Category Archives: News

ID Scanner-featured

New ID Scanners

Saimon Sharif (ChE ‘15)

On January 23rd, a campus notice was sent to faculty, staff, and students with the subject “A Message About Safety.” The email stated that faculty, staff, and students attempting to enter 41 Cooper Square (NAB) would be required to swipe in using their Cooper Union ID card. The same group must show their Cooper Union ID when entering The Foundation Building. Previously, the ID requirement was only occasionally enforced.

According to Dean Lemiesz, the change in ID policy is due to a higher frequency of incidents involving outside individuals, previously related to Cooper Union, gaining entrance to buildings. Since older Cooper Union ID had color-coded validation stickers, a swipe policy for the NAB was planned when the building was constructed, but other matters interfered with the installation of the card readers.

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

Dean Wolf - featured

Dean Wolf: School Update

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

The Cooper Pioneer: At the end of last semester, ABET came to evaluate our engineering school.  How did that go?

Alan Wolf: We had an excellent visit. ABET reviewed 36 items and 33 of them required no change. The other 3 things are minor. ABET concluded their visit with a formal exit interview.  That meeting included myself, Assoc. Dean Delagrammatikas, President Bharucha, the four chairs of Cooper’s degree granting departments, and from ABET the four program evaluators (PEV’s) and the visiting team’s chair.  They talk about strengths and perceived weaknesses of our programs.  They rate concerns on a scale that includes: deficiencies, weaknesses, concerns, and observations.

The program evaluators, as you’d expect, are experts in the discipline they come here to review.  So a civil engineering PEV would be a professor or dean of civil engineering at another institution.  At the exit interview each PEV reads their draft report, which begins with a brief history of the department and then proceeds to a review of what the evaluator found in their preliminary study of Cooper (they study us before they even arrive on campus) and in the on campus visit, which ran from December 2 – 4.  A sample comment might be: “Faculty seemed to be very engaged with their students” or “Alumni seemed to feel that…”  The team chair also read her report, which was concerned with the engineering school overall.

So, nothing particularly serious came up in the exit interview. There are some minor concerns that we are either obligated to respond to, or can choose to respond to. I’m very pleased. This is a good time to thank the faculty, students and staff who helped us in many diverse ways to show off the School of Engineering to its best advantage.  Special thanks to Cooper students Andrew Crudge and Mike Palafox, who designed and built our new faculty web site,  Our visitors were impressed by the faculty and student work that is now on display there.

A few days ago we received a written version of their reports.  I haven’t had a chance to review them yet.  We now have 30 days to respond.  Some departments, such as civil engineering, will not respond because nothing, not even a minor concern, was found in that department. Other departments may disagree with minor concerns, and they may wish to express those to ABET, or they may decide to change departmental practices to conform to ABET standards.

I should mention that the reports themselves are confidential.  Also, that it is nearly impossible for academic programs these days to get a “perfect” result, a clean bill of health, regardless of whether we deal with ABET (engineering accreditation) or Middle States (accreditation for the entire institution).

TCP: Do you think that the protests that occurred in early December will have any effect on our ABET results?

AW:  No.  I was at an AITU [Association of Independent Technological Universities] conference in San Diego recently.  One of the speakers at the conference was the head of an engineering accreditation organization, but a different organization (not ABET). It was a very interesting talk.  For example, I learned that accreditation began after World War II, when the G.I. bill allowed retuning soldiers to receive financial aid for college (among many other benefits).  The government was concerned that soldiers might be taken advantage of by educational institutions of poor quality.  Anyway, someone from another institution asked the speaker: “Do accrediting organizations care about a college’s financial weakness or internal debates?”  Her answer was very similar to remarks made by the ABET team chair in our recent visit – such matters are not of direct concern.  If, however, things like financial problems point to underlying institutional problems that affect the school’s educational mission, then they will receive an appropriate amount of scrutiny.  In any event, recent events at Cooper were not mentioned in our ABET exit interview.

