Category Archives: Opinion

Alumni Trustees Meet the Candidates - Photo by Winter Leng ChE '18

Alumni Trustee Elections: Why Should Students Care?

by Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)

The consent decree, an agreement brokered by the New York State Attorney General that settles last year’s lawsuit, requires that alumni must have greater representation on the Board of Trustees. To that end, the Cooper Union Alumni Association (CUAA) is holding a “Special Election 2015” with 23 alumni candidates on the ballot and a great deal of attention from the wider community. That sounds great for alumni — but why should students care?

Like most things, there’s a short answer and a long answer.

The short answer:

The inaction and indiscretions of the old Board of Trustees played a significant role in making tuition at Cooper a reality. The make up of the Board is finally being turned over right now and we need to be sure that Trustees elected now will not only have better practices, but also enact the changes necessary to return Cooper Union to free. Ultimately, students are going to be most affected by the next Board of Trustees and so students should be informed and get involved with the election of the new Trustees.

The long answer:

The Board that has been at the helm for the last 10 years — the same Board the Attorney General describes as having promoted misleading financial information to the public and having failed to show effective internal control, governance and transparent communication — is being changed from within. Among the strongest clauses in the consent decree is the requirement that “all Trustees who served on the Board of Trustees on October 6, 2006 shall have their terms expire on December on December 7, 2016” and none of them can be reappointed ever. In simple terms, old Trustees are on their way out.

Change is happening right now. Most recently, on November 11, Board Chairman Richard Lincer announced that Cooper Union’s bylaws have been amended. In accordance with the consent decree, the new bylaws require the immediate election of two additional Alumni Trustees. This is CUAA’s Special Election 2015. One newly elected Trustee will begin his/her 4-year term in December 2015 and one will begin in June 2016, but both will be elected during this Special Election. This 4-year window is where Cooper Union is best poised to return to free.

What Lincer didn’t explicitly mention in the announcement is that Monica Abdallah (ChE ’17) was formally appointed the title of Student Trustee on November 11, joining Jessica Marshall (EE ’17) as a full Trustee with voting powers and fiduciary duties. Both Abdallah and Marshall directly represent students, but they must also communicate and engage with other Trustees. Special attention must be paid to how newly elected Trustees will get along with the student Trustees. For this reason, students can and should be aware of the Alumni Trustee Special Elections.

“Special attention must be paid to how newly elected Trustees will get along with the student Trustees.
For this reason, students should be
aware of the Alumni Trustee Special Elections.”

Session 2
Candidates on stage at CUAA’s event on November 9.

On November 9, the CUAA hosted a Q&A session with 19 candidates for Alumni Trustee. Wes Rozen (Arch ‘05), instructor at the School of Architecture, moderated the discussion by asking the candidates specific questions. He asked the candidates about how their particular backgrounds support their candidacy and posed pointed questions about how they would deal with certain issues if they were elected.

The candidates were not shown the questions beforehand, so they were put on the spot. As such, their responses revealed their true opinions and stances. But with only 60 seconds to respond, some candidates weren’t able to dig deep enough to reach the heart of the questions asked.

Candidates answer questions at the CUAA Meet the Candidates event on November 9. From left to right: Adrian Jovanovic (BSE ‘89), Victoria Sobel (Art ‘13), Richard Velasquez (ME ‘94), and Rob Marano (EE ‘93). Photos provided by CUAA
Candidates answer questions at the CUAA Meet the Candidates event on November 9. Clockwise from top-left: Adrian Jovanovic (BSE ‘89), Victoria Sobel (Art ‘13), Rob Marano (EE ’93), and Richard Velazquez (ME ‘94). Photos provided by CUAA.

(The opinions in the latter half of this article are the author’s alone, and do not reflect the opinion of The Pioneer as a whole).

