On November 8th, 2013, the students of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture called an all-school meeting. It was decided that in response to the implementation of tuition starting Fall 2014, the students of the School of Architecture will establish a fundraising initiative to pay 50% tuition bills for the 30 anticipated undergraduate architecture students admissible in 2014. The students recognize that the Cooper Union’s greatest value is in it’s vision of an education based on merit and social equity and have decided to make this collective gesture to the incoming architecture class of 2014 to keep the school free for one more year. It is clear that this initiative will not cause a structural change(s) or provide a long-term source of revenue; however, this will buy an extra year for other long-term initiatives to be implemented. The mission statement and pledge website for the initiative will be released next week. ◊
Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)
The basketball season for both the men and women’s teams has just begun. The men’s basketball team went to St. Marten at the end of October for a game and intensive training as well. It is a trip they have done every year and every year, those four days create an unbreakable team bond among the men. The men played their first game in the states against CIA and played their hearts out, as they always do. The women’s team went down to Florida the first week of November to train as well. They also ran a clinic with ninety first graders, teaching them how to play basketball and for some of them, it was the first time they ever touched a basketball. The first women’s game is on Saturday, November 16th at Cooper against Vaughn College and their second game is on Sunday, November 17th in Massachusetts against Hampshire College. Stay tuned for the next article where the scores will be posted! ◊
Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)
We all remember the first time we stepped into 41 Cooper Square and met the students and faculty, whom we would see many more times. Whether during Open House or Admitted Students Night, we were able to see the people who shape Cooper. On November 4th, Cooper hosted Engineering Preview Night, where students interested in applying to Cooper were able to visit Cooper with their parents.
The high school students were welcomed by Dean Lipton, who gave admissions information. Next, President Bharucha focused on the newly established student exchange program with ITT Bombay and Invention Factory. He described how at Cooper Union entrepreneurship and invention are not only connected but also directly attached. Dean Dahlberg spoke about how Cooper has a competitive-collaborative atmosphere. Cooper has the best of both worlds because there exists a spirit similar to that found at large research universities where students constantly pursue opportunities but there also is collaboration like that found at small schools. She, too, mentioned Invention Factory and showed the video of Christopher Curro and Henry Wang’s Rapid Packing Container.
Dean Baker spoke next about the athletic teams and told stories of how Cooper students and alumni inspire him each and every day. He related Cooper students to runners and how we are out in the front and keep moving forward. Despite the heavy workloads and the pressure to excel, Cooper students never spend time looking back. Dean Chamberlin added to the analogy by describing how Cooper students are always willing to help the runner and teammate next to them.
After Cooper Union’s location, connections, student life, and academic programs were highlighted, Dean Lipton closed the presentations and spoke about financial aid.
Abby Davis, the Assistant Direction of Admissions, gathered a student panel to answer questions from the high school students and their parents. Questions included: “What it is like to be a woman in engineering, or in general part of a minority at Cooper?” and “What was the biggest change for the students coming from high school to Cooper?” All in all, the student panel described the unique Cooper environment in which although a situation may prove new or difficult, the student body and faculty at Cooper succeed at supporting anyone who is willing to reach out for help or communicate ideas. ◊
Joseph T. Colonel (EE ‘15)
On Friday, November 8th, the Cooper Union Black Student’s Union hosted its first poetry slam. MC Osaze Udeagbala (BSE ’15) and Ciera Lowe (ChE ’14) ran the night. While perhaps not the typical characteristics of an MC for a poetry slam, Osaze’s eccentric stage presence and awkward post-poem interactions were too endearing to not appreciate the hustle.
The stars of the evening, however, were the poets. First timers and weathered veterans alike poured their hearts out to a supportive audience and an imposing judging panel, whose scores were often met by a chorus of boos. The themes touched upon during the slam – social justice, finding inner peace, sexuality – were not earth-shattering, but the passion with which they were delivered had the power to bring New York to its knees.
Jimmy Espinoza’s touching letter to his little brother grappled with the struggle of reconciling childhood’s desires and adulthood’s responsibilities. Espinoza’s eager cadence and facial expressions gave the impression that he may have written his piece at the age of 12, but his world weary advice betrayed this notion. On the opposite end of the spectrum stood Kevin John (ME ’15), who delivered a poem focused on his reflection in the mirror with the furor and vigor of the Apostles on Pentecost.