The purpose of ABET is to make sure that you do what you’ve promised to do in your educational programs.  They want to check that there are procedures in place to fix things that are broken.  That includes insuring that we “close the loop.”  What that means, formally, is that we use the results of ‘assessment’ to improve our institution, programs, and courses.  For example, at the level of an individual course, you, the instructor, have an idea of how you’re going to teach a course.  You teach it.  You assess to see if your objectives were met.  If they were, great.  If not, the assessment (however that is done – there are a number of ways) is feedback to you that may suggest how to teach the course more effectively the next time you teach it.  They don’t have the ‘manpower’ and time to see what actually happens in each classroom, but ABET does verify that the feedback loops are in place.

TCP:  Last December, it’s my understanding that the engineering faculty prepared a document that was presented to Jamshed which was presented to the Board of Trustees.

AW:  We prepared five reports, they’ve been posted on the web and otherwise widely distributed.  We prepared an undergraduate tuition report, a graduation tuition report (that’s a misnomer, it includes any program that generates revenue and is not an undergraduate program).  We also had three committees that weren’t about revenue generation – for example a committee on the engineering school’s culture.  The reports were given to the board with supplementary materials like Excel spreadsheets containing very elaborate models of revenue generation.  Our five reports totaled nearly 100 pages. 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. I’m very proud of the faculty for mobilizing on reinvention the way that they did.  The trustees are now studying our reports.  We expect to hear back from them in March.

TCP: In March?

AW: We had originally expected to hear something in December.  Then came the holidays, etc. Now they have to study our reports and our models.  That takes time.

I’m still not clear what will happen in March exactly.  Will they tell us our fate?  Perhaps.  Will they want to talk to us in March before deciding our fate?  Ask more probing questions?  Will we be contacted before March with those questions? I don’t have answers to these questions.

TCP:  Do you have any information about who our permanent dean will be?

AW: On February 5th, we’re getting an update from the search firm that has been seeking out candidates.  On that date, I think we’re going to be generating a short list from the full list of plausible candidates.  We will rank them based on lots of criteria, such as their leadership style, their experience in financial and budgetary matters, their track record for building partnerships with the private sector, their commitment to undergraduate education, their passion for directly interacting with students, high energy and work ethic, and several other factors.  The firm has been helpful.  Two years ago the Dean Search Committee did a search without the assistance of a search firm, and we didn’t find anyone who really excited the faculty.  The search firm hasn’t just placed ads for the position, they went out to actively recruit candidates.

As you may notice, I have a new clock on my desk.  It’s a countdown clock showing how many days I have left in my position as Acting Dean.  Right now, 118 days, 15 hours…  I’m eager to have a new Dean in place. It’s interesting work, and I enjoy working with the President’s leadership team, but this job, when done properly, requires an enormous amount of time and effort.  And a great deal of time spent in meetings.  I’m at 300-400 work-related emails a day, and can barely keep up.  So much time handling relatively minor matters that it is hard to find time for the bigger, more exciting tasks – like designing a program to be held this summer whose working title is “Cooper Invention Factory.”  More on that soon!  So I will be the first person to champion any new plausible candidate (laughs).

We have a timeline for the selection process.  After we generate a short list of candidates there will be rounds of interviews, off campus and on campus.  There will be meetings with faculty, students, and administrators, and perhaps presentations to these groups.  We recognize that finding someone terrific is a challenge given Cooper’s current financial situation and internal debates.  By the time we are closer to the end of the timeline, we will be past the March trustee meeting – so I expect that we will have some sense of the institution’s fate.  There are people who revel in addressing challenges like this.  I hope we find someone like that – a fixer.

As for our financial challenges, Vice President Westcott is working very hard on a financial package that will keep us afloat until 2018 at which we get a few years of relief from the Chrysler rent bump.  If anyone can do it, it’s TC.

TCP:  As head of the physics department, have you begun looking for a full time faculty professor to replace Professor Uglesich?

AW:  No new searches for faculty members right now.  We have a few departments in engineering that are losing visiting faculty or faculty through retirement, but until we know the fate of the school(s) it doesn’t make sense to look for new full time faculty.  I hope to revisit this after the March meeting.

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

CUCC Printer - featured

New Printing Limits in the CUCC

Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)

The Cooper Union Computer Center serves as a place every Cooper student can use to print out what they need. Fortunately, after the decrease of operators working per hour in the computer center, the amount of printing problems has not increased. However, around each printer, students have noticed the piles of paper that were printed but not picked up. Not only is it wasteful, Computer Center Student Manager Alexander Erb, says that because many of the papers left were printed double-sided, the CUCC could only throw these documents away.