What’s particularly worrying is that some candidates perpetuated certain ideas that are troublingly similar to opinions held by former administrators and old Trustees. That’s not to say these ideas shouldn’t be discussed or that the candidates who brought them up are ill-suited for the job necessarily. In fact, it’s all the more reason to identify what these opinions are and gain an understanding of why they may (or may not) be ‘problematic,’ for lack of a better word. Listed below are three examples, paraphrased from the candidates themselves, followed by the beginning of a considered argument:

(1) “Treat donors as investors” leading to “what can donors/investors get out of Cooper?” Cooper Union’s primary focus should always be within the community, not on those outside it. Seeking funds from the public, particularly corporations, should never take precedence over students or academic programs. Corporate investments into co-op programs or research seem like the ultimate “win-win-win” situation — but only superficially. On the surface students gain valuable experience, the school is enriched with much-needed funds, and corporations benefit by attracting talent. In reality though, these investments don’t directly support the ideals of free education and do little to actually raise academic standards.  Instead, the benefits to the corporate donor greatly outweigh everything else. (There could, however, be opportunities for professional societies and clubs to foster such corporate ties.

(2) Cooper Union in the “education marketplace.” The marketplace is saturated with bigger, better-endowed schools that can afford amenities and facilities on large campuses. Cooper cannot and should not be among those sprawling schools, so chasing the same goals doesn’t make sense. If anything, Cooper “competes” by embodying meritocratic ideals and demonstrating a paradigm of free education.

(3) “Master Plans.” The context in which this phrase was brought up was to have a definitive plan in place for returning to free. Indeed, the aim is in the right place and making plans to achieve those goals is typically a good idea. However, “Master Plans” are unilaterally defined by a small group of people at the top — not what Cooper Union needs right now. The consent decree calls for the creation of inclusive committees, like the Free Education Committee and the Presidential Search Committee, where the entire community is directly involved in the reformed governance throughout the process. In a word, recent governance reforms mean that we finally have a chance to elect Trustees who will engage the whole community. A top-down, “Master Plan” approach undermines all of this.

The failures of former President Bharucha’s administration showed that policies guided by the ideas above are not only unrealistic but also harmful if they are enacted. These contentious opinions have been compiled here so that students can identify them clearly and hopefully respond in an informed way.

On the flip side, there are candidates who stand for ideas more conducive to Cooper’s two most immediate missions: healing the community and returning to free. Among these candidates are those who say, “We have to get our house in order before we go about seeking multi-million dollar donations.” To that end, these candidates understand that the real problems are actually structural and cultural. Moreover, they will affirm that Cooper’s financial situation is a symptom of those issues.

As elected Trustees, Jessica and Monica are duty-bound to voicing the opinions and needs of students. The candidates who set their sights on the most immediate path to healing the community and directly reinstating free education will engage best with Jessica and Monica once they are elected. And together, as Student and Alumni Trustees, they will collectively have both the mandate (the support of their constituencies) and the agency (the power to vote on the BoT) to fix Cooper Union.

Women in Art

By Celeste Sousa (Art ’18)

Everyone has been in a crit where a girl is showing her work, when suddenly someone latches onto something feminine they see in the piece—usually something they view as “soft” or “vulnerable”. From there, the conversation gets derailed into discussing the piece in terms of the stereotypes of femininity, with any and all synonyms for “motherly” and “subdued” thrown in. If you’re in a sculpture class, someone’s going to bring up Eva Hesse because that’s the only female artist students feel they know well enough to shoehorn a comparison in with your work. God help you if you’re a woman artist working with fabric. Even if you’re adamant that your work is not about femininity or your gender, I’ve seen other students insist that the association was too strong to ignore. In other words, we as woman artists do not have the agency to separate our work from the patriarchal lens it’s seen through.

“God help you if you’re a woman artist working with fabric.”

One of the issues is that art made by men is considered politically and socially neutral by default. Beyond the art world too, the white man is seen as an accurate, unbiased representative for mankind. Because a woman is ‘other’ than the ‘neutral’ man, her stance in society is seen to influence and permeate everything she does. Therefore women artists are thought to bring ‘being a woman’ to their art in every single instance.  It is really harmful to tell women artists who don’t want their work to be seen through their gender that their identity is too political to make neutral art. Moreover, it
prevents people from experiencing her art for anything other than preconceived notions of gender that are projected onto her work.

