Category Archives: Analysis

Mission Statement Rewrite

By Juan José García (Art ‘20)

Yet, maybe it is precisely that impetus to move forward that might get in the way of the intent of the draft.

On Tuesday March 7, 2017, a campus notice was sent to the Cooper community containing the current draft of the mission statement of Cooper Union. The draft was sent with hopes that it “will generate the kind of discussion and debate that will add to the renewed sense of institutional purpose at this time,” while also aiming to receive input from the community.

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The New and Improved Code of Conduct

By Gabriela Godlewski (CE ‘19)

A Joint Student Council committee is currently rewriting The Cooper Union Code of Conduct to keep the administration and student body up to date with the ethics and conduct expected of Cooper students. The committee members—Octavia Parker (Arch ‘20), Marianna Tymocz (ChE ‘18), Clara Zinky (Art ‘17), and Anton Luz (CE ‘18)—have been meeting weekly with Dean Christopher Chamberlin to ensure that the new code will be written to express the best interest of students and faculty. They are in the process of presenting the current, and hopefully final, draft to the JSC for ratification.

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Closing the Engineering Gender Gap at Cooper

By Brandon Quinere (CE ‘19)

The percentages of male and female undergraduate students broken down by school. In an email, Dean Lipton commented that “there are many ways to define diversity, and regardless of where Cooper Union sets its goals, we should be inclusive in our definition.” Statistics provided by Office of Admissions.
The percentages of male and female undergraduate students broken down by school. In an email, Dean Lipton commented that “there are many ways to define diversity, and regardless of where Cooper Union sets its goals, we should be inclusive in our definition.” Statistics provided by Office of Admissions.

Last November, the Faculty-Student Senate released a statement to the Cooper community adopting a resolution that addresses the gender disparity in the School of Engineering. As advisors to the President and Board of Trustees, the Senate requested that a strategic plan be devised to increase the applicant pool specifically for female students pursuing engineering at Cooper. The Pioneer had the opportunity to speak to Senate Chair Stan Mintchev, Vice-Chair Sam Keene, and Secretary Julie Castelluzzo on how diversifying the engineering major is crucial for the school.

According to the American Society for Engineering Education, of all the bachelor’s degrees in engineering awarded in 2015, women earned only 19.9% of them, a small improvement from the 19.3% reported nine years ago in 2006. This gender gap is further represented in the workforce, with The Chronicle of Higher Education reporting that 12% of all engineering jobs were held by women in 2013.

For larger schools whose STEM programs represent only a small portion of the types of curricula available for students, this particular issue may go unnoticed. In the case for Cooper, whose schools are split between three programs, it becomes harder to see past that gap, as explained by Professor Keene, “The gender disparity issue is really not an issue in the schools of Art and Architecture. They are much closer to a 50/50 ratio, so that is why this particular resolution was specific to the School of Engineering.”

Perhaps most unfortunately, an overall disinterest in the field is not why women are less inclined to be enrolled in college engineering programs. At often times, the role of intimidation and a lack of comfort comes into play, especially in male-dominated learning environments. “I had been hearing anecdotally for some time that there were issues of harassment in the School of Engineering,” described Professor Keene on how the issue of gender disparity was brought to the Senate floor. “The more I heard, the more convinced I was that there was a problem.”

Discussions and workshops about sexual harassment and consent have become more prominent at Cooper to avoid the possibility of a student having their scholarly path derailed because of someone else’s inappropriate campus behavior. A popular opinion piece published by The New York Times last year investigated sexual harassment in science, revealing that women in STEM even felt motivated to quit their programs because of unwanted advances by their male colleagues.

Beyond the fear of sexual harassment, female students may also feel that they are not equipped with the skills that their male peers have in terms of performance. A lack of female representation may discourage female students from pursuing STEM fields at a young age, simply because the industry is so commonly depicted as primarily male. Developing strategies and better support systems to encourage more female students in engineering can greatly dispel these false narratives.

The intersection of gender and race also plays a pivotal role in terms of better representation in STEM. A study conducted by the Society of Women Engineers revealed that in comparison to their white male colleagues, women engineers and engineers of color felt more of a need to prove themselves to gain respect, potentially demoralizing further interest in their field. (On a related note: as a celebration of diversity on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Cooper sponsored a free screening of Hidden Figures, a film about black women mathematicians Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson and their success at NASA.)

