Foreign Exchange Students at Cooper

Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14) and Hindi Kornbluth (ChE ‘13)

Despite its small size, Cooper Union still manages to offer students a foreign exchange student program. This year, Cooper Union has five students from abroad studying here for either a semester or a year. Two are from Germany, two are from Spain, and one is from Iceland.

Cooper Union has also established connections with universities at these three countries that allow students from Cooper to study abroad during the summer. We were able to briefly interview three of the students: a junior civil engineer, a senior chemical engineer, and a senior mechanical engineer.

Alejandro Lanuza: Junior Civil Engineer. From Spain

The Cooper Pioneer: What school/year did you come from?

AL: The University of Burgos and I am in my third year. It is technically four years but you have to do a master’s degree because without it you can’t sign projects so most likely you won’t get hired. The master’s degree is a two year program.

TCP: Why Cooper?

AL: My university has a student exchange program. Every year there is a vacancy and students can apply. There are other universities affiliated with the exchange program but that involves having other students from the universities coming to my university as well. For example, if I was to study with one of those universities, they would send another kid to study at my university. It doesn’t have to be the same degree but the numbers have to match, more or less. With Cooper, it is just our university sending students over and Cooper decides on whether to accept each student.

TCP: What are the differences between studying in NYC and studying in Spain?

AL: Here the classes are more focused on practical applications while in Burgos it is more theoretical. The things you are taught here you will use in your future careers and work environments. In my city, there are 200,000 people and the university has about 11,000 students.

TCP: Is NYC what you expected it to be?

AL: I thought it was going to be cleaner than it turned out to be. The ideas I had of NYC came from the movies I’ve watched that were filmed in NYC. I love the atmosphere, the people, and the friendliness of the city.

Halldis Thoroddsen, Senior Chemical Engineer. From Iceland, here for the year.

TCP: How did you hear about Cooper?

HT: When I was looking for an exchange program from the University of Iceland I just went through the list of schools they had for chemical engineering and one of them happened to be Cooper.

TCP: Why did you pick Cooper?

HT: Mainly because of the location. You don’t get the opportunity to study in New York City often.

TCP: What are the biggest differences between Cooper and your home school?

HT: Midterms! Almost all of our finals are [worth] 100%. My school is also bigger, it’s like the biggest university in Iceland (they only have 4). But mainly the program is the same.

TCP: How are you enjoying New York?

HT: I really love it here!

Blanca Quiralte, Senior Mechanical Engineer. From Spain, here for the year.

TCP: What school/year did you come from?

BQ: I came from ICAI, an engineering school from Madrid, Spain.

TCP: Why Cooper?

BQ: When deciding which school I wanted to go to, I did some researched and I found that Cooper was a very good engineering school. It was a great opportunity for me and it would open many doors for me in the future. I also thought New York was a plus in my decision. So I guess the school’s reputation and its location made me choose it.

TCP: What was the biggest difference between NYC and home city? Biggest similarity?

BQ: The biggest difference I can see is the absolutely amazing culture cocktail NYC has. The biggest similarity is the dynamic of the city, how you can always find something to do.

TCP: What do you think of the experience so far?

BQ: I think it will be a unique experience, not only in an academic but also in a personal way. I want it to make me more of a professional and more skilled person.

Financial Update: Jamshed Bharucha

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14) and Saimon Sharif (CHE ‘15)

There are many rumors circulating that concern the future of Cooper. With anxiety surrounding the upcoming meetings of the Board of Trustees growing at uncontrollable rates, we reached out to President Bharucha to give us a more clear picture of Cooper’s future.

The Cooper Pioneer: The last Board of Trustees meeting was on September 19th. Could you summarize the outcome of this meeting?

Jamshed Bharucha: The outcome was to set the stage for the next meeting (the December meeting) by setting out the timeline I had communicated to the deans and the faculty of the three schools. November 15th would be the date by which the faculties of the three schools would agree on a plan to go forward. I would integrate those plans and take them to the board meeting in December. That was basically the outcome of the meeting – a timeline.

The board would then digest the plans. including my own recommendations, and they might take some time to do that. So there won’t be an announcement in December, but in the New Year at some point we would announce any decisions that might have been made. At the board meeting, we talked about the three criteria that should be considered in the strategic planning that the faculty are engaged in.

The first is maintaining academic excellence. Cooper Union has the finest student body, bar none, in my opinion, and that is our great asset. Together with the excellence of the education and the excellence of the faculty, Cooper has an unparalleled learning community.

The second point is vision. The plans should be not just to solve a financial crisis, but an opportunity to position our schools and programs for the future. The future of the city, the future of the country, the future of the world.

The third is that the plans must be financially sustainable. All three go together and I’m happy to elaborate on any of those. So the board discussed all of those pieces, what might a vision be like, what constitutes sustainability, and why.