The other side to this issue: women artists who actually do want their identity as a woman to be present in their work feel pressured not to explore those avenues. Many female art students fear even trying to touch femininity in their work because they are daunted by the mental exhaustion of sitting through a crit laced with sexist discussion. They are avoiding making artwork about themselves as women because of the negative views of feminism and feminist art. Feminism is an extremely polarizing subject and while in actuality it is complex it is often oversimplified for easier digestion. Feminist work is often read in crits as didactic because everyone thinks they know what feminism is and what being a woman is like. This leads to self-censorship within female artists in fear of being branded a feminist artist and being saddled with all the weight and history that comes with it. We become hyper self-conscious about our identity in relation in our art, and it begins to strain our relationships with other students, our teachers and our own art. It’s not fair to have the historical weight of being a woman imposed on our art when men’s art does not face the same scrutiny through their masculinity.

“Many female art students fear even trying to touch femininity in their work”

I want women artists to be able to make artwork about their body and identity without the fear of being pigeon-holed and I want women artists to be able to make art featuring any
subject/material they want and not have their work be read through their gender. It’s not unrealistic to want both of these.

There is no clear solution to this issue besides asking the entire student body to become more conscious of the way gender is brought up in discussion. Be aware of the gendered language you use! If another student explicitly states that her work has nothing to do with her gender, listen to her. Just because a woman attaches her body to her work does not make the piece inherently feminist. If a student does do work about being a woman, you don’t have to relate to it in order to empathize and digest what she’s saying. Question masculinity more in terms of art made by men, level the playing field, and realize that sometimes men’s art is also affected by their privileged status in society.

The issues women face in the art school are compounded with the experiences of those with differing gender and sexual identities. Anyone who is any combination of things other than the default white male knows it’s difficult enough to reconcile identity and art without the added judgment of our peers. By simply thinking about the prescribed stereotypes that are engrained in our thoughts and being conscious of it during critiques, we can relieve the institutional burdens of the patriarchy off of our peers.

Women in Engineering

By Monica Chen (CE ’18)

Being a woman doesn’t guarantee you any privileges. As a woman in engineering, I’ve heard all the stereotypes spoken about me or my female peers: “you got into Cooper Union because you’re a girl”; “you have an easier time getting help because your male peers are more willing to help you out”; “jobs are easier to attain for you”; and my personal favorite: “girls simply aren’t as good at math as boys are in general- nothing personal, it’s just the way everyone’s brains are wired.”

Although I do consider myself lucky to have a supportive family and friends to encourage my endeavors, I’ve also experienced what some may consider “unintentional” sexism from these same family members and friends. I’ve repeatedly heard comments such as “I don’t think engineering is a field that’s right for someone like you” or “Men are more inclined to be better at logical subjects like science and math and women are better at decision-making and common sense. It’s a natural and fundamental difference between men and women.” I consider these “unintentional” simply because the speaker is unaware of the sexist nature of their comment; however, these “innocent” opinions reflect more than simply being uninformed—it shows that on some subtle level, all women in engineering are still doubted and do not receive the respect they absolutely deserve. Trust me, I am not here to be bitter about any of the comments above but am just pointing out that as girls, we hear a fair share of shit about being in a challenging, male-dominated field.

But where does this leave us now? Do we deserve to place ourselves on a pedestal and use these difficulties we face to excuse ourselves from our responsibilities and complain about the work that every student has to suffer through and endure? Absolutely not.

In my own experience, I have noticed two qualities that group most women: those who allow the mental blocks to overshadow their potential and those who turn these difficulties into a factor of motivation. Of course, these separations are not in black and white; more common than not, it’s usually a combination of these two qualities. Don’t get me wrong, though—I respect and admire everyone at Cooper.

“I don’t want a ‘stepping stool,’ nor do I feel that I deserve special treatment”

However, I will be the first to admit that it’s often a struggle to ignore these belittling comments. I have observed that women with a proclivity for giving in to their mental blocks will definitely try to compete on-par with their male peers at first; however, when a difficulty or failure presents itself, these women appear more pessimistic than the rest, blaming their failures on the unjust nature of a male-dominated field. Each setback only adds to a growing pile of insecurities and doubts about their sense of belonging. Eventually, they will come to believe they require a “stepping stool” in order to compete on an equal level with their male peers.