The Faculty-Student Senate stressed a need to improve the overall campus environment at Cooper by improving female outreach of prospective applicants in future classes. Within the School of Engineering, the Senate foresees an increase in comfort for female students in a more inclusive environment: “We feel there needs to be a critical mass of women students, so that they can form study groups, work on group projects, or attend a class where they are not the only women present.”

Because the Senate’s role at Cooper is advisory, meaning they do not specify how goals should be implemented, they believe the Board of Trustees, Administration, and Office of Admissions can move forward with their requests by better prioritizing this issue and formulating a detailed plan to increase the female applicant pool. Still, the Senate is not advocating for a different admissions process for female engineering students; the goal is to recruit more women without tampering with existing admissions criteria.

As a message to current students at Cooper, the Faculty-Student Senate had the following to say on how they can assist in closing the gender gap for future classes at the School of Engineering:

Having an open dialogue around these topics is the beginning. Talk to the other students in your major and in other programs as well. Talk to female faculty in the School of Engineering about their opinions and experiences. Discuss it with students you know at other engineering schools. Consider your choices of words more carefully; for example, joking about rape is not funny to the survivor who overhears you. Educate yourself on the meaning of consent and why it’s important.

Female engineering students at Cooper who are interested in taking a more active role as role models could talk to their Dean, people in student services, and people in the Admissions office about how they can get more involved in communicating with prospective students.

Furthermore, if you are aware of specifics that place Cooper at a disadvantage with regards to the recruitment or retention of female students, make yourself heard. General information about the student experience, how institutional resources play into all of this, how current students describe Cooper to prospective applicants (e.g. younger cohorts from their high school, friends, neighbors, etc.), or how upperclassmen describe the Cooper experience to current freshmen would be of tremendous value to the Senate subcommittee.

Cooper students who would like to contribute to this ongoing conversation with any comments or advice for the Senate may contact Professor Keene (keene@cooper.edu). By recruiting more women in the School of Engineering, Cooper would be making great strides in diversifying future work environments and inspiring the next generation of women engineers. Representation in any field is very important; it assures the underrepresented that they too can succeed in environments that are not dominated by people who identify with them. ◊

Something We Don’t Talk About

By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19)
Artwork by Zekiel Maloney (Art ’20)

MentalHealthPic

It’s common knowledge that students at Cooper have it rough. Almost twice as many classes per semester than expected at majority of the colleges in the United States can attest to that. It definitely takes a certain kind of student to succeed here, but how does our mental health play a factor in that? Are Cooper students better at handling stress than students at other colleges? Do we just get used to the intense environment here? And most importantly, why does no one talk about students’ mental health?


People may not want to admit that they might not understand what they are feeling or what they are experiencing.

Social stigma plays a huge role in this lack of conversation. Many think of depression and mental health as signs of weakness and, consequently, are afraid to talk about their problems as they are afraid of what others might think of them. A lot of students simply don’t know who to talk to. Friends from college may be experiencing the same thing and they don’t want to be judged for appearing less than perfect. Friends at home simply may not be able to relate and students don’t want to burden their parents. At times, it may seem like students have no one to reach out to.

But that is not actually the case. As many of you may know from campus-wide emails, Cooper offers weekly open appointment counseling sessions. There are two counselors who meet with students and some find these sessions incredibly helpful. Going to these appointments help students realize that what they want to hear is not necessarily what they need to hear, and this realization helps them figure out exactly how to overcome their problems.

Taking this first step and making an appointment can be the most difficult part of going to counseling. Only 211 students of the entire student body went to an appointment in the 2014-2015 academic year. Since counseling was offered, only twenty percent of Cooper’s student population actually went to counseling, and though this may seem like a large percentage of the student body, it isn’t. So many more students want to go but simply don’t for numerous reasons.

Some don’t go simply because Cooper’s counseling sessions are not based on a recurring schedule. Cooper does not have a licensed medical center and as a result, cannot offer long term therapy. Generally, a student is limited to about three appointments before being referred to a
licensed therapist.