TCP: Is the financial sustainability criterion specifically just quantitative or is it also based on reliability?

JB: Sustainability has to include an assessment of the risks of that plan. Any plan has risks. And any plan has pros and cons. A lot of people come in every day telling me what the cons are and what the problems are about any given option, but a lot of people also come in with solutions and plans that are not only viable but very exciting. I think we need to focus on those.

TCP: In the event that the Board of Trustees decides to close one of the three schools, what would happen to current and incoming students?

JB: I said when I spoke in Rose Auditorium a year ago in October, quite forcefully, “I’m not here to close a school.” I’m a teacher, I’m an educator. I’m here to ensure that Cooper Union thrives. Thriving, to me, means that we continue to operate and we do so in a vibrant way.

Obviously, we’re in a tricky situation. We have to be mindful of all possibilities, but we have already stated in April that the class coming in the fall of 2013 would be admitted without any alteration of our policies and that would see that class through. Should any of our current policies change, they would only affect classes beyond that, except for the master’s degree in architecture. That degree, which is well established and attracts top students from around the world, would have a change in policy, starting in the fall.

TCP: I understand that it’s your role to make sure the schools do not close, but it is my understanding that in December, it is the purpose of these financial plans to decide whether the three schools are going to stay open. Is this correct?

JB: It’s more complex than that. It’s more subtle than that. The goal is to stay open, to survive and to thrive. In order to do that, the plan has to be sustainable. It’s almost axiomatic that if the plan is not sustainable, it cannot be sustained. I’ve said and I believe very deeply as a faculty member that the faculty is at the core of our educational enterprise. I don’t think any faculty member would disagree with that. I cannot impose a plan, nor can the board, and I have made it clear to the board that neither of us could impose a plan over the objection over the faculty ; it won’t work because the faculty are teaching the students. The faculty have to believe and support not only the educational programs that they provide, but also the philosophical basis of those programs.

So the purpose of the faculty focus this fall is for the faculty to find where they can agree on a model that has these components. Faculty agreement on a sustainable model has to be a foundational assumption, it seems to me, in order to be sustainable because you can’t have a successful institution if it is operating in a state of dissent.

Lincoln said: “A house divided cannot stand.” It’s the same thing at Cooper Union. Obviously there’s going to be disagreement, and not everybody is going to support every piece of every plan, but I think the faculty of each school must (and they are doing so with admirable commitment) come together to support a plan that is appropriate for that school. It’s also not a one-size-fits-all. Engineering is quite different from Art, even though we are a union.

I want to work very hard to find ways for greater collaboration between the schools, to bring the advancement of science together with the advancement of art. But the fact of the matter is that you are enrolled in a particular school and there’s a curriculum Even as we try to bring the schools together, it’s really the faculty of each school that understands best what’s appropriate for that school. Faculty support for a viable, strong solution that is academically excellent, visionary and financially sustainable is the goal here and is a prerequisite for what we do.

TCP: If one of the schools fails to meet one of the three criteria, however, what would then happen?

JB: It’s my job to make sure that it doesn’t happen. I’m not just waiting until November 15th. I’m working with the deans and the faculty. We’ve provided them with the resources in terms of expertise and consultants to cost out various plans and to look at the benefits and the risks. I’d say that this point, all three schools have bought into the process. We are committed to making something that works.

So there’s no point talking about the “what-ifs”. We can talk about all kinds of “what-ifs” but I think we’re here to make it succeed. I would say, as of today, we’re already at a point where the faculty are engaged in constructive dialog. Obviously if a school comes up with a plan we think is not viable, then I think the first thing we do is go back to the school and say, “this is a problem. Let’s try and fix it together.”

As long as there’s that will to engage in vigorous civil discourse and overcome differences, we’ll find solutions. Will they be easy? No. If you’ve seen some of the financials, you’ll see why. We can’t be sanguine. There might still be pockets of our constituencies who feel that there are solutions that don’t involve difficult decisions, or who feel that the financial problems are caused by this or by that, by the building or by an administrative bloat or so on and so forth.

I think you’ll see if you actually go through the numbers, that there is a long standing disconnect in the budget that goes back at least forty years that was greatly exacerbated in the early 1990s because of the falloff of the rent streams from the Chrysler building. That has been overcome through the years because of super-charged stock market returns, because of selling assets, because of borrowing, and now we’re at a point where there are no stock-market returns and we don’t have that many assets left to sell.

We’ve borrowed a lot of money and now it’s time to say, “Let’s make it sustainable.” The principle source that has funded the Cooper Union since the Chrysler building was built in the 1930s does not keep up with inflation, even with the lowest assumptions about inflation. Expenses are exponential, because of inflation. Higher education inflation is around 4% to 5% annually.