On the other hand, I can easily relate to those who use others’ doubts or simply put, ignorance, as a source of motivation. Perhaps it’s a fear of being underestimated or perceived as fragile and weak, but I have always aimed to dismantle these preset notions of female inferiority, and take on any challenge in that matter. Engineering isn’t meant to be solely suited for males just as fashion isn’t meant to be solely suited for females. Yes, there may be a greater number of males in engineering, but this number is not indicative of a “lack of logic” in women in general.

Sure, the fear of failing and proving right those who say women can’t excel in engineering is always imminent, but it is also what pushes me past the limits that these comments have previously imposed on me. I don’t want a “stepping stool,” nor do I feel that I deserve special treatment or any advantages over my peers. I want to feel empowered not because I am a minority but because I am respected for my persistent hard work and effort. Throw away the stepping stool and treat me like an engineer, not a woman in engineering.

The Truth Behind the BSE Major

By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19)

During the first couple of weeks of this year, the most common questions I, along with the entire freshmen class, received were “what’s your name?” and “what’s your major?” Students and professors alike were confused when I responded with my name followed by “General Engineering.” After all, General Engineering isn’t one of the four conventional engineering programs offered at Cooper. And I am being completely honest when I say that, until a couple days ago, I myself was pretty confused about what being the General Engineering major was.

The General Engineering program, or Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE), was created for students who want an education in engineering but plan to specialize in a non-engineering field, like mathematics, chemistry, finance or medicine.  A lot of students confuse the BSE major with the famed “undecided major.” This is incorrect. In truth, the BSE major should be thought of as a major that students choose because what they want to study is not something Cooper currently offers. If a student desires to leave the BSE program, he or she would have to transfer into another department through the same process followed by students from any of the four traditional engineering majors.

“In theory, it sounded great. But, in practice,
that’s not what really happened.”

Each BSE student is assigned an advisor based on the field the student wants to pursue.  This advisor is part of a committee of professors, one from each of the four traditional engineering majors, who work to help the student plan his or her four years at Cooper. According to the Office of Admissions, for the class of 2019, 182 students applied to the BSE program, 30 were admitted, and 8 enrolled in the fall. But, if one were to look at the class of 2018, one would see that no BSE students were admitted.  

About four or five years ago, the full time engineering faculty decided to dissolve the BSE program—making the BSE graduates of 2015 the last group of such students. According to Professor Ruben Savizky, former BSE advisor, the fact that Cooper’s BSE program was not accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) combined with the fact that it was not possible for students who received a BSE degree to stay at Cooper and get a Master’s degree all contributed to the termination of the program.

Like with any other major, there is a spectrum of success for the BSE major. Some, according to Acting Dean Richard Stock, have “grabbed the ball and ran with it” whereas others “barely managed to get out with a degree.” As a result, many consider the program almost as a “dumping ground” for students who didn’t fit into the traditional curriculum or weren’t academically strong. Such students would take a smattering of courses and graduate, but were unable to find a job upon graduating as they weren’t trained in one specific field.  According to Stock, the main problem with the BSE program is that students “learn about all the crazy and great stuff in engineering but don’t learn how to actually do it – it’s like the documentaries on Channel 13, you come away saying ‘wow that’s really terrific’ and you talk about it but you are unable to actually do it.” When asked to explain what he thinks are the flaws of the BSE program, Savizky responded, “In theory, it sounded great. You had all this flexibility to take whatever courses you wanted and the ability to combine engineering with a field of your choice.  But, in practice, that’s not what really happened.” Students would try to take courses of their choice, but would wind up having conflicts with course schedules or would not meet the prerequisites. And by the time they met the prerequisites, they could have easily gotten a degree in one of the traditional majors.

So, why was the program brought back? According to Dean Stock, former engineering Dean Teresa Dahlberg brought up the idea of reinstating the program in a faculty meeting and stated that if the faculty were not in favor, it would not be brought back. On the one hand, faculty members felt that students are better off enrolling in one of the four traditional degrees because there is room for learning about fields outside of engineering in the form of electives and a minor. On the other hand, it was felt that if done properly, the BSE program could be of aid to students. As the staff was divided over the idea of bringing it back, an official decision was never made—until last year.