Also, counseling, like mental health in general, has a stigma as well for similar reasons. Many students decide to go to counseling but then talk themselves out of it because there is an fear that going to counseling means there is something wrong with them. People may not want to admit that they might not understand what they are feeling or what they are experiencing

This feeling is not exclusive to just Cooper as mental health of students has become a topic of conversation in schools nationwide. In response to a drastic increase in suicide amongst students, institutions like the University of Pennsylvania have started to reexamine their stances on mental health on campus or have launched efforts to create safe spaces for students. UPenn recently started a peer counseling program called Penn Benjamins where students can talk to student counselors about their problems. In 2003, a group called Active Minds was created at UPenn to raise mental awareness, and now there are over 400 chapters of Active Minds at both colleges and high schools alike.

Cooper is a unique college that prioritizes our education; there’s simply not enough space or funding to pursue expanded health services. There is no on-campus health center that can treat for mental health or basic physical health care needs such a center requires a large staff and infrastructure, both of which Cooper, at the moment, cannot provide.


Ultimately, as students, we must realize that we are not alone.

That does not mean Cooper is not actively trying to further mental health awareness. Dean Chris Chamberlin stated that “we are currently searching for a full-time student care coordinator and counselor who will work in our office” as currently, both counselors at Cooper are independent contractors. Hiring a full time counselor at Cooper “should allow us to provide a more integrated and consistent level of support.” There has also been conversation about adding a mandatory mental health awareness or stress management workshop in orientation events.  This would be similar to the sexual assault workshop added to this year’s orientation but nothing is in the works yet as the first priority is to hire a fulltime counselor.

Ultimately, as students, we must realize that we are not alone. As clichéd as that may sound, it is important to understand that all of this stress that surrounds us is fleeting. Do not be afraid to open up and talk to someone about what you are going through because doing so will improve your wellbeing.  ◊

 

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union

By Abdullah Siddiki (EE ‘18)

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Pioneer as a whole.

On September 20, 2016, the Joint Student Council met in the Rose Auditorium to discuss and ratify a new JSC constitution. The meeting started with the authors of the new document, the Constitution Committee, going through the document point by point with the assembly for clarification. The actual content of the constitution was not up for contention until the document was entirely clear.

The rewritten constitution establishes several new principles by which the JSC will operate. Reading through the document you will see the framework for a body that operates on the principles of responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Most importantly though, the document redefines and states a clear goal: the purpose of Joint Student Council.


What does JSC do?
- “I don’t know”
- “Who cares?”
- “They don’t do anything”

Leading up to writing this article, I asked almost anyone and everyone I spoke to this week, “what does the Joint Student Council do?” The responses to this question were somewhat disheartening—a lot of “I don’t know” or “who cares” or my favorite one—“they don’t do anything.” I tried to prod them further to make sure they weren’t being dismissive, but most students truly don’t understand what the JSC is, what it does, and why it is important.

But whose fault is this? Is it the students’ for simply not caring? Is it the JSC’s for not making their purpose clear? Do members of the JSC even know what the body is for? Most likely the only time you heard about JSC in the past few years was when they passed a resolution to make the bathrooms gender neutral, or maybe when they pushed a petition to protest changes in the policy to charge for overloading credits. But these two courses of action seem so wildly different on the surface, so what is the purpose of the JSC? What do they do? Is it really nothing? It’s extremely important that we as a student body think about this and hold those representing us accountable to their responsibilities. One of the most important pillars of a successful and driven organization is a clear mission statement, and the JSC is no exception.

Printed below is the new mission statement outlined in the new JSC constitution. Read it carefully, pick apart every word, and ask questions. Make sure it is clear to you what it means to be represented as a student.

“The Joint Student Council maintains a platform for discussion and takes action in an effort to benefit the student body. In an attempt to manifest the will of the students, the Council hears divergent positions through deliberation, and consequently founds a coherent voice. The Council passes resolutions that pursue policy initiatives concerning the academic, social, and administrative interests of the students. Finally, the Council sustains clear dialogue with the community in the spirit of continued positive change to our institution.”