Even if we assume a 3% inflation, which would be the consumer price index for items other than healthcare, and then 7.5% a year for healthcare. Remember that benefits are roughly 9 million dollars out of our 60 million dollar budget. If the healthcare benefits are growing at 7.5%, you’ve got an exponential function where the expenses are compounding by a blended inflation rate that’s 7.5% per year for healthcare expenses and roughly 3% to 4% for other things. We can talk about shutting down this, or cutting that cost, and we’re looking at all the possible ways to cut cost.

But in the end, cutting costs brings down the y-intercept and shallows the exponential growth; but eventually the exponential function catches up. On how Cooper Union is funded, there are many funding sources, but the main one is the Chrysler building. There are two components to that: the rents and the tax equivalencies. The rents are on a step function with a flat portion of the step that goes for ten years. Now the next step up is 2018-19, when we get a big boost in rent. But there’s a mistaken belief out there that that solves the problem.

The reason it’s mistaken is that after that it’s flat again, the exponential cost function eventually overtakes that no matter what assumptions you make about spending cuts. The following step-up in 2029 is so small as to not be able to mitigate inflation, and you’ve got a situation of mounting deficits as far as the eyes can see. Actually this problem was known as early as 1969. It’s just that the institution took a number of steps: they closed Green Camp, they closed the physics programs, they sold the Bowery Bar, got rid of the Cooper Hewitt museum.

Those were all well-intentioned decisions to try to preserve the full-scholarship for all enrolled students. But as I see it now, we are at a point where we have to come up with a sustainable model. We have the time to do it while preserving academic excellence and being visionary. But if we wait too long, it becomes harder and harder to do something that’s visionary.

TCP: I don’t want to go too far into the “what-if”, but is it true that regardless of what happens with the Board of Trustees decision later this year or early in 2013, that all current students would be able to finish their education at the Cooper Union?

JB: Yes. All current students would be able to get degrees from Cooper Union, assuming they meet the requirements.

TCP: Last year, it was announced that the engineering grad school would start charging tuition. Where are with that plan now, exactly?

JB: Actually, that wasn’t quite accurate. The announcement was that we are going to lead with the hybrid model which was, and still is, the idea that the more revenues you can get from programs other than the undergraduate programs, the smaller the problem becomes. If you ever do have to go from 100% tuition scholarships to something less than that, the burden is greatly lessened by these other programs. The architecture graduate program will start contributing to their revenue target. If the engineering faculty decide that that’s not the place to go, that there are maybe other ways, then that’s an option. We have not actually decided that engineering master’s program will start charging tuition. It may happen. It may not happen. There may be new programs. There may be changes in our current policy. All of that is part of the planning process under way.

TCP: Do you have any closing comments that you would like to say?

JB: I do. I think that it’s really important to remember that in spite of all this, Cooper Union has a brilliant future. I assure all of our current students and former students that your degrees will be ever more respected and worthy as time goes on. We will overcome these challenges, not without controversy, not without difficult decisions. Anybody that tells you there is a straightforward path forward, I believe, does not understand the problem. It is complex and only can be understood if you’re prepared to understand the complexity. But we will overcome it.

The community is coming together as we’ve gotten more information out, through FAQs and other means. [Vice president] T.C. [Westcott] has met with people and continues to, and I meet with people every day to facilitate communication. Cooper has a brilliant future.

New York City is going through a renaissance. It’s the most exciting time in New York City’s history in easily half a century. I go to lots of meeting at the mayor’s office and with business leaders and educational leaders in New York. As you know, the mayor has launched this technology initiative to make New York a leading technology innovation city. New York is already a design center.

We at Cooper have, in some sense, many of the ingredients: we have a school of engineering, a school of art, a school of architecture and a faculty of humanities and social sciences.

If we can bring those together in exciting ways, which we will, we can position ourselves within this new New York renaissance, particularly since we’re in such a hot neighborhood as well as being one of the most exciting institutions contributing to the city, the country and the world.

I see this as opportunity – not without a lot of hard work and not without some bumps in the road. I can assure you that whatever plans we announce in January, they’re going to need modification because whenever you’re doing new things, you learn as you go along. We will come out at the end an even stronger institution. We will attract the very best students. We will provide an exciting education.

Looking back people will say that this was opportunity seized in the wake of a crisis. I hope that people will join me in doing that. I do think that in terms of the discussion in the community, understandably, there was anger and indignation because it was quite a bit of surprise that Cooper Union had these challenges.

But I think that as we go forward, the tone has become a lot more positive and constructive as people approach it from the point of view of “how can I learn the facts” and “how can we brainstorm solutions” and “how can we come together”.

