By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19)
Artwork by Zekiel Maloney (Art ’20)
It’s common knowledge that students at Cooper have it rough. Almost twice as many classes per semester than expected at majority of the colleges in the United States can attest to that. It definitely takes a certain kind of student to succeed here, but how does our mental health play a factor in that? Are Cooper students better at handling stress than students at other colleges? Do we just get used to the intense environment here? And most importantly, why does no one talk about students’ mental health?
People may not want to admit that they might not understand what they are feeling or what they are experiencing.
Social stigma plays a huge role in this lack of conversation. Many think of depression and mental health as signs of weakness and, consequently, are afraid to talk about their problems as they are afraid of what others might think of them. A lot of students simply don’t know who to talk to. Friends from college may be experiencing the same thing and they don’t want to be judged for appearing less than perfect. Friends at home simply may not be able to relate and students don’t want to burden their parents. At times, it may seem like students have no one to reach out to.
But that is not actually the case. As many of you may know from campus-wide emails, Cooper offers weekly open appointment counseling sessions. There are two counselors who meet with students and some find these sessions incredibly helpful. Going to these appointments help students realize that what they want to hear is not necessarily what they need to hear, and this realization helps them figure out exactly how to overcome their problems.
Taking this first step and making an appointment can be the most difficult part of going to counseling. Only 211 students of the entire student body went to an appointment in the 2014-2015 academic year. Since counseling was offered, only twenty percent of Cooper’s student population actually went to counseling, and though this may seem like a large percentage of the student body, it isn’t. So many more students want to go but simply don’t for numerous reasons.
Some don’t go simply because Cooper’s counseling sessions are not based on a recurring schedule. Cooper does not have a licensed medical center and as a result, cannot offer long term therapy. Generally, a student is limited to about three appointments before being referred to a
Also, counseling, like mental health in general, has a stigma as well for similar reasons. Many students decide to go to counseling but then talk themselves out of it because there is an fear that going to counseling means there is something wrong with them. People may not want to admit that they might not understand what they are feeling or what they are experiencing
This feeling is not exclusive to just Cooper as mental health of students has become a topic of conversation in schools nationwide. In response to a drastic increase in suicide amongst students, institutions like the University of Pennsylvania have started to reexamine their stances on mental health on campus or have launched efforts to create safe spaces for students. UPenn recently started a peer counseling program called Penn Benjamins where students can talk to student counselors about their problems. In 2003, a group called Active Minds was created at UPenn to raise mental awareness, and now there are over 400 chapters of Active Minds at both colleges and high schools alike.
Cooper is a unique college that prioritizes our education; there’s simply not enough space or funding to pursue expanded health services. There is no on-campus health center that can treat for mental health or basic physical health care needs such a center requires a large staff and infrastructure, both of which Cooper, at the moment, cannot provide.
Ultimately, as students, we must realize that we are not alone.
That does not mean Cooper is not actively trying to further mental health awareness. Dean Chris Chamberlin stated that “we are currently searching for a full-time student care coordinator and counselor who will work in our office” as currently, both counselors at Cooper are independent contractors. Hiring a full time counselor at Cooper “should allow us to provide a more integrated and consistent level of support.” There has also been conversation about adding a mandatory mental health awareness or stress management workshop in orientation events. This would be similar to the sexual assault workshop added to this year’s orientation but nothing is in the works yet as the first priority is to hire a fulltime counselor.
Ultimately, as students, we must realize that we are not alone. As clichéd as that may sound, it is important to understand that all of this stress that surrounds us is fleeting. Do not be afraid to open up and talk to someone about what you are going through because doing so will improve your wellbeing. ◊
By Abdullah Siddiki (EE ‘18)
The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Pioneer as a whole.
On September 20, 2016, the Joint Student Council met in the Rose Auditorium to discuss and ratify a new JSC constitution. The meeting started with the authors of the new document, the Constitution Committee, going through the document point by point with the assembly for clarification. The actual content of the constitution was not up for contention until the document was entirely clear.