The admissions for the class of 2019 was controversial because a number of students were accepted to the Computer Science program, a separate attempt at creating a flagship program in a new design school spearheaded by former Dean Dahlberg—all without faculty approval. When the CS program ultimately failed to launch, the 31 students who had accepted placement in the CS program were instead offered admission in the four existing engineering majors or to the interdisciplinary BSE program that was quietly reinstated—once again, without faculty approval. Among all the other allegations raised over the CS program, this particular bait-and-switch of admitted students was especially egregious. Moreover, it was a matter of concern for the Attorney General, as evidenced by the cross petition in early September.  This all contributes to the confusion associated with the revival of the BSE degree and there haven’t been any attempts to clarify it.

Will the program be continued in the foreseeable future? As of now, nothing is certain.  Since there are students currently enrolled in the BSE program, it would have to be sustained at least until 2019. But, there is no certainty that the class of 2020 will even be offered the chance to apply to the General Engineering program. And, like Professor Savizky said, if the dean had the power to bring the program back without faculty approval, then subsequent deans can “activate or inactivate the program as they see fit.”

I don’t know if I, myself, am a believer in the program.  On paper, it seems perfect—the idea that a student can receive an engineering education while pursuing a non-engineering field.  But, there is a reason why the BSE program is offered in such a small number of institutions nationwide.  To succeed as a BSE major requires having a legitimate plan for a student’s four years at Cooper which can seem, and is, daunting to a freshman. To this day, I still receive questions about the BSE major and though there is much confusion associated with the program, it is safe to say that ultimately, the program is designed to aid those who feel like they are unable to pursue an education in the four traditional majors and that if sought out carefully, can be one of the greatest assets to an individual’s career. 

Cogeneration: A New Approach to Cost Reduction

By Daniel Galperin (ChE ’18)

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are those of the author alone. The numbers, however, are factual.

With so many things happening at The Cooper Union ranging from administrative to operational changes, there is quite a bit of talk about the need to spend less. Acting Dean Stock spoke about “living within our means” when interviewed by The Pioneer previously this semester, and Acting President Mea said “the goal is to become operationally adequate so we can at least break even and spend no more than we earn.”

Previously, discussion of reducing Cooper’s expenses orbited around the earnings of certain administrators. Of course I agree that the numbers seem excessive, and I remember how bewildered I was the first time I heard them, but maybe it’s time for a new approach. Why keep beating the dead horse, when there are other ways for the school to save money. I think our operational adequacy can come from resources that are already in place and perhaps could be optimized.

Cogenerator on the roof of the NAB

Cogenerator on the roof of the NAB. Photo from Prof Baglione’s faculty page.

In a building full of complex chemical instruments, machining equipment and a flux of 1,000 people in and out, extremely large amounts of energy are consumed daily. The New Academic Building consumes an average of 600 kilowatts (the equivalent of about 200 households).

I spoke to Professor Melody Baglione, who incorporates many of the sustainable systems in our building into projects for mechanical engineering students. Prof Baglione was kind enough to explain the complicated process of how the cogenerator produces electricity and heat, but more importantly she explained the cost saving aspects of the cogenerator. 

“…it is estimated to save the Cooper Union $200,000 annually”

The building has two utility service lines for metering electricity purchased from the Con Edison utility grid.  Each meter would read roughly the same electricity consumption, but with cogeneration, the amount of electricity Cooper Union needs to purchase for the second service line is reduced by as much as 250 kW.  The cogenerator uses natural gas purchased from the grid to produce electricity and heat for the building and is located on the roof of the NAB. Onsite cogeneration is more efficient than purchasing electricity from the grid since otherwise wasted heat is captured for use. It was installed in the NAB at the cost of $1.2 million dollars, but with a grant of $400,000 from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as a combined heat and power (CHP) incentive.

Despite the high cost of installation of the cogenerator, it is estimated to save the Cooper Union $200,000 annually. The actual savings depend on the actual run hours and fluctuating natural gas and electricity rates. It is important to note that as the cost of natural gas goes down and the cost of electricity goes up, cogeneration saves the school even more money.

The cogenerator isn’t some superhero though; it’s not flawless. Prof Baglione mentions that an element called the absorption chiller is not working at the moment. I was assured that it isn’t an integral part of the cogenerator, as it is only used in the summer to help cool the building by using the excess heat it generates through some nifty refrigeration process or other. However the discussion of repairing the absorption chiller hinges on whether or not it is a good enough investment. This is to say, “will repairing this item cost more money than the item will save us?”

