Tag Archives: 4-4-2016

Not the March Madness You’re Thinking of, the Other One

Toby Stein ( CE’18)

March Madness 1 PC Winter

Professor Yecko (above) and Professor Baglione (below) present at the 2nd Annual March Madness event on Tuesday, March 29. Photos by Winter Leng (ChE ‘18).

March Madness 2 PC Winter

It was March, and it was Madness. What can only be summarized as a semi-packed Rose Auditorium gathered to hear our own professors orate on the topics that they held most near, and most dear to their hearts. As professors slowly trickled into Rose, the excitement in the air was palpable, like the buzz before a championship game. All week the professors practiced their three-minute drills. What they would do under pressure? How would they keep their composure after a call did not go their way? Only time would tell.

After a quick coin flip and introductory statement, Dean Anita Raja took the snap, and handed it off to the first back, perennial contender, Professor Mintchev. Starting of the game strong, and setting the bar high, Mintchev spoke about his interest in mathematical neuroscience, however, he drew a five yard penalty due to his lack of regard for the apparently strict ‘only five words after the buzzer goes off’ rule.  Following right after him was the rapid-fire duo of Professor Cataldo speaking about the green roof on the Javits Center, and then Professor Baglione explaining possible energy efficiency improvements to the engineering building, as well as research within the vibrations lab. Batting cleanup was Professor Davis who hit an absolute tape measure home run with his explanation of designing chemical processes that are more sustainable and have less impact of on the environment. Much to the tangible anticipation of everyone in the audience, Professor Yecko stormed the stage, ignoring the doctor’s advice, and boldly playing through his broken hand to deliver a MVP performance in discussing the intricacies of transport and control in time dependent and stochastic flows. As the first quarter wrapped up, it was shaping up to be an absolute blowout, but the oncoming professors were confident primed for a strong inning in the next round.

Unfortunately, the second period began with a bit of a sad start, as Professor Topper was reported out for the rest of the game due to sickness. The fans, however, were still given a show, watching his power point in silence for the duration of what would be his time. The audience described it as “the most hard hitting presentation of the day” and “the silence spoke volumes to his research”. Similarly, Professor Cumberbatch also reported an injury, as he had a case of ‘being in Ghana’, and his
presentation had to be delivered by his replacement: perennial senior Chris Curro. Blazing through the middle innings were Professor Dell with his description of engineering the impossible, Professor Raja with her crusade towards predicting preterm birth, and Professor Wolf with his use of high speed video cameras to study a variety of engineering and science topics as well as building with magnetic fields.

Quickly emerging from the locker room, with his “basement prototype” Professor Smyth explained how simple introductory linear algebra could be coupled with some cannibalized Logitech instruments to create a mouse that provided the user with motion with six degrees of freedom. Professor Fontaine quickly asserted his play calling expertise in demonstrating how you “cheat” to represent information with less data than the theory requires. Point guard Professor Sidebotham explained a new theory on space heating technology, much to the chagrin of the chilly audience members who were seemingly affected by the quick change in the rink’s weather conditions.

The bottom half of the genetic engineering set was covered by outside hitter Professor Medvedik, as he explained what is innovative on the frontier of recombinant DNA technology. Next, Professor Luchtenburg discussing his research into modeling and feedback control of complex systems, with specific reference to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Professor Wootton’s investigation into better classifying and quantifying sleep apnea put major points up on the scoreboard, and he left the stage confident that his final score would put his team over the top so that they could snag the victory.

Overall, March Madness was a resounding success yet again, drawing a massive crowd, young and old alike. If you were a complete hooligan of a human and did not show up, but are interested in doing some research into some of the presentations discussed above, I encourage you to talk to a professor, and find out what you can do this summer to help them out!

Make Cooper Great Again – Really!

By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19) and Brandon Quinere (CE ’19) 

There is another very important election in our midst this year. Your friends and family aren’t ranting about it on Facebook, but it should have just as much attention and concern devoted to it, as it affects our student body and your personal experience as a student at Cooper much more intimately. Plus, this one doesn’t involve Donald Trump.