The rewritten constitution establishes several new principles by which the JSC will operate. Reading through the document you will see the framework for a body that operates on the principles of responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Most importantly though, the document redefines and states a clear goal: the purpose of Joint Student Council.
What does JSC do?
- “I don’t know”
- “Who cares?”
- “They don’t do anything”
Leading up to writing this article, I asked almost anyone and everyone I spoke to this week, “what does the Joint Student Council do?” The responses to this question were somewhat disheartening—a lot of “I don’t know” or “who cares” or my favorite one—“they don’t do anything.” I tried to prod them further to make sure they weren’t being dismissive, but most students truly don’t understand what the JSC is, what it does, and why it is important.
But whose fault is this? Is it the students’ for simply not caring? Is it the JSC’s for not making their purpose clear? Do members of the JSC even know what the body is for? Most likely the only time you heard about JSC in the past few years was when they passed a resolution to make the bathrooms gender neutral, or maybe when they pushed a petition to protest changes in the policy to charge for overloading credits. But these two courses of action seem so wildly different on the surface, so what is the purpose of the JSC? What do they do? Is it really nothing? It’s extremely important that we as a student body think about this and hold those representing us accountable to their responsibilities. One of the most important pillars of a successful and driven organization is a clear mission statement, and the JSC is no exception.
Printed below is the new mission statement outlined in the new JSC constitution. Read it carefully, pick apart every word, and ask questions. Make sure it is clear to you what it means to be represented as a student.
“The Joint Student Council maintains a platform for discussion and takes action in an effort to benefit the student body. In an attempt to manifest the will of the students, the Council hears divergent positions through deliberation, and consequently founds a coherent voice. The Council passes resolutions that pursue policy initiatives concerning the academic, social, and administrative interests of the students. Finally, the Council sustains clear dialogue with the community in the spirit of continued positive change to our institution.”
If you have never thought about it before, or thought about it and lost hope, no time is better than now to reconsider the importance of a representative body on campus. The refreshed mission statement makes it very clear that the JSC exists solely for our benefit as a student body. The JSC is a means for handling student issues and complaints, statements that need to be presented to the administration on behalf of the student body and school-wide changes that need to occur. Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.” I’ve heard that a lot from people whom I try to tell that JSC is important—and every single one of them has several complaints about the school. You can’t be here just to learn because it is the very nature of Cooper to be much more than a school. The Cooper Union is a community. It is my community, your community, our community. Invest in it. Take ownership of it. Make it the community you want it to be.
Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.”
This is the power of JSC: to represent your interests to the school. And I’ve used this word “represent” a couple of times now, so let’s talk about representation. If you read the article in a previous issue regarding the ratification of the constitution, you will know that perhaps the only heavily contended point was the representation—ten students from Engineering, five from Art, and five from Architecture. What this really means is that there will one be representative per fifty artists, one per fifty engineers, and one per twenty-five architects. The reason that I want to present the representation this way is because it forces you to think about what—or rather whom—the JSC will be representing. The contention at the meeting was whether or not the JSC should have the same number of representatives from each school or representation proportional to the number of students. That’s just the surface of the dispute—let’s look at the core of it.
Should the JSC represent the schools or the students? By choosing to ratify a constitution that mandates representation proportional to the number of students in each school, the JSC has made itself a body representing student interests at the most basic level—your interests as a person. Issues that affect you have never been limited by your major. Tuition hikes, bathroom policies, the presidential search, are all issues that affect you on a personal level. There are already bodies in place to represent your academic interests. The Architecture, Art, and Engineering Student Councils exist. The new mission statement and representation policy of the JSC steers it in a direction where it will become a body that aims chiefly to do its best to represent issues of each student as a human—one with emotions, stresses, ambitions, and not as a label. You are a person before you are an engineer, artist, or architect.