An energy diagram showing how cogeneration uses less energy.

An energy diagram showing how cogeneration uses less energy. 

It also came up in discussion that there happens to be another cogenerator on the roof of the Foundation Building. Although the NAB consumes around two-thirds of the energy of the campus (where “campus” is defined as the NAB, Foundation Building and dorms), the Foundation Building constitutes a significant amount of energy cost for the Cooper Union as well.

As of now, the Foundation Building cogenerator is not working at all, which may be due to the way the cogeneration plant was initially tied into the building’s existing systems. Professor Baglione, along with Joe Viola (ME ‘16), are working with the Facilities staff to understand the best options for getting the cogenerator at the Foundation Building up and running again.  She drew a parallel between the “investment” arguments made previously. More research and analysis needs to be done before any real claims are made, but according to Prof Baglione the savings that the Foundation Building cogenerator could produce would probably outweigh the cost of repair.

Perhaps the cogenerators are helpful but not helpful enough for the investment involved in repairing them. On the other hand, perhaps the cogenerators can be repaired or optimized and save our school a lot of money. Either way, we need to look into other methods of balancing the operational budget instead of banging the “fire everyone” drum. I think this might be a good place to start.

Op-Ed: On Changing the Name of the School

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

It’s difficult for a school to maintain an identity over long periods of time. Students are constantly entering and leaving, as are professors and administrators (albeit at a much slower rate). When adding technology- and curriculum-related changes, institutions of higher learning are required to change in order to keep afloat. How does a school keep its own unique identity during these periods of change?

When approaching this topic, I’m reminded of Plutarch’s Ship of Theseus. Plutarch presents a ship—referred to as The Ship of Theseus—in which the Athenian youth returned from Crete. The ship’s thirty oars were damaged, and so the Athenians replaced them. Boards were broken, and so stronger wood was put in place. After many years, the Ship of Theseus consisted almost entirely of new material. The question: is the ship still the Ship of Theseus?

Aristotle asserts that there are four causes (or ways) to describe an object: a material cause (what the object is made of), a formal cause (how it is designed), an efficient cause (how and why it changes) and a final cause (the end-goal of an object).

The ship, it could be argued, is still the Ship of Theseus because it still has the same design and the same form; its formal cause does not change. Similarly, the ship could still be the Ship of Theseus because it still serves the same end goal; its final cause does not change.

If we tie these arguments back to identity in institutions of higher education, we can say that a school keeps its identity if it maintains the same design and still serves the same final purpose.

Consider, now, our school. As we all know, a dramatic change is about to occur this September as we begin to charge students for the first time in over a century. Can we say that this new school is still The Cooper Union? Looking at it from strictly an Aristotelian perspective, I don’t think we can.

Let’s first look at our formal cause: implementation of tuition is a clear change to the school’s design. At its root, the model of this school used to be that students exchange nothing more than their time and energy for an education. This exchange—the key aspect of design of this school—will be dramatically altered in September.

Now examine our final cause. In charging tuition, we change from educating for the purpose of educating to educating for the purpose of financial gain. It goes further: when discussing Bharucha’s salary with a friend, I mentioned that our president makes nearly twice as much as Obama. My friend responded by saying that he doesn’t think Obama does the job for the money. With the sheer amount of money that Bharucha receives annually—more than 700,000 in total compensation—it is impossible to claim that Bharucha isn’t financially motivated. With absurdly high salaries for higher-ups such as Bharucha, and Campbell’s notoriously fat bonuses, it’s clear that Cooper has been transforming into a school that serves to benefit its leaders—just like any other business. If this claim seems a bit over the top, consider that Bharucha’s annual compensation is enough to pay one year of half tuition for 35 students, an entire class of architecture students. Choosing to keep a single administrator over 35 students shows that the end-goal of this school is no longer to educate students: it is to make a profit for our leaders.