Voting for the Student Trustee opens today, and talk surrounding it has been somewhat sparse. In the weeks leading up to today, students have been relatively silent about the election itself. While signatures were required for nominees to run, students signing were unaware about the plans of the candidates and the candidates themselves, let alone what a Trustee actually does for us. The lack of concern surrounding this election is frightening, as it leaves the Cooper community left with a student vote without the support or awareness from which that vote requires: the students themselves.

There isn’t much history behind the Student Trustee as the position was recently created.  Monica Abdallah (ChE ‘17) and Jessica Marshall (EE ‘17), the current Trustees, are the first students to hold the position, whereas Devora Najjar (ChE ‘16) was the first Student Representative to the board.

Jessica was elected as the next Student Representative in the spring of 2015 but became the Student Trustee as the Consent Decree, approved in November 2015, stated that there should be two Trustees to the board.  The second Trustee was chosen by the board from the two students who ran against Jessica in the previous year; the board chose Monica as the second Trustee. From then on, the process of voting for the Trustee was staggered. One of the first two Trustees, Monica, will only hold the position for one year, which allows for voting for a new Trustee to begin today.

Though both jobs share a lot of similarities, there is one huge difference between the role of Student Trustee and the role of Student Representative: Student Trustees can vote.  But having the ability to vote makes the Student Trustees look at everything from a fiduciary standpoint; As Jessica states, “We have to do what’s best for the Cooper Union, the institution.  Not what’s best for our constituencies, the student body.”

So, what does the board vote on?  The board discusses various issues that range from the budget of the school to the new president search and all of these issues are discussed in separate committees like the Governance, Academic and Student Affairs, Presidential Search, and Free Education Committees.  A lot of the decisions that affect Cooper immediately are made by the administration and faculty of Cooper, what some call “the Cooper bubble.”

In essence, the board deals with long-term goals and fundamentally have “big picture final say, not implementation final say,” as Jessica puts it, which in turn brings in the role of the Student Trustee. The job of the Student Trustee is to listen in on the discussion and voice their opinions when they feel that something in the big picture either does or does not sit well with them.

The role of Student Trustee is very difficult to hold, as there is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained in terms of the relationships between the Trustees and the student body, as well as between the Trustees and the administration. “There’s more going on than what people see; there are confidential ideas that if exposed to the entire Cooper community, would be twisted very quickly,” Jessica states.

It is clear that Student Trustees cannot divulge everything that is discussed during board meetings. Recognizing confidentiality during these discussions is immensely important for the position, as Jessica explains, “Though people want transparency, it’s not necessarily beneficial to the community as many good ideas are lost before they were even thoroughly discussed.”

The nominees for the Student Trustee position are Jacqueline Baum (Art ‘18), Zhenia Dementyeva (Arch ‘20), Julian Mayfield (Art ‘18), Waseem Nafisi (Art ‘18), Kevin Savillon (Arch ‘19), and Clara Zinky (Art ‘18). Speaking to some of the nominees individually over the past couple of weeks revealed an interesting range of motives for each in regards to running.

Regardless if candidates were motivated to run for any reason other than to better engage our student body, the mystery surrounding the sincerity of our candidates’ motives would rightfully generate some suspiciousness in any curious voter. The events of last week in preparation for today’s Trustee election attempted to alleviate that concern, to what many consider subpar results.

The Student Trustee Forum held in Rose Auditorium last Wednesday night was loosely moderated. Though the more Trustee-related questions had the intention of showcasing the candidates’ knowledge about their role, they were executed in a way that allowed nominees to branch off of each other’s answers. The forum became more conversational, and while good for generating healthy discussion, it did not reveal individual views for each, which was important for any student in the audience to hear.

The style of the forum was somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as it did serve its purpose in showing the Cooper community whether some of the candidates truly understood their role as a Student Trustee. Many candidates were confused as to what the role entails and have not done sufficient research to figure out the extent of the job. Case in point, when asked if they sought out advice or knowledge from current Student Trustees Jessica and Monica, the candidates on stage remained silent.

The students in the audience, on the other hand, were not as silent as they had an opportunity to pose their own questions for the candidates. A portion of the forum was saved for this audience Q&A, which still did not aid in understanding the strategies of our candidates, with responses instead focusing on personal ideologies rather than actual plans. This was displayed in the amount of students that stayed in Rose to reflect on the forum after it was over.

