Joseph T. Colonel (EE ‘15) & Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)
On November 13, Free Cooper Union began to post a collection of anonymously leaked confidential documents pertaining to the Board of Trustees and the Administration of the Cooper Union. At the time of publication, Free Cooper Union has leaked a total of ten documents that run the gamut from a detailed breakdown of how to prepare a salad for former President George Campbell to a copy of the Code of Conduct for Cooper Union allegedly annotated by Bharucha to a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Dream Scenario” concerning the “Reinvention of the Cooper Union.”
Free Cooper Union, the group responsible for the ubiquitous image of the “Free Education to All” banner draped across the foundation building, formed during the student lock-in of the Peter Cooper suite of December 2012. A major goal of Free Cooper Union is to steer the Cooper Union away from an expansionist education model and towards a more sustainable model dedicated to operating within the constraints of a non-profit educational institution. Free Cooper has previously demanded that Bharucha step down, that the administration publicly affirm the Cooper Union’s commitment to free education, and that the Board of Trustees restructure the administration of the Cooper Union in order to implement more democratic decision-making structures. As a result of Free Cooper’s 65 day occupation of the President’s office in the Foundation Building, the Board of Trustees approved the creation of a student representative to the Board and a working group that will propose and alternative, tuition-free model to the Board this December.
The following are brief summaries of the leaked documents at the time of publication. These summaries are not meant to replace engaging these texts in their entirety but rather are meant to serve as an outline of the content contained within the documents. All of the documents mentioned in the following may be found on Free Cooper Union’s Facebook page or by going to the link bit.ly/183n8jw
Leak one. “The Dream Scenario”
On February 11, 2013 the Pioneer printed an interview with then Dean of Engineering Alan Wolf. During the interview Wolf commented on the response to the five reports presented by the Engineering faculty to the Board of Trustees: “I was told by some trustees shortly after the December 5th meeting that they were very impressed with our hard work, our creativity, and with the sophistication of our models. […] We expect to hear back from them in March.” On March 1, 2013 the Board held an open forum Q&A in the Great Hall in which the Board dodged questions concerning the deferral of early applicants to the Art school as well as mentioning that an important meeting would take place on March 6, 2013 (a meeting that took place off campus). It was not until April 23, 2013 that the Board of Trustees announced its intentions to charge tuition to the incoming class of 2014.
Leak one is a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Dream Scenario: Trustee Reinvention Committee” and dated February 12, 2013. The slides of this presentation contain few full sentences; instead, they contain an average of four to five bullet points. One slide entitled “Ingredients of a Transformational Vision” has a bullet point saying “Build on Peter Cooper’s vision, not the contemporary narrative.” A slide with the title “Design” contains a point “Launch a new School of Design that includes Architecture [… ] Phase out current fine arts program.” The following slide (with the same title) has the point “Leverage synergies across current schools.” Another entitled “Science and Engineering” has a bullet point “Provide 50% tuition scholarships to all admitted students” followed in the next slide by “Hire a few computer scientists who are thought leaders […] to oversee MOOC-based curriculum” [editors note: MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course]
Leak two. “Helpful Information for Administrative Assistant Position”
George Campbell, current Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Webb Institute, was hired by the Cooper Union in 2000 and was President of the Cooper Union until his retirement in 2011. In a 2009 article with The Wall Street Journal, Campbell claimed that the Cooper Union had weathered the financial crisis of 2007/2008. It was during Campbell’s presidency that the New Academic Building, so named because no one donated enough money during Cooper’s capital campaign to justify having their name put on the building, was constructed. In his last year at Cooper, Campbell was paid $668,473, making him one of the highest paid college presidents in America. In 2011, Campbell was paid a total of $1,307,483 by the Cooper Union.
Leak two is an annotated document bearing the title “Helpful Information for the Administrative Assistant Position.” The 17 page guide begins with a piece of advice: “Unless you like being admonished by the President about using his office as a highway [by walking through it], it’s advised that you refrain from doing [so] while he is around.” The document details the duties expected of an administrative assistant at the Cooper Union during the Campbell administration, including how to prepare the President’s salad (Campbell is allergic to cucumbers; having the salad delivered unmixed allows the assistant “to construct the salad [himself/herself] and make it look nicer”). The document also instructs the administrative assistant to book luxury hotel suites for Campbell’s trips along with “a luxury SUV during the winter, […] a luxury Cadillac in the summer/spring […], [or a] convertible” should an SUV or Cadillac be unavailable.
Leak three. “The Cooper Union Organizational Chart” (Entitled “The Assistant Directors of Blahblahblah” by Free Cooper Union)
Leak three is a series of block diagrams that visually demonstrate the hierarchical structure of the administration of the Cooper Union as it was on December 3, 2012. As pointed out by Free Cooper Union, these charts are out of date as demonstrated by their mentioning of T.C. Westcott as Vice President of Finance and Administration and Linda Lemiesz as Dean of Students, who both no longer work at the Cooper Union.
Leak four. “Reinvention Media Strategy”
On October 31, 2011, Bharucha held an open forum in the Rose Auditorium to discuss the future of Cooper Union and comment on rumors that full tuition scholarships would be phased out. About six hours earlier, The New York Times published a piece named “Cooper Union May Charge Tuition to Undergraduates.” The open forum was the first time that Bharucha publicly spoke to the Cooper Community about Cooper’s financial problems.