At the meeting there was so much concern about the engineers coming together to block quorum or the artists and architects coming together to block quorum. But consider this: how many issues have been voted on that are representative of contending interests between schools? Call me naïve, or idealistic, but maybe it’s time to stop looking at each other as artists and architects and engineers before we look at each other as our classmates, friends, and at the most fundamental level—humans. Let’s jump this mental hurdle of divisions between the schools. We are of course the Cooper Union. Let’s use this new JSC mentality as a launching point to eradicate whatever prejudices we have amongst the schools and do what another famous constitution did as well—form a more perfect union. ◊
By Jeremiah Pratt (EE ‘19)
Though sought, we did, to make it to year’s end,
When grades be set and minds are put at peace,
Today we find a solemn sweet release,
In this, our spooky sweet game of pretend.
For quizzes matter not with costumes donned,
And essays, labs, all trivially be,
When hid in masks and hats and such are we,
And from the world of mortals we abscond.
A human needs a respite here and there,
From things that only humans suffer by.
No monster knows such stress to make them cry,
Or woes to cause the falling out of hair!
As such we revel with horrific glee,
From biggest horror momentarily freed.
Yes! Naught but joy is found on Hallow’s eve!
And naught but friends and fun exist today!
We meet in streets and houses prepped to play,
‘Til drunken rapture do we all achieve.
So shed your fears, though fears do be the theme,
And stuff your tums with processed sugared things,
And wear your devil horns and angel wings,
And post some spooky scary skelly memes!
Leave Mintchev quizzes for another day,
Put down your paper, pencils, stencils too,
Make all the school a kooky costumed zoo,
A haunted hellish gleeful cheerful fray!
To make the most of this, we all should strive,
For only once a year we’re so alive.
<3 happy halloween all my lovelies
by Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)
Just ten blocks south of Cooper’s Foundation Building, the six-story building at 190 Bowery St. is a mystery. It contrasts the high-tech mid-rise buildings adjoining it with an air of regal Renaissance Revival architecture similar to the likes of Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Club.
But in its state today, to say the lower floors are covered in graffiti would be an understatement. It features overlapping affiches advertising scene music, a large announcement that “COST was here” and off-skilter block letters “NEKST” as tall as a person. It has been called Manhattan’s Graffiti Mecca because even when the exterior is power-washed, it only serves to create a blank canvas for famous street artists like Keith Haring, Sean Griffin and others. In fact, when the building was designated a New York City Landmark in 2005 the street art was even approved to remain on the ground floor during the restoration process. The mix of graffiti on Renaissance Revival architecture is conspicuous, but it feels like the graffiti has always been there because it really has constantly been there—changing and renewing itself for decades.
The main entrance occupies the chamfered northwest corner of Spring Street and Bowery, projecting its stately presence down the whole block. Together with the second entrance, the building is barred forebodingly—one entrance with a heavy wrought-iron gate while the other shut firmly with a stout, solid oak door. And therein lies the mystery of this manor—almost no one has been inside in the last 50 years (except for a single, three-hour art show last year).
The building was built in 1899 and designed by Robert Maynicke, an alumnus of Cooper Union’s School of Architecture, for use as Germania Bank’s headquarters. At the time, Lower East Manhattan was known as Kleindeutschland or Little Germany and was home to nearly 25,000 German immigrants. As a bank building, it was fitted with all the fanciful fixtures of the time: a golden elevator (now encased in glass), multiple skylights, numerous atria and of course a bank vault—claimed to be the most secure in New York at the time. There was a spree of bank acquisitions and mergers in the ‘30s and so the building gladly continued to be operated by one bank after another… until 1966 when it was bought for around $100,000 by Jay Maisel to become his private residence and studio.
Jay Maisel is an alumnus of Cooper Union’s School of Art and has a prominent career in photography, capturing photos of Marilyn Monroe and Miles Davis though he is even more famous for his photography of “light, color and gesture found in everyday life”. He lived and worked at 190 Bowery with his wife (and daughter) for 48 years. According to an interview in New York Magazine, “the first, second, and third floors were gallery spaces for his photography and art projects. The fourth floor, which Maisel once rented out to Roy Lichtenstein, is a work-in-progress. The fifth has various workshops” and the sixth was for his family.