Students voiced their concerns to peers as well as to the candidates themselves on how this platform for them to speak was unsuccessfully acted upon. Allowing students to vent these opinions to each other in person, however, was a refreshing change of pace from the slew of passionate rants that has become prevalent on our Facebook feeds.

Cooper students have a tendency to privately complain to their friends or publicly complain on social media about the way our school is run. That is expected to happen for any opinionated student at any institution, but those objections are only justifiable if you actually participate in our student affairs. How can your peers take your grievances about the Student Trustees seriously if you never voted for a Trustee in the first place?

If you don’t feel personally represented by any of the candidates or feel that last week’s forum did not help with understanding the candidates, talk to them and make your own judgment as to who could have the ability to serve as your Trustee for the next two years. The majority of the candidates at the forum stressed how accessible they would be to students if they had any personal concerns. Take advantage of that accessibility this week.

Ultimately, vote and be smart about your vote.  Your votes will decide which three of our candidates will be sent to the Board of Trustees to be interviewed and ultimately selected for the position. It is your duty as Cooper students to exercise your right to vote in deciding who will be our next Trustee.

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  Use this week to educate yourself and make an informed decision. And if you still choose not to participate in this week’s election: this decision to not vote will greatly affect you.

Even if you are at Cooper solely to learn, this election impacts you in ways that you probably don’t even realize. Student Trustees are sitting in on and speaking in discussions that directly affect Cooper. And what affects the institution will, in some shape or form, affect the student body.

One day, you will find yourself up personally affected by a change in our school. You may find yourself up in arms about this change, a perfectly rational reaction. What’s
irresponsible is an inability to take on an opportunity when it’s provided to you to prevent that change from happening in the first place. Regardless of who you choose this week, voting for your next Student Trustee is that opportunity. It would be wise to use it.

So an Artist, an Architect, and an Engineer Walk into a Room…

By Daniel Galperin (ChE ’18) 

Common Ground Photo by Sage Gu CE '19

Photo by Sage Gu (CE ’19).

Everyone knows that we’re a resourceful bunch, but have you ever considered what four Cooper students could do with a medium sized room, some free food and an icebreaker? Anyone that attended the “Common Ground” event on March 24, knows that this is a pretty good recipe for school unity. Approximately 50 students followed the scent of Vanessa’s dumplings and kosher pizza right into a trap: a room full of strangers.

Common Ground was revived, after three years, by a group of four students: Clara Zinky (Art ‘18), Waseem Nafisi (Art ‘18), Benjamin Greenberg (ME ‘17) and Zhenia Dementyeva (Arch ‘20). The night began with some friendly conversation and food—no surprises here—and then progressed into an icebreaker exercise to acquaint people in the room. The organizers put forward a real challenge, one certainly fit for Cooper students. Fifty students were told to close their eyes and were moved around and partnered up. The partners were to get to know each other’s hands in total silence. While keeping their eyes closed and remaining silent, the crowd was shuffled again and made to find their way back to their partners. Needless to say it was an interesting exercise and helped to connect people who’ve never met.

The main event, however, was the tours of the labs and studios throughout Cooper. The organizers divided the students into groups of five or six students, making sure each group involved only people who did not know each other. The groups were then set free and many groups went floor-by-floor through 41CS and the Foundation Building, as engineers showed off their labs and artists and architects showed off their studios. Some groups held their tours until as late as 1AM.

Common Ground was a smashing success all around and was an important step in bonding the students of the three schools. Seeing people set aside any social, political and otherwise ideological differences and getting along was a truly inspiring sight. The importance of unity between students across schools is vital at this junction in Cooper Union’s history, and it is important for people connect with each other through their work and share mutual respect for one another. For anyone out there that missed this event, despair not! The organizers are already working on another Common Ground early next semester. Hope to CU there!

Bill Mea: All Spaces on Campus Degendered

By Monica Chen (ME ’18)

In a campus notice email on March 18, The Cooper Union administration announced  a decision to remove signs of gender identification from all spaces on campus.