Hindi Kornbluth (ChE ’14) and Steven Neuhaus (ChE ’15) were perhaps the most surprising performers of the night. Neuhaus’s meditation on grammar and love was simply incredible, picking up on the coy nuance of a hyphen found in a “call me” note or the tragedy found in the absent apostrophe in the phrase “were expecting.” Kornbluth delivered a poem detailing her effort to reconcile her Orthodox Jewish upbringing while on a blind date with a guy who questions her “revealing clothing.” She finished her performance with the most striking line of the night, explaining why she wears what she does: “I was always taught that my body was a loaded gun. Now I have the chance to prove them right.” ◊
Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)
On November 6th, the third Common Ground was held. The event began with students from each school delivering small speeches in Rose Auditorium. Afterward students headed out to the studios and labs of Cooper Union. These Common Ground events provide the students of the Cooper Union with a necessary reminder that each Cooper Union student has a unique story and body of work. As a result, this most recent Common Ground allowed for increased interdisciplinary collaboration between the three schools.
DeVonn Francis (Art ’15) describes the initialization and main purpose of Common Ground: “When Caleb Wang and I initially met to discuss Common Ground, we determined that the main purpose of the event should be to build an understanding and the relationships between the student body via intimate, interdisciplinary dialogues. The underlying strength of the student body, from our understanding, is that every student, regardless of the reason or means by which they were accepted, had a passion to be here and that the diversity of those reasons is what makes an atmosphere like this so rich.”
Each semester, many Cooper students carve out a space in the classrooms, labs, studios, and student areas that enable them to study, work, and create. Although Cooper Union is comprised of only a few buildings, there are many spaces unknown to the majority of the student body. Several dozen students toured 41 Cooper Square and the Foundation building – from the art studios on the 9th floor of 41CS to the room with historic scientific instruments from the 19th and 20th centuries on the 7th floor of 41CS to the art and architecture studios in the foundation building.
A highlight of these tours was the anechoic chamber in 41CS, where Christopher Curro (EE ‘15) says students were having “out of body experiences.” (To find out more about the Vibration and Acoustics Laboratory website at http://cooper.edu/engineering/facilities/vibration-and-acoustics.)
For those who missed the event, ask an artist to show you his/her work in the 2DD studio on the 6th floor of 41CS, or tour the architecture studios on the 3rd floor of the Foundation building, or sit with an engineer in Frankie’s. Although events like Common Ground help initiate collaboration and discussion between students from all three schools, we all know that each architect, artist, and engineer is more than willing to share the work they have put their time and effort into. It takes time to develop our own skills as an artist, architect, or engineer, but it’s also worth the effort to gain understanding from the unique students that make up the Cooper Union student body. ◊
Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)
When I saw the subject line “Important Update on Student Representative to the Board of Trustees,” I knew exactly what would be contained in that email. A quick scan was more than sufficient, as we’re used to the language at this point: one paragraph starts with “Unfortunately,” another with “It has now come to the Board’s attention.” In sum, “[T]he Board will not consider a candidate.”
It didn’t have to be this way. The position in question – a student on the Board of Trustees with no voting rights – is a very high priority for much of the student body. The Board is presumably aware of how widely disliked they are amongst the student body, and this position would have begun to build up a stronger, more trusting relationship between the students and the Board. From a purely political perspective, this would have been a great way for the Board to throw us a bone.
While the ethics of the dilemma have been frequently discussed over the past week, one question persists: if the Board of trustees pride Cooper on its student body, why don’t they trust their students? If we are, as we are frequently told, the best, brightest, hardest working and most creative students in America, why is the Board so hesitant to get us involved?
This isn’t exclusively a Board of trustee issue. On October 14th, Dean Dahlberg gave a presentation to the Engineering School about her vision for the school followed by a brief Q&A session. After a student (full disclosure: it was me) mentioned “The Way Forward,” she brushed it off, immediately dismissing the work of many hard-working, well-informed and good-intentioned members of the Cooper Community. When questions about tuition persisted from students, Dean Dahlberg told us, with a wagging finger, that she would not answer any more questions since she “didn’t come here to talk about [tuition.]”
In one fell swoop, the new Dean treated the engineering student body less like the brilliant students she told us we are, and more like a group of unruly children. After a self-assured and knowledgeable presentation, this condescending gesture was surprising but certainly not shocking.
I am reminded of the shenanigans that occurred in the Great Hall on April 23rd. Mark Epstein announced that tuition was going to be charged to new students in Fall of 2014. This was followed by a Q&A session, but instead of allowing audience members to ask questions by raising their hands or passing a microphone around, audience members had to write their questions down on index cards. Epstein then sifted through the cards, only answering those that he did not deem insulting. An audience member shouted “this method of asking questions is insulting,” which was followed by a round of applause. I can’t remember Epstein’s response; the content of his answer is nearly irrelevant. But I remember that diminutive tone that we’ve grown so accustomed to.