The CUCC has now instituted a printing page limit. The biggest issue was the amount of printed pages left at the CUCC last semester. It was noticed that “more students seemed to have found their books online in the past couple of years and end up printing multiple copies and only taking one of them.” Alexander Erb also believes that “one thing people don’t seem to realize is [that there] is a small fee for each page printed that Cooper takes care of. And now that people are printing out textbooks, they’re leaving Cooper to pay for their books.”

Although there are only signs at each printer, the new limit is enforced by the means of a new system where printing several copies of the same document or a document over twenty pages is not allowed. If this new limit system works, the CUCC will not have to consider other options where students would have to pay an extra fee for printing or have a printing page limit as other colleges do.

Alexander Erb has advice for Cooper students: “print double sided when you can, try to print in black and white whenever possible, don’t print textbooks all at once [it is] easier if you just printed portions you need every few weeks, and only print out sections needed for your class.” If you already have pressed the print button at a computer, don’t press it again unless you are positive the printer did not receive the printing request!

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

Feb Ceb

Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)

If you walked into the great hall last Friday night, you probably would have been shocked to find about fifteen tables lined up in the hallway, decorated with baby blue table cloth, plastic cups with bead necklaces, tissue paper, Styrofoam stars, and snowflakes with glitter glue. If you walked in early enough, you would have seen about twenty girls, from the basketball and volleyball team, setting up the hall for Feb Ceb. Feb Ceb, short for February Celebration, took place on Saturday night from 8pm to about midnight. It is essentially a spring party for Cooper and non-Cooper guests to have a good time with dinner and dancing. Music was provided by DJ and current Cooper student, George Holevas (ChE ’14). The reason the celebration is in February is to remember Peter Cooper’s birthday and his mission. This year the theme is winter wonderland, explaining the snowflakes that can be found everywhere while last year the dance was Valentine’s Day themed.

Tickets were sold at the door for fifteen dollars each but if you bought them beforehand, they were being sold two for twenty five. Dean Baker who helps plan this event, along with Natalia Zawisny (CE ’14), Ghazal Erfani (ChE ’14), Alice Yang (ChE ’13), and Stephanie Borches (CE ’14), stays at Feb Ceb for a good portion, if not all, of the night to assure everyone is enjoying themselves and that everything goes well. Usually about eighty to hundred people attend, filling up all of the tables being set up and the stage in the great hall, which is where the dancing occurs. It is a wonderful way to meet new people and just have fun before the workload from the semester starts to pile.

protest 2 - featured

A Free Institution

Tensae Andargachew (ME ‘15)

On June 17, 1858, Abraham Lincoln made the argument that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”, arguing with passion that all people must be free. Two years later, he would give a speech at Cooper Union, where he spoke with passion again, dedicated to the cause of a free man, at a school dedicated to a free education.

Fast forward 150 years: Cooper Union is a school in torpor, financially at first, putting in jeopardy the free school.A new president, President Jamshed Bharucha comes in to solve the crisis at hand, and exposes all the details to everyone. The Cooper community finds out that Cooper is running on massive deficits and has a good deal of debt, therefore something must be done to keep the institution solvent. Immediately, committees were put together, taxes were released, and talks between all sorts of people in the Cooper community were held.

After listening to the talks, reading the reports and discussing options – one fact was revealed: tuition was on the table as a last resort. Time passed by, but the situation appeared to be growing more dire, which has led to tense relations between some in the community and a series of protests.

The latest in the series of protests began on Monday, December 3 – students, faculty, alumni and general members of the Cooper community attended in an effort to express their strong opposition to a tuition based plan, with red banners flowing and posters reading “Debtaster Zone” and “Free”.

In the communiqué distributed, there are three demands made by the protestors: a commitment from administrators, affirming that they are committed to a free education; reforms in the Board of Trustees proceedings – in particular, a call for more transparency; and lastly, the resignation of President Bharucha.

The first two points were elaborated on in the communiqué. However, an explanation as to why the protestors demanded Bharucha’s resignation can be found elsewhere: in a leaflet distributed at the protest, written by Casey Gollan, a senior art student enrolled here at Cooper.