The original proposal was made in December 2015, where Acting President Mea attempted to reach a compromise between those who opposed the gender-neutral bathrooms and those who endorsed the idea by proposing the following modifications:

(1) Unlocking and opening all single-stall bathrooms on campus for anyone to use

(2) Opening gender-specified bathrooms to all who identify with the indicated gender

Following this proposal, Bill Mea sought out feedback from students and the rest of the community. The proposal’s mild stance was met with passionate responses by many students seeking a greater degree of change. Mea met with students at length and these conversations strongly influenced the final implementations set in place last month. The new policies regarding the use of bathroom facilities include:

(1) Removing gender identifications from any spaces on campus

(2) Opening single-occupancy restrooms for everyone’s use

Additionally, the NYC Commission of Human Rights’ legal guidance states “that individuals be permitted to use single-sex facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, and participate in single-sex programs, consistent with their gender, regardless of their sex assigned at birth, anatomy, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on their identification.” In short, it explains that New York State laws prohibit any policies that deny transgender or gender non-conforming individuals access to a single-sex facility that is consistent with their chosen gender identity.

The Cooper Union administration’s decision in March to remove signs of gender identification on restrooms has caught the attention of various news outlets. The Guardian quotes Bill Mea, “When there’s a gendered space, there’s a sense of ownership to that space. When people see someone who they think doesn’t belong there, it can create stress for everyone. So we thought, let’s just take that away.”

In response to the reaction of the general student population to the implementation of the policies,  Mea said, “I don’t expect much to change [with the implementation of the new policies]. People will continue to use the restrooms they are used to using regardless of the signage on them. That is what we have seen in Foundation [building] over the past few months. Most of the responses have been very favorable, but some people do not what things to change and I recognize that change is difficult for most people.”

“We, who are in positions of power, have the obligation to not only stand with those without power, but to stand in front of them, clearing a path for them to walk,” wrote Bill Mea.

One of Us Finally Snapped, Civil Engineering Deserves Your Respect

By Gabriella Godlewski (CE ’19)

I will never forget the first brush I had of how civil engineers are treated around here. During the freshman orientation trip to Camp Team USA, the upperclassmen put on a play in which the classic “civil engineering is not a real major” line was uttered. I couldn’t help but think, “Civil engineering at Cooper has a curriculum, unlike computer science, but, I mean, okay, I guess.” It was weird to me that this fact was ignored and everyone chose to take a jab at a legitimate major.

Things, as they tend to at Cooper, only got worse.

CivE upperclassmen told me horror stories of how they were treated by their non-civil professors, just because of their major. Freshmen began to catch on. Despite the fact that we are all still academically equal and basically taking the exact same classes, snide comments have passed from freshmen to CivE freshmen, to our faces and behind our backs. I have had “because you’re a CivE” used as an insult to my face from people I sat next to in almost every class. If you are guilty of this practice, you have consciously chosen to perpetuate the hate created by past generations without truly understanding whether or not the hate is deserved. You have accustomed yourselves to an entitlement you have yet to even earn.

Besides the de facto discrimination civil engineers face in some classes taught by certain professors, my own friends have pressured me to “just transfer,” long before I actually began considering it. Where I hoped to find support, I instead found a disregard for why I was here and what I wanted to accomplish. Nothing has proven more disheartening.

It only took a semester and a half but the straw that broke the camel’s back has finally situated itself and demands that this problem be faced – I demand that civil engineers at the Cooper Union be treated with respect because, contrary to ancient belief, we deserve to be taken seriously for our career choices just as much as the rest of you.

I did not choose civil engineering for the “easy workload.” Furthermore, I did not choose civil engineering to be constantly ridiculed and looked down on for this choice I made long before I knew how many classes I was required to take. The reason I and the rest of my fellow civil engineering students chose to major in this field are entirely personal and not without good reason, I can assure you. We never asked for nor do we deserve the hate we get. We respect you for your major choice and we rightfully expect the same from you.

Lastly, to those of you who still think that civil engineering is a useless major, I raise you this: without civil engineers, none of you would have easy access to clean water. Buildings would barely be standing up, and skyscrapers would basically be nonexistent. For those of you who commute on a daily basis, civil engineers are responsible for the roads, the train systems, and, yes, traffic control. We students will one day be the reason you live a relatively safe life with all your basic necessary resources. And you choose to ridicule us?

