Category Archives: News

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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Let’s Talk About Gender, Baby

By Gabriela Godlewski (CE ‘19)

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at The Cooper Union is collaborating with supportive faculty members in order to introduce a forum at Cooper. The forum, called “Let’s Talk,” aims to increase conversation about the experience of women at Cooper as well as in the engineering workforce. The forum aims to offer support and advice to those who need it and could provide learning opportunities for those who want to know more about what their female colleagues experience daily.

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Registration Moved to 9 a.m.

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19)

Each class level will now register for the fall 2017 semester starting at 9 a.m. during the April 18-21 registration period, according to the Registrar’s Office. So far, the administration has made no further changes to the process.

The change was intended to facilitate registration for students: Administrators can address students’ problems immediately since registration will take place at the start of business hours. According to Associate Registrar David Chenkin in an email: “The deans decided [9 a.m. registration] would be easier for students who needed more help from their advisors.” He added that “advisors and administrators would more likely be available.”

Whether this change will help or hinder students is yet unclear. Classes at Cooper typically start at 9 a.m., and some start as early as 8 a.m. Students who have morning classes may have trouble registering until much later in the day. Potential conflicts with the new registration time seem imminent for some in the engineering school; at least one test is scheduled for 9 a.m. during registration.

Previously, registration has started at 12 a.m.—a time when a majority of Cooper students seem to be available. The one downside to midnight registration is that students must wait until the next morning to resolve any scheduling problems.

So far only the engineering school’s class schedule for next semester has been released. The administration will likely send out a campus-wide email with more detailed registration instructions in the coming weeks. ◊

ESC Faculty Auction

By: Gabriela Godlewski (CE ‘19)

The Fun Committee of ESC hosted the fifth annual Faculty Auction last Wednesday evening in the Rose Auditorium. Over 100 students came after class, cash in hand, to bid on 159 spots with 51 different professors. This year, every professor sold.
The auction raised a grand total of $3,356 for the Fun Committee to use on future events, almost double last year’s total. The money made from the Faculty Auction will be given right back to the student body in the form of events including: cookies and coffee, therapy dogs, midnight breakfast, and Assassin.
The Faculty Auction lets students bid on opportunities to spend time with professors outside of a school environment. Often, these activities are tailored to the interests of the professor, so students can see how professors enjoy spending their time—besides teaching, of course. Some offers make annual appearances and become events that students look forward to. For example, there are the sought-after meditation session with ME professor George Sidebotham and the physics movie night hosted by professor Philip Yecko.
The “grand prize” that students anticipate every year is Career Center head Jolie Woodson’s investment towards professional development. The investment goes towards the GRE, membership to a professional society, or expenses to attend a professional conference. The prize regularly sets the record for highest bid, this year going for a record $250 per student!
One of the most unique prizes was offered up by new adjunct professor Christopher Curro. The highest bidder could choose which vegetable Curro would eat and, on top of that, spend a nice day in New York City with him and two friends. Professors Michael Kumaresan and Bob Hopkins both offered up a day out to a sporting event. A highly coveted prize this year was offered by President Laura Sparks, who will host two nights of home-cooked meals with her family for a dozen students.

Not only is the Faculty Auction itself an entertaining event, but it also provides the committee with the means to make more fun events in the future. If you didn’t come this year, there’s always next year, and Fun Committee will work to make each auction bigger and better! ◊

Photo by Zheng Alex Liu (ChE '20).
Photo by Zheng Alex Liu (ChE ’20).

ChE Department Seeks New Faculty

By Daniel Galperin (ChE ‘18)

The Chemical Engineering department is seeking to hire at least one new full-time faculty member this semester for Fall 2017. On October 3, 2016 a listing for a tenure-track faculty position was posted to the Cooper Union website. Candidates for the position appeared on campus last week to meet with other faculty members as well as ChE students. The candidates gave brief talks about their areas of research and their teaching philosophy. Areas of interest included surface engineering applications in formulation science and the use of catalysts for alternative energy.

Currently, the Chemical Engineering faculty is comprised of four full time professors, one laboratory technician and one adjunct professor. Comparing that to other departments makes it very clear that the ChE department is in need of a new hire. Professor Stock continues to teach ChE-352 Reactions Engineering, while simultaneously carrying out the role of Acting Dean. Cooper Union Federation of College Teachers (CUFCT) law states that the Dean may only teach one course per semester.

At the start of last semester Professor Brazinsky also had to go on emergency leave and as of today, it remains unclear whether or not he plans to return to the Cooper Union. Further, professors within the ChE department have stated that the interview process for the tenure-track faculty hire may very well attempt to produce two candidates instead of the one that was originally planned.

Traditionally, new faculty members at Cooper begin their teaching career by offering a graduate-level elective in their area of expertise. “A new graduate elective would definitely be a plus since we are limited in those options and usually have to resort to other majors’ graduate electives if we are interested in higher level material,” commented Robert Godkin (ChE ’18). ChE students are excited to participate in the hiring process in any capacity and are equally excited to have an additional elective to choose from when planning courses. The hiring process will hopefully be concluded this semester and the ChE department will have at least one additional member starting Fall 2017. ◊

Next President Sparks a Conversation

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

This past Thursday, The Pioneer editors spoke with President-elect Laura Sparks about her priorities as president, her first impressions of Cooper, and the role that Cooper Union can play in the immediate community and even the broader world.