It is suggested in this leaflet that the president came in with an agenda, which is in direct conflict with the mission of Peter Cooper – symbolized throughout the day on Monday with carts clashing into each other, into cardboard tombstones, symbolic of Peter Cooper.
This leaflet asserted that the agenda that the president supposedly holds has not been forfeited in any way, and further went to on to claim that the president uses boilerplate and the police to solve issues.

This view, in particular that the president has had an agenda in store is not unique to only Casey, but was shared by many at the protest, though not everyone. Mia Eaton, the wife of a tenured art professor, also shared that view, and believed that tuition is selling Cooper’s reputation, redefining its mission, and for this reason, it should be closed.

She explained to me how the students who barricaded themselves in the Peter Cooper Suite (or referred to by many in the media as the Clock Tower), were (and still are) risking everything – arrest and expulsion being the biggest two – for this cause.

While the protestors, whether in the suite or not, continue to protest things that might be voted on, the general plans for the future are vague – all that is really understood is that the solution must not include any tuition. Asher Mones, an art student who attended the protest, said that its really up to the administration, those committed to the mission of no tuition are who should decide. Some distributed copies of The Way Forward and bullet points as to what possibly could be done in an effort to solve it, but an official comprehensive solution was not endorsed.

Tuesday, President Bharucha addressed the protestors while ensnared by them, in the lobby of 41 Cooper Square. He repeated all the facts, told them what was going on in current talks with everyone, and then offered the protestors to join him in the Great Hall to discuss matters further. A little later, a group of students had come to praise Bharucha, affirming that they believed that he was committed to the school and its mission. This prompted a debate between the students protesting and the students praising Bharucha.

The Cooper community is in for some more talks, debates, forms and forums throughout this ongoing the crisis. Details, opinions and plans will eventually be made clear with the vehicle of free speech. The atmosphere at Cooper, which has been set up to debate ideas and not to debase individuals, to verify facts before vilifying opinions, promotes free speech, and more generally freedom. And it has done so ever since the days of Lincoln. With the freedom to express ideas and the ingenuity of the community and everyone somewhat ready to band together and embark on a road to solve Cooper’s crisis, the best way forward will probably be found.

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

Cooper Union Origami’s David Yurman Windows

Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)

If you walk by the David Yurman designer jewelry store in Manhattan (as well as three other locations nation-wide), you’ll see a 33’ origami torus made of 105 sheets of hand-cut paper. These creations are covered with approximately 35 red origami berries. The “berries” have LED’s wired into them so that they light up at random intervals, making the model twinkle.

These displays were created by The Cooper Union Origami Club.

The fact that all four displays were designed and constructed in less than a week makes them even more incredible. Origami Club president, Uyen Nguyen (ME ‘14) says that “the timing was our greatest challenge…the group effort was amazing, and I was personally touched by the incredible amount of effort my club members put into this. I honestly believe that, of our group’s current regular members, had we been down by even one person, we would not have finished the job. I am amazed and thrilled by the dedication my members have to this club.”

The idea of having origami as a window display was proposed by Richard Barrett, who works for David Yurman. He was unsure of what to do for a window display but when he went to Parents’ Day at Cooper because his son is an architecture student, he saw President Bharucha talking about the Origami Club. The Origami Club had made the President a torus and Richard Barrett thought that origami would be a good idea to use in their holiday window display. Richard Barrett then contacted student services, who then contacted the Origami Club.

Approximately 300 man-hours were spent making the torus. The club pulled consecutive all-nighters to finish the torus. Uyen describes it as a “club meeting that lasted more than 72 hours.” Harrison Cullen (EE ‘15), believes that “[he] couldn’t find a better group of people to fold paper with…while horribly sleep deprived.”

All compensation that The Cooper Union Origami Club received for their work will be donated back to Cooper. If these displays inspire you to fold something amazing, join the now-esteemed Origami Club!