Of course, here is the necessary disclaimer that my assertion that civil engineering is a legitimate respectable major does not detract at all from the legitimacy and necessity of any other major. As a matter of fact, I can almost guarantee that we civil engineers have only respected your majors, and since that has yet to kill us, it wouldn’t hurt the rest of you.

An Evening with Joshua Allen

By Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)

Joshua Allen - PC Simon

From left to right, Shannon Shird, Joshua Allen and Darielle Harris. Photo by Yifei Simon Shao (ME ‘19).

Before you finish reading this sentence, think of the name of someone whose shoulders you stand on, a person without whom you wouldn’t be here. This is how Joshua Allen, a black trans-feminine organizer  working on issues of race and queerness, opened the conversation in the evening on March 25. The audience that packed Rose auditorium responded to that question in unison, with voices naming family members and friends, but also civil rights figures like Harriet Tubman, as Joshua did.

“Let’s talk about black femme power”, began Joshua, “that’s what I’ve been invited here to talk about and why y’all are here, too!” Joshua introduced their two close friends joining them in the feature conversation: Shannon Shird, a writer, filmmaker, and activist; and Darielle Harris, a community organizer and activist, too.

They spoke about the erasure of black femmehood. Even as the income disparity between women and men are discussed (commonly cited that women earn 77 cents for every dollar of income for males), much less is said about the disparity for black women in particular (63 cents, but it’s almost never talked about).

The realities for black women get even starker. Being disproportionately affected in a negative way by employment and  housing policies, sexual assault and legal justice means that black women suffer extreme levels of stress that can impact their lives in unimaginable ways.

These impacts are unimaginable until they are talked about. The feature conversation took a turn to much more intimate topics when Shannon shared details of her pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. Despite being an extraordinarily difficult topic to discuss, Shannon spoke about how academic literature is only just beginning to investigate what’s being called ‘Sojourner’s syndrome’—how the stress associated with racism, classism and gender issues leads to the significantly elevated rates of miscarriage and high infant mortality for black women. In short, these issues are literally killing future generations.

Towards the end of the event, there was tension when an audience member asked what strategies could be employed to create much-needed solutions to these problems. Joshua responded in a passionate and deeply personal way, telling everyone about how focusing on all the ways that black femmes are negatively impacted is irresponsible. Instead, being there to support each other, to help each other survive and prosper and ultimately be happy is the key.

Often, direct actions and community organizing are more visible strategies, but that shouldn’t erase the importance of surviving and supporting each other in the daily grind. Rio Sofia (Art ‘16), the student who organized the event, puts it this way: “the work of battling depression and taking care of yourself is motivated to challenge systemic oppression just as much as large-scale campaigns are. The truth is that when I’m taking care of myself and have a strong support system, the work is better.” Surviving is a strategy. Being a role model for black femme power is a strategy. That’s what Joshua, Shannon and Darielle were doing that day.

Buckley - PC Wentao

Faces of Cooper: Professor Peter Buckley

By Anthony Passalacqua (ME ’18)

Can you give us a little background about yourself? 

Peter Buckley: I was born in the UK; I first came to America during my college years as part of a study abroad program in my third year. I was already interested in the country, but that experience, when I was 21, determined that I wanted to study the history of the US. That’s what I’ve been doing since! I came to the US after completing my undergraduate degree in England, and then did all my graduate work here. 

Where did you study? 

I first went to SUNY Stony Brook, where I didn’t meet Professor Om Agrawal or Professor Alan Wolf, and then I went to the CUNY Graduate Center, and it was probably that move that determined most of my interest would be centered in New York City. So that’s the trajectory. After finishing my PhD, I taught at Princeton for two years, and then at Pratt Institute. It was when I was attending a lecture at NYU, I saw a flyer on the wall saying there was a position at Cooper Union. I interviewed, and I’ve been here since. 

Can you tell us about how your fellow British countrymen felt about your decision to study American history? 