Even though we might have differences, in a civic debate, however vigorous, if we can have those conversations as we are having now, in a constructive and respectful way, we should be able to demonstrate to the world that the country should be able to solve its problems. We are an educational institution. We can set an example for how people can come together, and perhaps our politicians can follow our example.

Peter Cooper wanted students to learn how to engage in democratic civic discourse, which means disagreeing vehemently but respectfully, based on fact and reason. People ask me, given all the protests, what motivates me, I have one word answer: it’s the students. Every time I get to meet with the students, whether it’s on Cape Cod with the athletes, whether it’s with the origami club or the class that I teach, or meetings that I have with students, I’m reminded of that. That’s why we’re here, is for the students. That’s why we will succeed.

thumbnail

Faces of Cooper: Jamshed Bharucha

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14) and Saimon Sharif (CHE ‘15)

It has been about a year since Cooper Union’s dire financial situation was revealed to the community as a whole and a little more than a year since President Bharucha assumed his position. Over the course of this year, he has received much indignation as well as praise from members of our community. However, not many members of our community have much knowledge about Jamshed Bharucha: the man. We interviewed President Bharucha for our Faces of Cooper series to get a better understanding of this interesting man.

The Cooper Pioneer: First, where were you born?

Jamshed Bharucah: In Mumbai, which used to be called Bombay.

TCP: What did your parents do?

JB: My father was a civil engineer. A structural engineer. My mother is a musician. They met at the University of Michigan where he was studying engineering, he had come from Mumbai. My mother came from Albany, New York and she was studying music and the rest is history, or biology or chemistry!

TCP: What instrument did your mother play?

JB: She played organ and piano and she conducted choirs. She also composed some music.

TCP: What was your educational experience?

JB: My educational experience was mostly at a school that my parents helped found called The Bombay International School. They and several other couples in the city, many of them bi-national couples, all kinds of combinations got together and said they weren’t happy with the schools in the city because they were too traditional, exam and memorization focused. They were single sex. They had the old caning and hitting with the ruler kind of stuff. The boys were caned and the girls were hit with rulers.

So they started this new school called the Bombay International School. And I was the guinea pig and my sisters. I started in that school in first grade and went all the way through. I was in the first class to go through all the way as the school increased. And it was fabulous.

The primary and middle school were based on an American curriculum and high school was based on a British curriculum. It was University of Cambridge O levels. We had to decide starting in the ninth grade between the sciences and the humanities. I picked sciences and it was pretty rigorous. Physics, chemistry and math every semester with a few other elective courses.

I was very much interested in science and my favorite subject was physics, so at one point I thought I would do physics. Then I went to college for a year in India and got some more science and then I started as a freshman at Vassar College and very quickly got seduced by the liberal arts. I studied philosophy and music and majored in biopsychology.

Then I went to graduate school at Yale for philosophy because I was interested in the mind and body problem, which is what I was after when I majored in biopsychology, to put together the biological and the psychological. But then, while I was in graduate school in philosophy at Yale, I missed the scientific side of it so I finished up my master’s degree, went to Harvard and got a PhD in cognitive psychology. Today the field would be called cognitive neuroscience. I did a lot of music on the side.

TCP: What did you do your thesis on?

JB: My PhD thesis was on cognitive models on the perception of music. So I was able to combine music with it.

TCP: While you were in grad school, what did you think you wanted to do?

JB: I wanted to teach and do research, so I was pretty clear about that once I started graduate school. That doesn’t mean I was assured of getting a job. It’s not easy for PhDs to get academic jobs and back then it was really touch-and-go. I think had I not gotten a tenured track job, I would have gone into computer programming. I did a lot of programming on the side, but I was lucky. I got a job teaching at Dartmouth and I worked my way up.

TCP: Did you teach psychology at Dartmouth?

JB: I taught psychology and helped found the department of psychological and brain sciences, which had previously been psychology but we made it more biologically oriented. When I got into administration I helped the department get an MRI machine. It was the first non-medical school MRI machine in the country, for teaching and research which even undergraduates could use to scan their brains and email brain images to their parents.

TCP: How did you end up at Tufts?

JB: At Dartmouth, I rose up through a number of administrative positions including deputy provost and dean of faculty. Tufts asked if I’d be interested in being Provost. I thought about it and thought it would be a great opportunity. Tufts was poised to get to the next level. I was looking for institutions that are ready to take that next step. Boston was a big attraction after Hanover, New Hampshire. And I took it.

TCP: Compared to Boston, how do you like New York City?

JB: Oh New York is amazing. The East Village is where everything is happening, right? This is, right now, Cooper Union’s location, the most exciting place to be a student. As a faculty member, I’m essentially a lifelong student so this is a great place to be.

TCP: Is the house on Stuyvesant Street your first New York City residence?

JB: Yes. It is not Jesse’s (my wife) first New York City residence, but it is mine.

TCP: Who do you live there with?

