Developing: Cooper Union Protest
December 4, 2012
UPDATE: Dec. 10, 9:45 p.m.
Exactly a week after 11 Cooper Union students and 1 New School Free Press reporter barricaded themselves inside the Peter Cooper Suite atop the Cooper Union Foundation Building, the occupiers peacefully — on their own free will — exited the suite at noon today.
According to occupier Joe Riley, they decided to leave given the support they were receiving on the ground.
“We realize all these things were going on and it was time for us to come down and start plugging into that,” Riley said.
Despite the exit, Riley argues that it was a successful maneuver.
“The lock-in was very catalytic,” he said. “We felt the lock-in was aimed and designed to be a catalyst for building this community around this issue and building up and gaining a lot of attention.”
As far as what’s next, Riley suggests that the future is in the hands of the people who care most about the school – people that do not include the administration, he argues.
“The administration doesn’t really care or hasn’t shown that it cares. It’s not representing its constituents at all.”
UPDATE: Dec. 6, 11:40 p.m.
The Free Cooper Union protest was a lot quieter Thursday, as protestors used the fourth day to recuperate from the energies expended over the course of the week.
“Today we’re pretty much just getting everyone together as a student body, getting everyone on the same page. We’re just kind of recuperating because everyone’s been doing a lot,” said protestor Diana Lozano, a senior in the Cooper Union School of Art.
On top of protesting, Lozano pointed out that the demonstrators are also in the middle of finals week.
“Students have been working non stop — not getting any sleep,” Lozano said. “It’s been pretty hard but we’re all working together because we really care about tuition. We’re finding a way to balance everything,” she added.
The protestors also used the day to plan major demonstrations over the weekend.
According to the group’s Facebook page, the protest will reconvene on Friday at noon with a student walkout in front of the foundation building, followed by a dance party and alumni rally and celebration at 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. respectively.
Stay tuned for more updates.
UPDATE: Dec. 5, 4:32 p.m. A document posted to MediaFire articulated the three main goals of the Cooper Union protest: demanding increased transparency from administrators, reaffirming Cooper Union’s commitment to free education, and forcing current Cooper Union President Jamsched Barucha to step down.
The document also provided mathematical models that illustrate the effect of the tuition hike on future Cooper Union students.
The authors created different models of tuition changes based on four scenarios based on whether tuition is locked or if the discount rate is locked. Currently, Cooper Union has a 40,000 dollar tuition with 100 percent discount for all students.
In all scenarios, the authors concluded that annual inflation would lead to increased tuition for each incoming class.
The document also includes press releases dating from Monday and Tuesday, asking the public to join them at Cooper Square, as well as articles from news sources that lend support to or document the protest.
Click here to view the full document.
UPDATE: Dec. 5, 4:23 p.m. The movement is now gaining traction with colleges from as close as down the block to as far as across the country.
Students at The New School, based less than a mile away from Cooper Union, said they empathize with what the protestors at Cooper Union are going through.
“At the New School, we are by now very familiar with tuition increases to fund enormous new development, a lack of financial transparency, and the barring of student participation in decision making,” a statement from The New School Reoccupied – a movement within The New School – said. “It is absolutely necessary, in all schools, that we directly participate in the discussion of budgets and projects through action.”
Nearly 3,000 miles away, members of the UC Student Workers Union at UCLA voiced a similar sentiment.
“We want to express our outrage at Cooper Union Administration’s decision to start charging students tuition,” a statement said. “We condemn the dismantling of Cooper Union and this move to privatization for the ways it decreases accessibility for many students, and we stand in solidarity with the occupiers as they fight this oppressive policy.”
UPDATE: Dec. 5, 3:15 p.m. Now in its third day of protest, the Free Cooper Union movement has drawn support from the Paul Robeson Freedom School, a free education program designed to teach the youth how to engage in social activism and organize campaign events.
Following the balloon precedent set yesterday, in which supporters of the protest sent boxes of pizza up to the barricaded protestors by attaching them to three lines and helium balloons, Justin Wedes of the Robeson Freedom School began sending notes and messages up to the occupiers via balloon shortly after noon today.
According to Wedes, the activity grew popular and 150 balloons were eventually sent up.
“Each message was a show of support for what they’re doing in their demands for free education,” Wedes said. “This is the last stand for free education. Education is a human right and should be accessible for everyone.”
In another demonstration, the protestors stretched a long role of saran wrap around 41 Cooper Square – the architecturally innovative building added to the campus in 2009 – to demonstrate their goal of transparency and efficient communication between the administration and students.
“Whether or not it can change decision making I think it’s important that everyone is in the loop because secrets have been the biggest problem in this whole thing in the past year,” said Alex Gross, a third year art student at Cooper Union who helped hold the saran wrap up. “The lack of communication and when the administration seems to talk to us it seems to be more about political pleasing and sugar coating than anything.”
Additional reporting by Emily Bell. Stay tuned for more updates.
UPDATE: 9:07 p.m. In a statement, the Cooper Union said the deans and the faculty of the degree-granting schools will be presenting plans to keep the university financially sustainable. The proposals will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees with a decision slated for early 2013.
Audrey Snyder, a spokesperson for the occupying students, said she was not satisfied with the university’s response, claiming that the only contact the administration has made has been regarding the safety of the students — if they have an easy way to exit in case of emergency.
“They haven’t directly talked to the students or addressed the situation upstairs other than to make sure everyone’s safe,” Snyder said. “It’s skirting around the issue is what it really is.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the Bruce High Quality Foundation attached boxes of pizza to three lines and helium balloons to carry the pizza up to the barricaded protestors.
“They got their pizza. I think it was probably a little bit cold but they got it,” Snyder said.
According to Snyder, the occupying protestors have enough food inside the barricaded room to sustain themselves for weeks.
Stay tuned to WSN’s coverage of the protest for more updates.