Less obviously, our material cause changes as well. Colleges cycle through students every four years, but ideally the kind of student entering stays the same. It remains to be seen whether the incoming students will be at the same academic and creative level as current students, but there will be one change that will necessarily occur. We students at Cooper have a very specific relationship with our education since we are not paying for it. When paying for an education, one’s relationship with their education changes, for better or for worse. At an open forum, a community member compared this to paying for sex: clearly, paying for sex differs greatly from not paying for sex. The difference isn’t merely the amount of money exchanged. The new students will have a different relationship to their education—this may not necessarily be a bad thing—than students did in the past. The implementation of tuition results in a student body that is significantly different than all bodies that came before.

This new school is no longer The Cooper Union. I propose—however dramatic it seems—that this school changes its name. Institutions of higher education are already modern-day Ships of Theseus; there’s a fine balance struck between changing and maintaining an identity. We’ve changed so much from a material standpoint (the New Academic Building, overpriced men and women in suits) that we need to be especially careful about how we much we change before we begin to turn into something else completely. To make matters even worse, Cooper is in the process of altering its mission statement. If that doesn’t indicate a severe change in identity, I don’t know what does.

Admittedly, a name change is unlikely to happen, as the name “The Cooper Union” is a big selling point for donations as well as incoming applications. It makes little sense from a business perspective to change the name of the school, but it makes perfect sense from a logical and moral point of view. This is simply a different school; it deserves to be labeled as such.

What is Your Legacy?

What’s Your Legacy?

Stop what you’re doing. Take a good look around. Look out the window and look out into the hallway. Have you spoken to anybody outside of your school today? If you’re an engineer, have you talked to an artist today? Artists, have you spoken to an engineer today? Architects, have you left your studio today?

The school has been crumbling at our feet. It’s been slower in the past, albeit, but things seem to be deteriorating at an accelerating speed. I feel as though relations between the schools are more estranged than ever. In times of strife, it’s easy to withdraw into our comfort zones. It’s easy to decide to focus on your work, to say fuck the school I’m going to just do me and get the hell out. It can’t possibly fail, it’s been standing for 155 years, why not 155 more? This passivity will be the death of the Cooper Union.

This passivity will be the death of the Cooper Union.

What do you want to look back on in five years? Will you be ready to look back? How about 10 years? 20? 30? How about 50 years? Let’s look back.

What are you most worried about right now? Is it your calculus final? Completing a model? Finishing your sculpture? Is it that HSS essay that’s due the day before break? These present obstacles seem the most pressing. They’re easy to look at, to face, to conquer. You can count on the power of a single individual and you have the skill set necessary to complete the task. That’s what you go to school for. To gain the necessary skill-sets in order to be successful and innovative in the field of your choosing.

But how do you fix a school? Do you know how to do that? How would you even start? Sign your name on a petition, make a meme, say “I know it’s bad and I don’t like it but it’ll work itself out.”

What will this school be like once we have a paying class? We will no longer be the Free School. There’s the New School down the street, but somehow the Free School has a better ring. Now we will be the “School that was Once Free”. The melodrama of our situation will resound in the nomenclature.

Can a school divided stand?

So come next year, assuming that indeed, we are charging tuition, Cooper will be caught in a divide. It will be both the Free School, and The School that was Once Free. Two schools. Can a school divided stand?

But you go to the Free School, so it’s all cool. Those kids who go to the School that was Once Free won’t be here till next year and that’s practically a lifetime away.

Your inactivity is perpetuating the cultural shift which will eventually destroy the Free School. You are a frog sitting in warm water, not noticing that it’s getting hotter. You’re sleepy, drifting away, but you’re slowly, degree by degree, boiling away.

Jump out.

So what do you see yourself leaving behind? You’ll eventually leave this school. You personally won’t have payed a dime towards tuition and you’ll be patting yourself on the back for having escaped the binds of throttling student debt. But what will be left? A school that is but a shell of its former self. The seniors will graduate, the current juniors, the current sophomores, and last, the current freshmen. And who will be left? The Free School will have been abolished, its ideals forgotten, its legacy diminished, its future dismal.

Will you be the class that enabled destruction?

And how is your class going to be seen? Will you be the class that sat quietly, twiddling their thumbs, letting the Board destroy 155 years of tradition? Or will you be the class that stood up, and said “This is a Free School and it will stay Free!” Will you be the class that enabled destruction? Or will you be the class that took action, unified, and changed the paradigm of student empowerment?

Think about what you’re leaving behind. Think about your legacy.