When he sold the building in February 2015, the real estate headlines screamed of numbers never-before-imagined in the crowded Manhattan real estate market: 35,000 square feet, 72 rooms, $55 million! Still, it was sold to real estate magnate Aby Rosen, who has since leased it out to become high-tech office space for a creative firm, Great Bowery. ◊
by Juan José García (Art ’20)
In 2016, it can become easy for some students to distance themselves from Cooper’s financial crisis, administrative mismanagement, and lack of communication that resulted in votes of no confidence, and the resignations of former President Jamshed Bharucha and former Dean of Engineering Teresa Dahlberg. This year, with the arrival of President-elect Laura Sparks, comes a new format for a class called “Projects: Cooper Union.”
Co-taught by artist and Professor Walid Raad, Cooper alumna Victoria Sobel (Art ’13) and former student Casey Gollan, the course provides a space in which a wide variety of conversations can be held, with guest speakers often participating in the class. The topics and material in the course range from the history of The Cooper Union, documents regarding student governance in the schools of art and architecture, all the way to lectures and talks about the metaphysics of the spaces of the Foundation Building, and visits to the architectural archive of the school.
“We engage in chronologies that may not settle;
numbers that may not add up;
bodies that come and go.”
The course description reads:
“Unfolding events in The Cooper Union are generating expected and unexpected sounds, images, forms, volumes, gestures, feelings, and concepts. In this class, we will attend (as in wait for and stretch toward) some of these.
As such we misunderstand The Cooper Union as a proposition constituted by and constituting missions, properties, bodies, languages, figures, among others. We engage chronologies that may not settle; numbers that may not add up; bodies that come and go.”
In her guest lecture, Professor of architecture Diane Lewis (Arch ‘76) took the class on a tour of areas of the Foundation Building that may sound commonplace and nondescript to a lot of us. Professor Lewis spoke about the attentive care with which each space was thought, and how people experience these nuances in the physical and metaphorical architecture of The Cooper Union.
After the lecture, Sobel spoke to The Pioneer about the change in student-faculty-administration dynamics at Cooper in recent years, and the need to acknowledge these changes as part of the meta-conversations about the interactions that happen within the school. Sobel sees “Projects: Cooper Union” as an important continuation of the think tanks that formed around that time, while still trying to keep the class open and interdisciplinary. Part of the course was motivated not only by the issues that were happening here at Cooper, but also by the “possibility that the history of this institution may spark the imagination of other communities and student-related struggles.”
Projects: Cooper Union is motivated by the
“possibility that the history of the institution may
spark the imagination of other
communities and student-related struggles.”
To her, many of the conflicts borne out of the frustrations of the crisis and the eventual move to tuition were rooted in a lack of dialogue and communication, since “you can be told that you are being consulted, but you are really being informed.” Although Sobel wishes that this kind of feedback existed around her time at Cooper, she recognizes how such as a course could become really important since the time of the protests. “This type of work, investigations, projects, integration into personal and collective practice [should] be legitimized and integrated into curriculum via credit granting classes because we are ultimately a degree granting accredited institution.”
Despite all the legal negotiations and working groups, she feels that there is still work to be done. “This interstitial moment is actually what was being proposed,” she says, perhaps referring to the previous interactions as cyclical arguments at Cooper that yielded little productive dialogue. In terms of the conversations that are significant to these issues and how they relate to the school, she says, “you want there to be a support system in place that we weren’t able to sustain in the past, because again there was so much duress.”
According to Jacob Jackmauh (Art ‘18), a student in the course, one of the most interesting things of Projects: Cooper Union is that it is not based on requirements, as much as it is on options, “the possibility to do or not to do. Yes, we’re studying different aspects of the school but we’re also beginning to discuss what each of us wants to do and what that might look like.” He says, “it started with this whole idea of truth, and the discrepancies and biases behind a story. So it opens a lot of uncomfortable doors, because we look at the history of Cooper, the rise of New York and art institutions, but in the course you see where those things can go wrong.” For him, “it’s like having all the history without all the glorification.” ◊