JB: Jesse Papatolicas, my life partner who I just married two weeks ago and our two dogs Charles and Hudson. Charles because of the Charles River and Hudson because of the Hudson River since we moved from Boston to New York. Jesse is the first lady of Cooper Union. You should get to know her. Interview her. She’s very nice and a person of considerable accomplishment on her own.

TCP: In the little free time that you do have, what do you like to do?

JB: I like to listen to music and play music. I also like to play chess on the computer. It’s quite addicting and if I start on the low levels of difficulty, I get really happy that I can win. So then I turn up the difficulty and it kills me. Then I decide to go on to do something else. I run two or three times a week and I go to the gym a couple of times as well.

TCP: Is music still a big part of your life?

JB: It is.

TCP: Do you go to concerts?

JB: We were at a concert last night. We’d like to do more of that and that will happen when things settle down a little bit more. Mostly what I like to do is play on an amateur basis with other people in the city. Ideally, I like to do that once a week or once every two weeks. We play string quartets at people’s houses, which is what I used to do. But things are a little bit busier now. I’d say a maybe year from now that will start to become more of a routine.

TCP: What do you like to do when your job becomes stressful?

JB: Jesse and I like to go for walks. On weekends we sometimes take long walks. We’ve walked over the east river sometimes. We walk the dogs. We go to concerts. We check out some of the New York City restaurants. It’s amazing. We have friends over and family over and the other things that I mentioned, like music and chess. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not great at chess. I know some students are really good, but it’s good for relaxation.

TCP: Do you have a favorite place to eat around here?

JB: Yeah. There are two restaurants that we like because they’re owned by a friend of ours whose name is Jehangir Mehta who’s also from Bombay. It’s his own special fusion cuisine. One restaurant is called Mehtaphor. And the other is called Graffiti. They have a little bit of an Indian touch here and there but he combines Indian with Spanish, Indian with American, and it’s really quite wonderful. We like the Italian restaurant on 11th street between Broadway and university place.

TCP: Do you have any advice that you’d like to tell to Cooper students?

JB: I know that it’s a very demanding curriculum at Cooper Union and that’s one of the great qualities. I’d say even while you excel academically, find ways to broaden your perspective. Involve yourself in other activities, be they origami or Steve Baker’s athletics. He welcomes everyone even if they may not be serious athletes. Go to Great Hall events. We had a brilliant lecture last night on the U.S. Constitution, free. The Great Hall is one of the great assets. For Cooper students it would be a great opportunity to learn things outside of the classroom.

Photo was found on cooper.edu, photographer unknown.

Online System Update

Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)

As September draws to a close, the new online system that was purchased for the school, Ellucian’s (Datatel’s) data system Colleague, will (ideally) be ready for students to log in to as soon as this week, according to Dean Lipton. The students and staff will go through Web Advisor in order to use the system. At the moment, there is a fair amount of faculty that are already logging on. Once you log on, you are taken to a main screen where you indicate whether you are a student, faculty, advisor, etc. This takes you to another page where you will be able to see your transcript, progression towards graduation, financial aid package, and just about everything else you need.

This system will replace SAIS, which explains why recent attempts to log into SAIS haven’t worked. Faculty will have access to their class roster and will be able to find contact information for their students if needed. Students haven’t been able to log into the new system yet because IT has to ensure that every student has a working Cooper e-mail. Each student will be assigned an ID number and temporary password associated with their Colleague account. All of the old information is being transferred into the system and has to be double checked to insure there is nothing missing or inaccurate.

Colleague will have all of the offices collecting data from one source, eliminating any disconnect between offices. Every office will also have the ability to edit this one source of data, which may or may not be a good thing. While this ability to edit data may encourage more communication between various offices, it may also muddle identifying who makes edits to certain data.

There are still some details being hammered out, such as how advisement will be taken care. It could involve a student making a schedule they are interested in and sending it to their advisor, who would then offer the student their opinions and suggestions.

Everyone involved in working on the system has been working very hard to make it the best it can be and hope to have all students registered online by November, which at this point seems realistic. Colleague will be constantly updated s the school year goes on, and according to Dean Lipton will be good for Cooper.

Anyone who tried to pick up their financial aid check on Wednesday went through the wonderful process of being told they weren’t ready and to come back the next day, three times. On Friday, not only were financial aid checks not being able to print but almost no check could be printed.

In order to compensate, they did offer emergency loan checks but only for dire emergencies. Datatel, the new system that we are switching to, did manage to find the problem but are still in the process of fixing it. If you attempted to log on to sais, you were pleasantly surprised with the following page:

Interview With Dean Wolf

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

TCP: How have your first few weeks/month as dean been?