If you have never thought about it before, or thought about it and lost hope, no time is better than now to reconsider the importance of a representative body on campus. The refreshed mission statement makes it very clear that the JSC exists solely for our benefit as a student body. The JSC is a means for handling student issues and complaints, statements that need to be presented to the administration on behalf of the student body and school-wide changes that need to occur. Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.” I’ve heard that a lot from people whom I try to tell that JSC is important—and every single one of them has several complaints about the school. You can’t be here just to learn because it is the very nature of Cooper to be much more than a school. The Cooper Union is a community. It is my community, your community, our community. Invest in it. Take ownership of it. Make it the community you want it to be.


Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.”

This is the power of JSC: to represent your interests to the school. And I’ve used this word “represent” a couple of times now, so let’s talk about representation. If you read the article in a previous issue regarding the ratification of the constitution, you will know that perhaps the only heavily contended point was the representation—ten students from Engineering, five from Art, and five from Architecture. What this really means is that there will one be representative per fifty artists, one per fifty engineers, and one per twenty-five architects. The reason that I want to present the representation this way is because it forces you to think about what—or rather whom—the JSC will be representing. The contention at the meeting was whether or not the JSC should have the same number of representatives from each school or representation proportional to the number of students. That’s just the surface of the dispute—let’s look at the core of it.

Should the JSC represent the schools or the students? By choosing to ratify a constitution that mandates representation proportional to the number of students in each school, the JSC has made itself a body representing student interests at the most basic level—your interests as a person. Issues that affect you have never been limited by your major. Tuition hikes, bathroom policies, the presidential search, are all issues that affect you on a personal level. There are already bodies in place to represent your academic interests. The Architecture, Art, and Engineering Student Councils exist. The new mission statement and representation policy of the JSC steers it in a direction where it will become a body that aims chiefly to do its best to represent issues of each student as a human—one with emotions, stresses, ambitions, and not as a label. You are a person before you are an engineer, artist, or architect.

At the meeting there was so much concern about the engineers coming together to block quorum or the artists and architects coming together to block quorum. But consider this: how many issues have been voted on that are representative of contending interests between schools? Call me naïve, or idealistic, but maybe it’s time to stop looking at each other as artists and architects and engineers before we look at each other as our classmates, friends, and at the most fundamental level—humans. Let’s jump this mental hurdle of divisions between the schools. We are of course the Cooper Union. Let’s use this new JSC mentality as a launching point to eradicate whatever prejudices we have amongst the schools and do what another famous constitution did as well—form a more perfect union. ◊

Joint Student Council Ratifies New Constitution

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19)

The Cooper Union Joint Student Council ratified an entirely rewritten constitution on Tuesday, September 20. It replaced the previous constitution, which had not been revised since 1998. The document became effective immediately with 28 votes in
favor, six against, and two abstaining. The overhaul of the 1998 constitution occurred over the summer and the new document was written by the six-member Constitution Committee including Chris Curro (MEE ‘16), Daniel Galperin (ChE ‘18), Julian Mayfield (Art ‘18), Waseem Nafisi (Art ‘18), Celine Park (Arch ‘17), and Clara Zinky (Art ‘18). Initially, Vaughn Lewis (Arch ‘19) was involved but was later replaced by Mayfield, who also serves as student trustee.

The revision was prompted by the 1998 document’s ineffectiveness at outlining policies for voting or bringing forth resolutions—arguably the two main functions of JSC. In order to pass a resolution, the constitution mandates a 70% quorum and a 70% approval vote—that means a minimum of 14 of the 20 members must be present and 70% of those present must vote yes. In addition, the new constitution establishes a ballot system, rather than voting by a show of hands. A procedure for proposing resolutions is suggested, but intentionally leaves room for alternative methods.

The body of the Joint Student Council has been reduced in size to 10 engineering members, 5 architecture members, and 5 art members. The previous constitution established 15 architecture, 16 art, and 20 or 21 engineering representatives. The revised number of representatives was intended to facilitate discussion. Compared to the previous policy, “the committee felt that 10-5-5 was a more appropriate breakdown,” explained Curro. “We tried to make a much smaller body that could act more efficiently and be more effective.”