Cooper’s Hurricane Sandy Response Team

Sean Cusack forward by Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)

Hurricane Sandy affected people in seven different countries and in twenty-four states across the U.S.A, killing two hundred and fifty three people and costing at least 65.6 billion dollars, 63 billion being in the U.S. alone. 41 Cooper Square lost power initially and tried to use a back-up generator to compensate but the back-up generator failed by the next morning. Inspirational stories of people helping out those devastated by the storms could be found in every newspaper and now, the Pioneer will thank Cooper’s own personal heroes. This article was kindly provided to us by alumnus and adjunct professor Sean Cusack.

In the dark of the power outage, with no sign of the early morning light outside, figures are dragging industrial equipment up the stairs. It’s the Thursday after Superstorm Sandy, and the 1-Megawatt diesel backup generator had failed. Jeff Hakner (EE ‘91), and Jody Grapes, Director of Facilities, are carrying a smaller spare gasoline-powered generator up eight flights of stairs to the Alumni Terrace and within reach of the computers that need electricity. They and a small group of staff and engineers arrived before the police-enforced 6 am curfew to check critical systems, repair any damage that might have occurred, and prepare the campus for the next few days.

A week earlier, with forewarning about the storm, the systems seemed to work according to plan. Cooper was ready with a day’s diesel in its generator, in case of temporary blackout. The fuel could be stretched if additional facilities were shut down. But sometimes, fate intervenes.

The generator kept up with demand for eight hours during the blackout, then suffered a failure due to low oil pressure and went dark. The computer systems were abruptly shut off in the middle of operation, and with the computers down, so went and email.

Administration reacted and called in tech specialists to repair the generator, but soon discovered the problem went beyond the low oil pressure. The local team didn’t have the parts necessary to discern or repair the problem. A new plan was hatched on Wednesday night by President Bharucha, TC Westcott, Jody Grapes, and Bob Hopkins to bring up critical systems and to restore internet and email service and the website if possible.

Back on the 8th floor on Thursday, the gasoline-powered generator that is usually only utilized for small outdoor lighting and power tools is only 3500W, barely enough to run a few of the servers behind the computer center. Jody, his team, and Jeff get it running outside on the Terrace – the generator cannot run indoors due to the risk of carbon monoxide.

Meanwhile, on the 10th floor, engineers continue to work on the diesel generator but even the service tech can’t get it up and running; the main repair team from Detroit Diesel will have to come in. They won’t arrive in time during this blackout.

Jeff splices custom power extension cords and runs wires from the Terrace into the server room behind the Computer Center. Each server takes almost 1000W, so there’s not much room for error keeping basic services alive. After removing the redundant backup power systems and pulling line cards in the servers to reduce the amperage draw, email and internet come up.

Jeff is able to fix the hard power-off software issues. For now everything is running on the gasoline, but there is not enough fuel to last for very long. Unfortunately, the natural-gas powered Co-Gen plants in both buildings – though they work properly – can only share load on existing ConEd power lines, and with the ConEd lines dark, the Co-Gen Plants cannot provide power. With some modification they could be independent but that’s something to plan for another time.

As the gasoline starts to run out, the team looks for any nearby source. But just like everyone else in Manhattan, they find it impossible to access any. This time, knowing that another outage is coming, Jeff properly shuts down all the systems so they will be easy to reboot when the power is up. Cooper goes dark gently. Come Friday morning, there is still no gasoline to be found and Jeff Hakner is driving through Connecticut searching for some when he gets the call that ConEd will soon be bringing the power up. When the lights all turn on again in the East Village, Jeff is able to bring the Cooper Union systems back up remotely from his home, thanks to shutting them down correctly the evening before.

On Saturday morning and with driving restrictions still heavily enforced, Brian Cusack (ME ‘01), takes a 3-hour bus ride from central New Jersey into the Port Authority and, with the subways still shut down below 34th Street, catches a cab down to Cooper. He spends the morning plugging the line cards back in and replacing the redundant power lines. After removing the low-power usage special settings put in place two days earlier, he brings all the other servers back up to normal. The web is up! Datatel also seems to have suffered no serious damage, though it will be until the next week before that is officially running, thanks to more effort by John Kibbe.

Thanks to the hard work and long hours of Facilities, Security, and the Computer Center staff, and despite an unforeseen generator failure, Cooper had power while many did not and was running full-steam ahead by the beginning of the week immediately following Hurricane Sandy.