Alan Wolf: I’ve been working long days, 7 days a week. I always thought of myself as a hard worker, but this has been a whole new level of busy. I thought it would get worse once school started but fortunately, it’s calmed down. We had lots of issues simultaneously: we are transitioning from Agent, the system that gives us access to student records to a new system called WebAdvisor. Any database change like this is painful, but we made the transition at the beginning of a semester, when we had a critical need to access those records for advising. We’ve also had problems with Moodle, which now seem to be resolved. All of this as we are focused on plans for “reinventing” the institution. So it’s been an incredibly stressful last few weeks. It’s probably not easy transitioning to Dean at a normal time in an institution. This hasn’t been normal. I have a new respect for administrators who attend endless meetings and do a hundred things a day that are required for the day-to-day operation of the school, and still have to find time for the really critical large tasks.

TCP: Do you have any long term or short term plans as dean for the engineering school?

AW: Well I’m an Acting Dean so I won’t get to work very long on long term plans, although I hope to start some initiatives. My hope is to be back to full time teaching by next September. The dean search committee will be restarting the search for a permanent dean soon. Filling a position like this generally takes 6 months or longer. Even if we identified someone in the next couple of months, they’re probably a dean elsewhere. Their institution is entitled to a reasonable amount of notice.

In terms of short term plans, it’s very simple. The president’s welcome message says that the deans have to prepare by November 15th plans for the trustees. I’m coordinating that in the School of Engineering. What we have done is formed five subcommittees. The five subcommittees are: An undergraduate tuition subcommittee. A graduate tuition subcommittee. That’s a misleading name because that could actually be any tuition-charging-program that isn’t our current four year undergraduate program. So it doesn’t have to be a masters program. Those two committees are for revenue generation. The three others are not directly tied to meeting our financial targets. Our financial targets are that we (the School of Engineering) needs to raise 3 million dollars a year in within five years and 6 million dollars a year within eight to ten years, in 2012 dollars.

The three other subcommittees: one is a program on the undergraduate program, meaning studying what we can do to improve the quality of our undergraduate education. There’s a communication committee, studying communications within the school of engineering as well as the other parts of the school. Communications also includes things like the outside world getting to know about us. The last committee studies culture and community. How do we make the place more alive? student morale, faculty morale. It’s an interesting thing that at cooper when we have speakers come from the outside world, in most engineering schools, attendance at such talks might fill a large lecture hall. At Cooper, it’s often hard to get 5 people to show up for a talk. What is it about our culture that disinclines people to participate in events like this? The five committees are going to prepare their five separate reports. We’re going to work together to turn them into something integrated that we’ll turn into the president. He’ll bring that to the board early December to cogitate on the future of the school of engineering. So that’s the short term plan. Also we have ABET coming. ABET comes December 1st. They leave December 4th. The Board meeting is December 5th. So it’s an interesting week for us. We’re hoping to get a six year accreditation in each of the four degree-granting programs from ABET and we’re hoping the board looks favorably on our plan for the future.

I am optimistic. While we are looking at a daunting financial problem, we have President Bharucha and V.P. Westcott working incredibly hard to deal with these problems. Looking at new initiatives, considering every possible financial plan, looking for Angel donors. I’m astounded by their energy and their commitment. It’s amazing. T.C.’s been here for about two years, Jamshed’s been here a year. They’re showing the kind of commitment to the institution that you’d expect from someone who’s been tied to the school for thirty years. They are working harder than I’m working, and that must involve some sort of time-distorting relativistic effect. So I’m optimistic. If any pair of administrators are incredibly skilled and devoted and selfless, it’s the two of them. They are incredibly inspiring. The reality is that I accepted this job because I have confidence in the two of them and I wanted to be part of their team.

TCP: Do you have any comment on professor Uglesich resigning so suddenly?

AW: I sent out a letter to the juniors and seniors which was my comments followed by, unedited, what [Professor Uglesich] cared to say. I didn’t send it to freshmen since they’d be arriving at a school in which he was already gone and the sophomores never had him. But I thought juniors and seniors were entitled to see whatever it was he cared to say, so I asked him to prepare some remarks he wanted to share with the community. I was really sorry to see him leave. I thought he was a terrific classroom teacher. I thought he was doing a great job and I’m sorry to see him gone.

TCP: Do you have any advice to the freshmen?

AW: You can quote me on this: I’m not going to tell them to study harder. That’s usually what I say. The reason I’m not going to say that is because I’ve gotten feedback, very recently, from a few companies that have employed Cooper Students over the years. Here’s what they’ve said: they say that Cooper students are smarter than students from other engineering schools. But they’re less skilled at communications, at presentation of material and they’re less well rounded. So students need to focus on that too. Being an engineer is not just about grinding through calculations. It’s about interacting with clients, sometimes finding developing new business, preparing reports that communicate effectively. That means they need to develop their writing skills and their public speaking skills. It’s something students have to focus on. A lot of potential employers are looking for people who have people skills and communication skills. That means paying attention to Humanities courses and commuication workshops. Are you shocked to hear this out of me?