Leak four is a “Media Strategy 10/17/2011 Confidential Draft 2 for Review.” The document outlines the media strategy of the Bharucha-administration and is dated a full two weeks before Bharucha’s open forum. The document mentions that discussion about St. Mark’s bookstore “remain a possible [media] flash point, but should not propel us, even advertently, to engage in the larger issues prematurely. To the extent possible, from a pr standpoint, it is certainly best to disjoin the two [sic.]” At no point does the document identify what “the larger issues” are. The document also discusses the need for “re-invention [sic.] and innovation to strengthen the institution.” Finally, the document considers two media outreach scenarios. The first scenario details an exclusive outreach to The New York Times after the inauguration. In this outreach, the administration will “Begin by presenting the challenge and then lay out the development of a dynamic action plan within the context of Peter Cooper’s far-reaching vision.” It continues: “The plan is more than just a means for a renowned college with the highest academic standard to survive – it is a chance for reinvention.”
Leak five. Untitled. (Entitled “Accountability?!” by Free Cooper Union)
Leak five consists of a letter written from Phillips Lytle LLP, a full service law firm located in NYC, in response to T.C. Westcott’s inquiry concerning “the principal governmental authorities to which Cooper Union has an ongoing accountability.” Phillips Lytle LLP referred Westcott to two publicly available documents: the New York State Office of the Attorney General Chartites Bureau’s “Right from the Start: Responsibilities of Directors of Not-for-Profit Corporations” and “Internal Controls and Financial Accountability for Not-for-Profit Boards.” The end of the letter to Westcott states that “[b]oth the New York and Federal governments have granted Cooper Union tax exempt status. As such, the school must adhere to the standards and submit filings specified for a charity.” The letter was dated January 18, 2012 and has a large “JAMSHED” penned in the upper right-hand corner
Leak six. “Reinvention: A Ten Year Road Map”
Allegedly written by Bharucha on October 30, 2011, leak number six documents possible solutions to Cooper’s financial crisis. One section considers the closing of the engineering school as well as the exiting of 30 Cooper Square, yielding a net savings of $7,962,817. A similar section considers the closing of the art and architecture schools as well as the exiting of the 30 Cooper Square, yielding a net savings of $7,995,871. At Bharucha’s open forum on October 31, 2011, Bharucha stated that he would not be the president to close any of Cooper Union’s schools.
Bharucha then follows by discussing immediate actions. He details the creation of a Revenue Task Force and mentions that he will announce it on October 31st. According to the document: “The Task Force will be charged with coming up with $7 million in FY2014, $14 million in FY2015, $21 million in FY2017, and $28 million in FY2018.” Bharucha writes, “it is too late to consider any significant changes in our scholarship policy for the class entering in the Fall of 2012, because recruiting in the high schools has been predicated on our existing policies and applications have already been coming in.”
Bharucha states that “investments in reinvention should provide immediate pay-off [sic.] in academic reputation (when coupled with communications), but only medium to long-term payoff in grants, technology transfer and development.” Additionally, Bharucha outlines “An Institute for Design” at the Cooper Union.
Leak seven. “Code of Conduct: Approved by the Board of Trustees March 14, 2012” (Entitled “Bharucha’s Annotated Disciplinary Guide”)
Leak seven is a copy of the code of conduct for students as approved by the Board of Trustees on March 14, 2012 allegedly marked up by Bharucha. This code of conduct is the code of conduct found at http://cooper.edu/about/policies/code-of-conduct . The most prominent underlined section of this leak is the first paragraph of part three named Presidential Right of Summary Suspension: “Subject to prompt review, the President of The Cooper Union may summarily suspend a student from the College when, in his or her best judgment, such immediate action is necessary for protecting the health and safety of the College and/or any member of the College community.”
Leak eight. Untitled. (Entitled “Bharucha’s Tuition Research” by Free Cooper Union)
Leak eight, allegedly compiled by Bharucha, consists of a tuition-centric history of The Cooper Union. The document contains minutes from a Board of Trustees Meeting on February 6, 1860, in which “it was Resolved, that the Secretary inform the Advisory Council that the Board of Trustees recommend the admission of pay pupils to the extent of the accommodations of the rooms.” The document contains a list of Cooper Union-related cases in which there was “no reference to free tuition.” This is followed by a similar list of “Statutes and Legislative Materials” related to Cooper Union in which there was “no reference to free tuition.” Finally, the document states that Peter Cooper’s 1859 address as well as Cooper’s 1972/2002 bylaws contain “no reference to free tuition.”
Leak nine. “Board Presentation Talking Points.” (Entitled “A Sense of Betrayal” by Free Cooper Union)
In early 2012, the Board of Trustees hired a consulting firm named The Whelan Group “to build capacity to lead the institution effectively through a period of financial challenges and organizational change.” According to Free Cooper Union, the total expense for this five-month consultation was $63,000. Leak nine consists of an email from Evan Kingsley of The Whelan Group to Bharucha in which Kingsley attached “a preview of that Charlie [Whelan] and I will share tomorrow (Wednesday)[March 14, 2012]at the TCU Board meeting.”
According to the document, The Whelan Group interviewed board members and staff as well as participated in committee meetings. The first observation of The Whelan Group: “Almost universally, Board members recognize that there is an issue of ‘community’ confidence in the Board related to fundamental policy and financial decisions that were made during the tenure of the previous administration. There was also almost universal consensus that the Board must address this ‘confidence issue’ in a proactive way … [sic.] in both word and action.” The Whelan Group also comments upon the culture within the Board of Trustees. For instance, The Whelan Groups observed “most [trustee] interviewees referred to the [sic.] time when dissent on the Board was decidedly unwelcome.” ◊