Last Friday the Cooper Union students ended their occupation of President Jamshed Bharucha’s office after 65 days. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was founded by Peter Cooper in 1859, on his belief that an education “equal to the best” should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, and should be “open and free to all.” His groundbreaking vision for education, even by today’s standards, is about to expire if the school moves forward with it’s plan to charge finally charge tuition.
Videos and images had been posting for the duration of the occupation on social media showing from several dozen to 100 students occupying the President’s 15-foot-by-15-foot office.
photo by @freecooperunion on Twitter
Early in the protests the school attempted to remove the students with threats of disciplinary action and police force. The administration also bolted bathroom doors, which only gave protestors something to do besides sit, talk, make posters, and make history. Art student Aaron Fowler tells Art in America Magazine, “We’re art kids. We have tools. The locks were off in 10 minutes.” And for 9 weeks the protest continued.
The student protestors were not without support of the school’s staff. The occupation, mostly organized by art students, has the support of the School of Art faculty, including Sharon Hayes, Walid Raad and Dennis Adams, and former Cooper Union faculty like former Vice President of Finance of the school, Bob Hawks.
According to Ai.A, The Students gave up the president’s office on July 12, on the conditions that they be granted amnesty for violations of the school’s code of conduct; that a working group be formed to explore alternatives to charging tuition; that students be represented on the board of trustees; and that a “community commons” be designated as a student center. The administration will work with the newly formed 16-member group of students, faculty, and alumni, including releasing financial information to them. They have until December 2013 to find a solution to keep Cooper Union free. Some suggestions include shrinking the school, which just expanded in 2009 with a very rare Thom Mayne building at a whopping $111,600,000, mostly funded by contributions.
Expansion of the school and a continued commitment to current and future students to keep the school tuition free would be the ideal scenario in December. Hopefully the student organization will infuse the process with good fresh ideas and fulfill Peter Cooper’s dream, or rather keep it going, for at least the next 154 years.
You can follow the movement on Facebook here.