TCP: I am!

AW: This is a new position for me because I’ve been sitting in these sort of meetings in recent weeks. In terms of the financial crisis, current students, and even next year’s students, are grandfathered in for no tuition. It can’t be true that current students will get tuition bills. I think current freshmen should focus on their education and count on the efforts of these committees to fashion a plan for the school of engineering that will make us sustainable. If it wasn’t clear from Jamshed’s welcome letter, the plans for the three schools are entirely separate. We could have three different routes to survivability. Each of us have dollar target: the five year target for architecture is 1.2 million and for art it’s 1.8 million. For us it is $3 million.

TCP: Is that proportional to total students?

AW: It’s actually proportional to the total cost of each of the programs. Our share is half, is because it costs half to run the school of engineering. I think it’s a good thing that the fates of the three schools have been disconnected, because what is acceptable to the three schools as a means of survival or sustainability will likely be different. What makes sense for art might not make sense for engineering. But I think freshmen should focus on their education and put their confidence in very hard working faculty and administrators as well as very concerned trustees to pull us through this.

I was thrown out of Cooper in 1976 because we ran out of money. That’s when the math and physics degree programs were terminated. Here we are thirty-some-odd years later. We’re out of money again. This time the financial problem is more serious. But we pulled it out of the fire last time and I believe we will do it again this time. It’s going to require some serious reinvention of the institution. The president has emphasized that it’s not just about money, that there are also serious quality issues. He wants to ensure that we are not just going to meet our dollar targets, but that we have poised ourselves to be equal to the best.

Friends of Cooper Union Pin-up Session (Full Article)

Christopher Hong (EE ’13)

On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, Friends of Cooper Union, a group started by Cooper alumni after learning about the potential of charging tuition, held an open pin-up session with the goal of advancing ideas that were developed in the breakout sessions (group meetings to brainstorm solutions to Cooper’s financial situation), enrolling more people in the development process, and developing actionable proposals that can help Cooper Union (enrolling and developing action actionable proposals is a result desired by the breakout process -  see http://www.theworldcafe.com/method.html). There were more than forty attendees to this event and it was organized in a series of presentations. Two main organizers were Karina Tipton (CE ’99) and Sean Cusack (BSE ’98). Karina Tipton moderated the presentations.

The night started with brief introductions and a presentation by Kerry Carnahan (CE ’00) and Henry Chapman (Art ’10). They presented the Friends of Cooper Union website, www.friendsofcooperunion.org, and discussed the purpose of this group and the event that night.

Then, Tom Synnott, a former chief economist of the US Trust and a current adjunct professor of Cooper Union, gave a presentation. He talked about how the ideas brought up in his class last semester and how it is still possible to save Cooper Union. Synnott and his class believe that the deficit reduction can be achieved with $2 million in expense reduction and $1 million in revenue. He also mentioned that it is possible to cut 10% of Cooper’s expenses and “once the impossible is excluded, the unlikely becomes possible.” Another thing that he brought up was the idea that LEDs light bulbs can be bought by alumni to replace the incandescent light bulbs that are currently in the New Academic Building to cut costs. Synnott stated that once half of Cooper’s primary deficit (non-interest deficit) is cut from $6 million to $3 million, that would show the world that the school is taking its financial problems seriously and enable us to go to foundations to look for grants with greater chances of success and go back to MetLife, show them our austerity, and possibly renegotiate our $175 million loan.

Next, Barry Drogin (EE ’83) made a presentation on the finances of Cooper Union. He discussed the numbers that he has regarding Cooper’s revenues. He also pointed out that each member of the Board of Trustees donated an average of $75,000 a year for the past 11 years. In addition, he discussed the large increase in the number of administration employees.

Next, Professors Richard Stock and Daniel Lepek (ChE ’04) discussed the potential Cooper Brewery project. The space that would be used for this brewery would be the commercial space under the grand staircase. Professor Stock mentioned that this idea was brought up to Dean Ben-Avi and Professor Yash Risbud and they are supporters. However, Dean Lemiesz is against this idea entirely. There are complications with this project, one of the biggest one being that there are students in Cooper that are under the legal drinking age. Regardless, this project is still proceeding and has the interest of many students. The Cooper brewery may soon become a reality.

Paul Garrin (Art ’82) then gave a presentation on entrepreneurship. The main goal is to create a program called The Peter Cooper Entrepreneur Society at Cooper that collaborates between the three schools and creates successful startup companies that will contribute $1 million to Cooper Union over the next 5 years. It would be a mentorship program where students would be mentored by alumni and faculty members. However, one problem with this program is the time commitment required of the participants. The academic studies of the students should come first before starting a risky startup company.