They said it was an easier thing to do because there wasn’t much of it. Isn’t that funny? It was especially funny because I think they were serious about it. When I was thinking about majoring in American history at the University of Cambridge, there were 43 medieval historians, and one US historian. That really gives you an understanding of how little the British academic establishment thought about US matters. I don’t think it was just to do with a kind of “colonial mentality” on the British part, and the fact that they lost the war of independence. I think it had more to do with actually realizing how powerful the US was after WWII and not really wanting to examine it. 

You said a flyer convinced you to interview for a job here at Cooper, but what drove you to take the position? 

Cash. I wanted a job, and Cooper, which I already knew about as a historical artifact, was a very interesting place to teach. It still is a good place to teach… maybe not to work, but to teach it’s good.

What do you teach here, besides the core HSS courses?

I teach a range of electives. Humanities and Social Sciences decided some time ago that it would be a good idea if the faculty taught on a two year rotation, so that any junior or senior would have a chance to take an elective. I think that’s been a wise policy, and I think it’s been looked at by other faculty as a model. I normally teach a particular range of courses: the history of NYC, American intellectual history, American social history. 

You said that “this is a very good place to teach, if not to work.” The question is: what do you particularly like about the environment here, and what do you dislike?

The liking is quite easy. I like the students, and I like my colleagues. I think the students still embody the right forms of ambition, and the right levels of intellectual engagement. The faculty: everyone is excited about all the new hiring. We’re getting three new full-time hires in HSS, and two post-docs. That’s five people who, hopefully, will arrive next semester. I’m very excited about that, because that will entirely amplify the range of things we teach. 

As for it being a place to work, the last few years have been tremendously tiring. Not just for the faculty, but I recognize that in the students as well. It was necessary to fight battles that should never have taken place. 

This wasn’t a fight just about tuition; what had been really eroded was governance, and then with the attempt to impose a computer science degree, it was also an attack upon academic standards. That’s a particularly draining form of attack. I don’t know how to explain it exactly. It’s not as if faculty wake up in the morning every day and agonize over academic standards. But when such a thing happens, it cuts deeper than students imagine, because it’s the faculty’s business to make those standards and to uphold them. When that is under attack, it is especially corrosive to faculty morale. That’s how I would characterize basically the last four years. 

The thing that was on the agenda, was not simply charging tuition, but something being called ‘reinvention’. What exactly that ‘reinvention’ was going to actually look like was never spelled out, but effectively it meant enacting a program of expansion that bore little relationship to the successes that we already had. It’s not as if anyone ever sat down and said “what do we do well?” That still has to happen. In my opinion, removing the President, and the previous Dean of Engineering, has not answered questions that were always there. Namely: “Who are we?”, “What are we as an institution?”, “What do we do best?”, and “How would we like to change?” Throughout all of the last four years, a lot of things have been talked about, but education itself is conspicuous by its absence. 

Let me pose one of those questions to you. For your department, what would you want to change, especially with all of these new hires coming in? 

This is such a large cohort to hire, and the new faculty will inevitably change the nature of HSS, especially its core offerings. We had started examining HSS one through four, and that process will be made immeasurably easier, when we have new people contributing to that. For example, we’re due to hire someone whose center of interest is economics. A student has already asked “well, what does that mean for the core?” The answer is, obviously, something more to do with economy or political economy will appear within it. The decision of whom we hire is also a decision of how we want to change. 

What do you feel your role of a professor here is? How do you think that reflects on your pedagogical methods? 

I’d like to break that question down. One answer is: I’m a historian. I like the study of history because of how it disturbs the present. So my role as a historian at the Cooper Union, is to make the present unfamiliar, by pointing to how the past is contingent, not a given. It’s contingent on a whole set of
actions that have taken place in the past. 

As a faculty member, overall, my primary task is to encourage a sense of excitement about ideas, and how questions themselves can be very exciting. 

Do you have any advice to offer students? 

Yeah, get out more often! By which I mean especially studying abroad, even if it’s just for a summer or a semester. I’m always surprised at the number of students who wish to remain in New York for their entire lives. That’s my advice: get out! 

Our last question: What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time? 

As a rhetorical answer: Is there spare time at Cooper? Real answer: … What do I like doing? I really like gardening, which is not something that is Cooper centric. I’m thinking of getting some sheep for my place upstate, because they’ll probably be better behaved than the current crop of freshmen.