s a gap in expertise that I want to bridge immediately and it’s not something I’m going to learn overnight, but I definitely will do the best I can and really try to protect things in this institution that might be overlooked.

Did you feel a shift in going from a student vying for Trustee as to now, acting as one?

Not necessarily. In my relationship with students, I don’t think me acting as a Trustee is something a lot of students think about. With teachers and the other Trustees, there really isn’t too much of a shift either. The shift was in myself and discovering a greater appreciation for impartiality in my decision-making, as well as a need to avoid the politics of it all. There are politics, but that’s beside the point when it comes to something as big as keeping this whole situation afloat.

Now that you have been elected, have any students reached out to you in your new role? 

Yes, and I highly encourage more too! It hasn’t necessarily been people whom I’ve never talked to stopping me in the hallway, but people who I have previous rapport with have definitely felt comfortable coming in and trying to stay within the information flow. And I appreciate it, it’s important that we don’t feel alienated from the Board and can continue to stay informed.

For the new school year, what issues do you anticipate will be discussed between you and the Board?

Well I’m on the Free Education Committee and there’s definitely a lot more work being done there. With that comes a lot more contention and tougher decisions that will need to be made. If you’ve read the quarterly Board report that was released in June, you’ll know that there’s a lot that goes from declaring a commitment to actually perfecting these decisions and agreements. That’s definitely going to be a prime focus as soon as we get all of the methodologies set and our strategies finalized.

This is your introduction to a lot of the freshmen unfamiliar with you or your role. To those new students, how would you describe what you can do for them? 

It’s hard to really put that into words because the Trustee position isn’t necessarily something that can have immediate or direct impact into student lives. A lot of it is management of other people who are going to be committing actions. What I can do is talk to the new students if they need to stay informed and be made aware of resources that can help them become more politically involved in the institution. It’s the most we really can do at this point; to make sure that when things change, they aren’t changing in a way that will negatively impact the institution. And if it does turn towards that direction, then I have no interest in being part of decisions that will destroy the quality of current or future students’ experiences here.

Do you have any advice for students both new and old who want to become more involved in Cooper affairs?

It can be anything from getting involved in Student Council or forming an affinity group and just speaking out. E-mail campaigns, making posters, talking to your professors about these issues. They have a lot of opinions and have watched this cycle for a lot longer than us and will keep seeing it after we’re gone. They can offer a lot of real insight and have been some of the people who have kept me the most informed about political changes in this institution. Ultimately, make sure that every one of your friends are informed of events. Do whatever needs to be done so that you don’t go down without a fight. ◊

Letter to the First Years

By Pranav Joneja (ME ’18), Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19), Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19)

To the class of 2020/2021,

Welcome to Cooper!

Yes, we all come from different walks of life, study various disciplines, and have diverse interests. But, there is one thing we do share in common: this institution. It seems that for a short while our paths have converged.  It’s easy to take that for granted—Cooper is a school after all—and there is a certain amount of transience regarding those who pass through its doors.

This year is an opportunity for renewal: we will welcome a new president, search for new deans and administrators, and persist on the path to tuition-free education. Your presence and energy will help to shape this renewal. Amidst this, however, don’t forget the old.

The way Cooper is now is not the way it has always been. As a student here, you should feel an obligation to learn what has changed. Our institutional memory need not be wiped away every summer and in your time here, we hope that you join us in
remembering how we forgot. Time is linear, but our stories do not have to be.

At Cooper, it is easy to immerse yourself in your practice, but do not forget to spend some time elsewhere. You will learn that the community around you can foster a deep sense of collectivism.

“Create lasting habits, bring stories to share, ask a question and listen to each other.”

With love nonstop,

The Pioneer Editors

Happenings

Cooper’s Sparkling New President

The first female president of The Cooper Union, Laura Sparks, has been elected unanimously by the Board of Trustees under the advisory of the Presidential Search Committee. Sparks will assume the role as Cooper Union’s 13th President on January 4th, 2017 at which time Acting President Bill Mea will return to his position as Vice President of Finance and Administration. Currently, Sparks is the Executive Director of the William Penn Foundation, a Philadelphia-based philanthropic organization that aims “to help improve education for low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, [and] foster creative communities.” In an email addressing the Cooper community, Sparks wrote, “moving Cooper Union forward, while also holding true to its founding principles, is all of our jobs.”

New Safety Coordinators

Professors Alan Wolf and Ruben Savizky are now joint Campus-wide Faculty Safety Coordinators effective this academic year. The position, which has been held by Professor Wolf alone for the past 10 years, will be shared this school year as a transition period toward Professor Savizky assuming the entire role by Fall 2017. In addition to their roles as Safety Coordinators, Wolf chairs the Physics Department and Savizky is an Associate Professor of Chemistry.

JSC Drafts New Constitution

The Joint Student Council (JSC) is voting to ratify a new constitution on September 20. The current JSC constitution has not been revised since 1997. A committee of six students from all three schools, the Constitution Committee, spent the summer rewriting the document, paying special attention to procedures and effective governance. ◊