Two art alumni collaborated with Paul and started their own startups recently. One is by Caitlin Everett (Art ’08). Her startup is an art loan company called Artelicio.us / Artalyze.me. In her presentation, she is claiming that her startup will have the proprietary system that will set her apart from her competitors. This system will be a program that will determine what the best piece of artwork is for a specific room that you take a picture of. The idea of an art loan company where people rent pieces of art may not be very profitable unless there are art pieces from extremely famous people.

The other alumnus, Christine Moh (Art ’95), presented her social media website for Cooper alum, called The Cooper Union People. There will be many similar features to Facebook and special privileges would be given to alumni. However, there would be fees for usage to pay for the services and the profits would go to Cooper Union. In her flow chart, there were links to artilicio.us/artalyze.me. So how is this going to be successful if this is basically the same thing as Facebook, but with fees attached? And what is the ulterior motive to link things back to the first startup company presented?

After this, Kerry Carnahan (CE ’00) presented more information about Cooper Union’s financials and ideas brought up in the last breakout session were reiterated (i.e. eliminating deans, moving out of 30 Cooper Square, cut “extra” administration employees). Also, the administration must be more transparent by giving us all the numbers. In addition, the administration is not taking savings as seriously since the Expense Reduction Task Force has half the membership numbers of the Revenue Task Force and has a much looser membership structure. In addition, there are no guiding criteria or desired outcomes from this task force, signaling that the administration is not taking expense reduction seriously. The presentation ended with this question: “Do you really want to have to explain to people that NYU’s East Campus used to be The Cooper Union?”

Next up, Sean Cusack presented on communications. The administration claimed to be transparent in the fall, but have seemed to step back a bit. One idea that came up would be for Cooper to release the entire operational expenses cent by cent from computers to staples. This way, when alumni donate, they can say “I donated all the staplers and staples to Cooper” or something of the sort. It gives the donation more meaning than “I gave Cooper $250 and have earned a title.” In addition, Cooper should be giving back to NYC since we get a lot of support from the city and the state. Ways to give back would be to volunteer in programs like Iridescent. It would make Cooper more prominent in the community. Another topic that was brought up is the alumni boundary. Once students graduate, the alumni do not get many contacts from Cooper except a request for money. This system creates the boundary that discourages potential donations.

The last presentation was by Rocco Cetera (CE ‘99) and he presented ORG charts. These charts show how things are organized and he presented an updated organizational chart for Cooper Union based on the institutions ORG chart submitted to the latest Middle States Accreditation. The ORG chart showed that there are many layers of administration. Rocco added faculty to the ends of some of the chains because it was not included in the Middle States Accreditation version. One takeaway from the presentation is that there is a huge administrative layer that exists between the students and faculty to the president. The purpose of this presentation is to show how results of the breakout groups could be applied to enact change that the community wants to see. This presentation was to be given by Koukaba Moiadidi (Arch ’01) and Rocco Cetera. Moiadidi created the diagrams, but unfortunately, he had to leave early because he was not feeling well.

In the end, during a spirited closing discussion, Karina Tipton stated her reasons for working to preserve a tuition-free Cooper Union. Her reasons stem from preserving the existing admissions process and the unique Cooper Union alum she is “currently used to rubbing shoulders with,” and she believes this is a product of the Cooper Union meritocracy. After acknowledging the many contributions students have made to the discussions surrounding this issue and discussing the academic conflicts students may have in their availability to participate more directly in the Friends of Cooper Union discussions, she concluded, “the fact that they’re not going to be charged tuition [may] give them a level of distance that I don’t have as an alum because I’m looking down the tunnel and thinking, ‘should I just take Cooper Union off my résumé if they charge tuition because I think I might.’”

Overall, this was a successful event in informing the attendees. There were many new attendees who were open to giving their ideas with the main goal of helping save Cooper Union. Again, it is nice to see that there are still many people who care about Cooper Union and do not want to see it walk down the path that CUNY did. I felt that the brewery idea is definitely promising in raising revenue, but the barrier of underage students would have to be overcome first. Also, I felt that the entrepreneur presentations seemed more like a pitch to get customers and the idea of saving Cooper got dissolved in personal incentives. Entrepreneurship is a good idea, but we need the $1 billion idea to really save Cooper. It was unfortunate that there were only about 5 students who attended that night, but with more student attendees in future events, the Friends of Cooper would have a better sense of what students are going through today in Cooper Union. The next event hosted by Friends of Cooper Union will be another breakout session on February 29 at 7PM in LL101. Food will be provided and all are welcomed.

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, e-mail us at cooperpioneer@gmail.com. You may retrieve the presentations from this pin-up event from goo.gl/ZWLmp.