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Collective of Students Work to Create an Anti-Racist Institution

By Brighton Huynh (CE’21)

(Editors Note: The content of footnotes have been moved to the end of the article. For those whom the letter is addressed to, I have shortened two job titles and moved the full titles to the end of the article to maintain continuity in the formatting of the letter)

Update (1JUL2020): The Cabinet of the President posted a recent response to the collective letter on June 8th recently.

Systemic racism has plagued the country since its founding and continues to do so. The cold-blooded murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Nina Pop have prompted a mass movement calling for the nation to proactively confront systemic racism. A collective of students took action to ensure that the Cooper Union transforms itself into an actively anti-racist institution. The following is a statement from some of the students involved accompanied by the body of the letter:

The letter below, addressed and delivered on June 8, 2020, to the administration of The Cooper Union, is by no means exhaustive in scope but hopes to serve as merely the beginning of a series of conversations needed to foster and transform The Cooper Union into an actively anti-racist institution. The actions proposed were initially questions and concerns voiced in a town hall hosted by students on June 1, 2020, as well as informed by other school-wide meetings held during that week. The letter circulated around various social media networks to reach students and alumni across the three schools. The letter was edited collaboratively using Google Docs and any signee was permitted to suggest changes and post comments to the letter. Each of these suggested changes or comments were addressed individually by the organizing members. The hope is that these conversations surrounding institutional racism will continue to develop throughout The Cooper Union.

Since the submission of the letter to the administration, the document has been further copyedited for typographical errors and improved readability.

The original collaborative document is available on Google Docs here.

If you wish to add your signature to the letter, please do so here.

If you wish to join the conversation, please read, comment, suggest, and share the developing list of questions—most of which were delivered jointly on June 8, 2020 with the letter below—which is available here.

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Students want meaningful change to HSS curriculum and faculty

Oct29Protest-JuliusFreyra

By Matthew Grattan (BSE ’19)

Photo by Julius Freyra (CE ’21), courtesy of Humans of Cooper Union

The third course of the mandatory humanities and social sciences core curriculum is entitled HSS-3: The Making of Modern Society. “Once I remembered that, it was ridiculous for me to say that modern society as it exists today only exists because of Europe,” said Mahmoud Khair-Eldin (CE ‘21) over the phone one night last week.

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Grossmann on HSS Protest: ‘We need a different structure’

By Brian Frost (EE ’19) and George Ho (BSE ’19)

According to Professor of History Atina Grossmann, she and Professor Ninad Pandit, a post-doctoral fellow in social science, “significantly changed” the HSS-3 curriculum to include readings with non-Western perspectives. The changes are ostensibly a reaction to the HSS petition in 2016, but it is unclear how these readings are incorporated into the classroom.

Separately, Professor Sam Keene, chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, emphasized that changing the HSS curricula is entirely up to the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences; the Task Force serves an advisory role only.

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HSS Discussed Curriculum with President Sparks in 2017; Acting Dean Buckley Responds to Protest

By Brian Frost (EE ‘19) and George Ho (BSE ‘19)

The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences talked about the purpose of its program in relation to the three schools
with President Sparks in 2017, according to Peter Buckley, Acting Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences. “It was not generally known by the students that the faculty had already requested a full program review from the president, which is going to be announced by the president shortly. [...] It dates back to 2017, when we went to the president to say ‘look, it’s about time the overall learning objectives of HSS were examined, and we’re willing to do it.’”

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Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE '19).

Are we there yet? The 2018 Peter Cooper Block Party

By Sanjana Lahiri (Arch ’22)

In case you missed the performances, tie-dye shirts, and mildly disturbing Peter Cooper inflatables that took over Instagram last month, Sept. 22 marked the day of the fifth annual Peter Cooper Block Party. Organized by the Cooper Union Alumni Association alongside the spirited “Astor Alive!” Festival, the Block Party served as a way for the Cooper Union community to come together before the semester’s workload inevitably took over.

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