Photo by Mario Morgado.
Photo by Mario Morgado.

On Presidential Priorities

Upon entering office on January 4, 2017, Sparks’ priority is to listen and learn from the Cooper community. She’s already visited campus multiple times to talk to students and administrators alike as she wants a deeper understanding of not only the challenges that Cooper faces but the culture of the institution as well. Embedded in this priority of listening and learning is understanding the financial picture of the university.

Sparks realizes that to bring the institution back to free tuition she needs to understand the “depth and breadth of the challenge” and work with the Cooper community to create a vision and plan for the future. Bringing Cooper back to the 100% scholarship model is a central component to her plan but Sparks believes that “Cooper is about so much more than that.” To her, Cooper is a “platform for progressive change” and the education and preparation of the students to be successful after college all need to be proper considerations for this long term strategic plan.

So, the first twelve months of Sparks’ presidency will be primarily focused on putting this plan together while ensuring that it models what Cooper strives to be, “highly engaged, collaborative, and with spirit of progress.”

“Institutions have a role to play in correcting social injustices. The Cooper Union has an opportunity
to set an example for how this can be done.”

On DACA and Social Justice

Last week, Acting President Bill Mea and President-elect Sparks jointly sent campus-wide email announcing Sparks’ signature in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

DACA is an immigration policy enacted by the Obama administration in 2012 that allows undocumented immigrants who meet a certain set of requirements to legally work or obtain an education in the United States. Considering the post-election political climate, DACA appears to be at risk of being repealed by the incoming Trump administration. The petition—originating at Pomona College in California—has been circulating among institutions of higher education and carries over 450 signatures from the heads of public and private colleges and universities.

Sparks felt that Cooper “can and should do a lot” as she believes that though the university is historically known for being focused on the education of the students, it should play a role in the broader community especially after the recent presidential election. According to her, it is important to think as a country about how we engage in civic discourse, and “The Cooper Union has an opportunity to set an example for how that can be done in this country.”

Though it was perhaps a bold move to speak for the entire institution before taking office, Sparks felt there was broad support among the Cooper community after speaking with Mea, Dean  Chris Chamberlin, and others. According to Sparks, “it is important for us as an institution to stand up for what we believe in and to make sure most importantly that our students and broader community feel supported.” Sparks and Mea both intended to sign the statement, but only one signature per school was permitted.

Signing the DACA letter followed from Sparks’ view that “institutions have a role to play in correcting social injustices.” Cooper Union’s history as a place of social change resonated with “my background, the experiences in my own career, and what I hope for Cooper going forward,” said Sparks.

Sparks’ sense of social justice and the role that institutions can play in furthering it stems from her time at Wellesley College. Taking classes in both economics and philosophy fostered “an entirely new way of looking at the world” while also encouraging conversations about personal beliefs.

“How can we be a model for rigorous education that’s high quality, that’s accessible, and that’s dynamic?”

On Her Perceptions of Cooper Union

As part of her presidential transition, she has begun working with administrators and speaking to faculty. She has also met many students by attending a community gathering open to all students as well as a reception event for scholarship recipients.

When asked how her perceptions of Cooper have changed, she said, “I actually haven’t been that surprised, and in some ways that’s what is surprising.” She also spoke about her perception that Cooper has a very strong culture, even though that culture is difficult to decipher sometimes.

To her credit, Sparks really is aware of the current situation at Cooper. She acknowledges the Presidential Search Committee for giving her an accurate representation of Cooper’s affairs. She answered, “I think they did a great job of making sure the candidates understand the place.”

On the Board Meeting in December

Sparks will attend the Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for December 7. She is expected to update the Board about her presidential transition, providing comments and observations about her reception while also seeking feedback from the Board.

Other items on the agenda include meeting requirements set in the Consent Decree as part of an agreement to terminate litigation. In simpler terms, when the Attorney General brokered a deal to end the lawsuit, there were some stipulations that must be met by certain dates.

In particular, the Consent Decree requires that “all Trustees who served on the Board as of October 6, 2006, shall have their terms expire as of December 7, 2016.” In effect, this means the current Chairman of the Board, Richard Lincer, will be forced to step down. Sparks comments on this change in Board leadership: “The Board, after it makes its appointments, will let the community know. In my experience in working with the folks that I expect to be in leadership positions after the 7th [of December], I’m very pleased. It’s been a highly productive working relationship and I think it will have a good outcome.”

Another requirement of the Consent Decree is a report produced by the Board’s Free Education Committee for the Attorney General. As written in the Consent Decree, the next progress report is due on January 15, 2017, and will update the Attorney General on the progress towards “returning Cooper Union to a sustainable, full tuition scholarship model.” Sparks: “I’ve been in discussion with the Chair of the Free Education Committee and getting up to speed with the budget cuts that have been made and others that are proposed.” ◊