The list goes on. I’m sure we can all remember a time when a member of the administration spoke down to us. They broke agreements in order to keep us from helping them, they boarded windows and bathroom doors to specifically avoiding confront us, and they treated us like children every chance they got. If the student body isn’t what they love about Cooper, what is it about Cooper that they love?
Maybe they love our faculty whom they underpay and whose union they are constantly battling with. Maybe they love our wonderful facilities including our brand new multi-hundred-million dollar building that has eleven classrooms in as many floors. Maybe they love Peter Cooper’s legacy, which they are so eager to redefine. Maybe they love our centurial-precedent of providing full-tuition scholarships to all students.
My purpose is not to question the motives of the administration; it is to ask them to be consistent. The administration cannot have it both ways. When we’re being referred to abstractly as The Cooper Union Student Body, we are referred to as hard working and authentic students. When we have actual interactions with the administration, we’re treated like second-class members of the Cooper Community. It’s hard enough to be a student at Cooper Union and it’s only made more difficult by the financial crisis. The least we can ask is for the administration to stop bullshitting us. ◊
If you’d like to further discuss this op-ed, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anamika Singh (Art ‘17)
The Cooper Pioneer recently conversed with Stamatina Gregory, the newly appointed Associate Dean of Art, via email.
The Cooper Pioneer: What was your first experience with Cooper Union?
Stamatina Gregory: It was somewhat mythic. I attended a small parochial high school for girls in Brooklyn, and the claim to fame by the very inspirational art teacher there was that one of his students had gotten into the Cooper Union. Right then, as an aspiring painter, I decided to apply. But by the time I was a senior, though I was very interested in contemporary art, I had begun to identify as a reader and writer, rather than as a maker. So I studied art history and German literature at NYU, near Cooper–but also far away from it—so it’s interesting to be here in a very different role.
TCP: Can explain your role as Associate Dean and the responsibilities that come with this position?
SG: My role is extraordinarily varied within the school—I’m already involved in many different initiatives in programs, assessment, and development. I work closely with the Dean on day-to-day operations of the school, on developing new graduate programs, and I’ll also be working on accreditation, which is a cyclical and ongoing process. At some point I anticipate teaching also, and I’m really looking forward to that.
TCP: You have extensive experience with a variety of colleges and universities. How do you believe these experiences will influence your coming time at Cooper Union? What drew you to the Cooper Union?
SG: In the past, it’s been wonderful to work with a really diverse student body at CUNY, working to reach students primarily interested in things outside of art, as well as having both abundant resources and savvy students in the Ivy League. But Cooper is the best of all worlds: an extraordinary and diverse student body and a faculty of artists making some of the most critically important work today. I’m always interested in digging under the surface of the art world as part of my practice, and that inevitably leads to the foundations of how we construct artists in our society–through pedagogy.
TCP: With the new policy of tuition being instated next year, what changes do you see occurring in the School of Art?
SG: Change might be less tangible to me than to someone who has spent much of their career here. There are changes tied both to tuition and to the ongoing effort to avoid it, and that is the development of excellent graduate programs, which is positive. Even having been here only a short while, -remaining an active place for social critique and institutional critique – a longer process rather than the short reactions generated by crisis. [sic]
TCP: What are some visions you have as you assume this position?
SG: I would love to see more interdisciplinarity. Truly exciting projects are being forged between architects, artists and engineers out there in the world, and it would be good to find some platforms and initiatives for that to happen meaningfully here. And of course, I want to continue the school’s engagement with important institutions and practices outside its walls.
TCP: How has interaction with the faculty and student body been so far?
SG: On the whole, excellent. Although, more than any other place I have been, Cooper unfolds slowly: it seems like a very tight and complicated family, with memories and histories and loves that run deep.
TCP: Do you have a personal motto or mantra that you apply to your professional career?
SG: I love the idea of a personal mantra, because it seems so stable and soothing. But we work in a world in which beliefs and assumptions can and must be subject to change, and that includes how I approach my work. One question I continually ask myself in my work is: so what? What is it about this project or job or conversation that is meaningful now, and what is at stake? It’s both a place to end, and a place to start. ◊
Photo Credit: Vincent Wai Him Hui (Arch ‘15)