The proportion of council members from the Engineering School was increased to reflect the school’s population. The Art and Engineering Schools have an approximately equal ratio of council members to students, while on the other hand, the
Architecture School is slightly overrepresented so as not to have too few architects on the council.

The requirement of a 70% majority prevents the Engineering School from unilaterally outvoting the other two schools. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all,” said Jeremiah Pratt (EE ‘19) regarding the representation policy, “it would be near impossible for Engineering School to be the dominant voting bloc.” In addition, the constitution was amended such that if an entire school votes against a resolution, then that resolution would not pass. Although there are measures to prevent the Engineering School from dominating in terms of votes, the increased representation of the school does not rule out the possibility that engineers could dominate the dialogue in the Council.

“We tried to make a much smaller body
that could act more efficiently and be more effective.”
- Chris Curro (MEE ‘16)

The 10-5-5 representation policy proved to be a point of contention at the ratification meeting. “It essentially cuts the school in half,” commented Maya Krtic (Arch ‘17) on the possibility that the new composition of the Council might pit engineers against artists and architects. Krtic is a proponent of an equal number of council members from each school—or at least a compromise of 8-6-6. The variety of opinions expressed on the policy reflects the contrasting ideas on the role of Joint Student Council. Should the Council represent each of the three schools as separate entities, or should it represent the collective student body?

The new constitution outlines an enforceable attendance policy to address low levels of attendance in previous years. If a member is absent twice without delegating an alternate both times, then that member is “expelled from both the Council and their respective student council.” The policy was viewed by some as excessively harsh and even an overreach of JSC to be able to remove members from the student councils of the individual schools.

Notwithstanding, in order to have a functional student council, the attendance of the members is needed. The four mandatory meetings per semester are scheduled in advance (as required by the new constitution), and council members who may be absent have the discretion to appoint any alternate they deem fit. The constitution intentionally does not specify who may serve as an alternate and leaves the clause open to interpretation. “I understand the contention over the attendance policy,” said Pratt, “but it’s important for this new JSC to function well, because the accountability policies under the old constitution were ineffective.”

“Although, a few people were able to make the 
time commitment over the summer, 
that doesn’t mean that their 
opinions or values are hierarchized 
over those of the entire council.” 
- Emily Adamo (Art‘17)

The writers of the constitution intended to allow council members more discretion while simultaneously increasing transparency. For example, vote tallies and how each member (or their alternate) voted on a resolution are made public. In addition, minutes from each JSC meeting will be published. “A member is not merely a mouthpiece,” explained Curro, “they are meant to be focal points—nodes with lots of connections.” The idea is that Council members will be well equipped to act in the “best interest” of their constituents because the they will have access to a wider body of information from their fellow students, their respective school councils, and Joint Student Council.

The rewriting of the JSC Constitution over the summer was put in motion at the end of this past school year. According to Daniel Galperin, it was agreed upon at the last meeting of last semester to vote on the new constitution at the first meeting of this semester. “It was good that the decision came in the first meeting,” commented Zhenia Dementyeva (Arch ‘20), “the three schools sometimes contended with each other, so it was better to push for a decision.”

Despite this agreement, some still felt that the timeline was rushed, especially since not all of those interested in the writing process were able to devote time over the summer. In addition, there appeared to be no contingency if the new constitution was not accepted at the first Council meeting. “I think generally that rewriting of the constitution was a good move, and I support most of what is written in the document, but the process by which it passed worries me,” said Krtic.

Should the Council represent each of the three schools
as separate entities, or should it
represent the collective student body?

The meeting itself had some tense moments, and the conversation felt “almost scripted” in the way that it was led, according to Dementyeva. “Although, a few people were able to make the time commitment over the summer, that doesn’t mean that their opinions or values are hierarchized over those of the entire council,” expressed Emily Adamo (Art ‘17). There appeared to be pressure to commit to the deadline agreed upon last semester and hold a vote, which ironically was a simple show of hands rather than a closed ballot as outlined in the new Constitution.

Although there is perhaps some uneasiness about the upcoming year for JSC, the Constitution also includes a clause establishing a yearly revision process. Ultimately, no amount of deliberation or planning can completely prepare JSC for potential issues, and throughout the coming year, the new Constitution will continued to be tried and tested. ◊