Category Archives: News

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.” ◊

ppb 3

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:

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

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 . 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.” ◊

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. ◊

Acting President Bill Mea. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE '19).

On The President’s Agenda

By Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)

At the cabinet level of the administration, this summer has been as busy as ever.

The Acting President, various VPs, all the Deans, and other administrators have been wrapped up working (1) on finding places to spend less money, (2) planning for Cooper’s accreditation process, and (3) thinking about the search for new Deans.

What follows here is a brief overview of what’s on Acting President Bill Mea’s mind right now based on an interview for The Pioneer.

Acting President Bill Mea. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE '19).
Acting President Bill Mea. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE ’19).

Budget Cuts and overall Financial Health

The short version:

From Bill Mea’s perspective achieving financial health means, in the short-term (3 years): balancing how much is spent every year versus how much money comes in, and then in the long-term (20 years): putting money back in the savings account so we have a safety net and are working towards paying back our loans. All the while, there is utmost priority on returning to free.

The long version:

Before this year, the last major update from Bill Mea was the Budget and Financial Projections published in February 2016—a document that made big waves because it enumerated for the first time how much money it would take to return to free. (Recap: The document outlined the $15 million gap between how much money we spend annually right now versus how much we should spend every year while giving free tuition. The gap must be closed with spending cuts or additional revenue. The cuts, however, must be sustainable—not just cut now only to be added back later—and additional revenue cannot be from tuition).

At the time, the most pressing issue was immediately cutting $3 million from the annual budget within two years. The progress on that is excellent: in the first year (this year), $2.2 million has already been sustainably cut from this year’s budget. Bill Mea: “Currently, the budget for this year is imbalanced—we are spending more than we bring in. By 2019, we will have a balanced budget, but that will still include money from tuition. The goal is of course to create a balanced budget that does not depend on tuition, and that’s a real challenge.”

In anticipation of that, the Board of Trustees asked Mea’s administration to come up with even more cuts than that. Some of these cuts are effective immediately, such as choosing a new company to conduct Cooper Union’s annual audit has resulted in lower fees; while other cuts will be rolling out soon this year, like “trimming down on consulting expenses and travel costs.” Yet still more cuts will be in place three years from now.

Bill Mea and other sources all-but-revealed that the cuts coming very soon would include “changes in personnel costs”—a euphemism for firing people.

At the Free Education Committee meeting in June, a major topic of discussion was a study of how “The Cooper Union has more non-instructional staff per student than institutions in a similar geographic area, of similar size, offering similar degrees and even of similar academic reputation.” In simpler terms, we have a lot of administrators, directors, secretaries, assistants, etc. on full-time payroll compared to pretty much any other place—and it’s unsustainable. To be clear, these are not cuts in faculty positions or “positions that impact students directly”, but rather administrative roles only. This will be happening very soon, this year itself. Mea assured that the decisions will be disclosed publicly soon, but also requested that the matter remain private at first to “honor and be just to people [affected].” As such, The Pioneer is not seeking this information at this time.

The full picture of financial health extends beyond simply balancing the amount spent compared to the amount of money coming in. According to Mea, the Board’s discussion of financial health has shifted with the help of the recently appointed Financial Monitor—an outside company with financial expertise Cooper is legally required to consult following the terms of the lawsuit settlement. The Financial Monitor has helped define overall financial health to include not only balancing the budget but also replenishing savings and reserves. Bill Mea: “We have depleted every reserve, there’s nothing left. It’s like an individual person that every month gets their pay and every month spends all that pay, and they have no savings account. So when the car breaks down or you lose a job [or any other unforeseen expense or loss of income], there is nothing to fall back on.” The importance of this kind of thinking is clear: “When we get back to free, the last thing we want to do is not be free again [due to a lack of savings].”

Certainly, it is gratifying to see real and effective action towards returning to free with emphasis on staying free thereafter.

Middle States

The preparation for the accreditation process is well underway, led by co-chairs Prof. Daniel Lepek and Director of Campus Enterprise Applications Brian Cusack (both Cooper alumni). Committees are
being formed to assess Cooper’s compliance with standards set by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The accreditation process involves drafting a self-study report—a place for Cooper to reflect and assess its own conduct and processes. Of particular note are Standards related to Support of the Student Experience, Ethics and Integrity, and Governance, Leadership and Administration. Bill Mea: “This does represent an opportunity for us to identify where we should improve” and it’s a chance to affect real change in these areas. All students are invited and highly encouraged to get involved in the accreditation process by getting in touch with Lepek or Cusack.

Search for Deans

Acting Dean of Engineering Richard Stock has been in his position for one year now. Bill Mea: “He’s done a tremendous job as dean—like I knew he would—bringing the school together and helping it move forward.” According to rules negotiated with the faculty union, Stock is allowed only one more year as a temporary dean and Mea recognizes that time is running out to find a full time dean. Until now, the search for a new dean has been on hold until a new president was found. “Now that [President-elect] Laura Sparks has been named, I went to Stock and through him I have asked the engineering faculty to begin forming a search committee for a new dean. Knowing that these processes take some time, I wanted to get it started.” Each department (the four engineering majors, plus chemistry, physics and math) will have representation on this search committee. “When Laura [Sparks] gets here in January, she will then be working with that committee.”

Mea had only positive things to say about Acting Dean of Art Mike Essl. Bill Mea: “He’s really done a great job already.” And there is no rush to find a replacement since he only started as Acting Dean in July of this year. ◊


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. ◊