The Cooper Union President’s Office Has Been Invaded

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Photo: Mario Tama/2010 Getty Images

Last December, eleven Cooper Union students barricaded themselves inside the school's Foundation building. A large red banner that read "Free Tuition For All" hung from the roof of the Great Hall on the Bowery. Protests inside and outside of the East Village school took place to combat one thing: The rumor that the administration, facing a $16.5 million deficit and cutbacks, would be forced to start charging students after 154 years of free tuition. After a few weeks of commotion, the protests fizzled. And then, two weeks ago, the rumors became reality; CU graduate students would have to pay for their education and the class of 2017 would be the last free inductees.

As a result, the protest has reignited as over 50 students (collectively known as Free Cooper Union) took over president Jamshed Bharucha's office this morning for a peaceful sit-in to demonstrate the student body's frustration with last week's official decision. Unfortunately, for Bhraucha's sake at least, it doesn't look like these students, demanding free higher education in the year of our student debt, 2013, want to leave anytime soon.

50+ students, faculty, and staff are maintaining a ‘sit-in’ inside Jamshed Bharucha’s office on the 7th floor of the Foundation Building of the Cooper Union. As students we have reclaimed the President’s office in response to the Administration and the Board of Trustees announcing the implementation of tuition for the incoming class of 2014 — desecrating a 154 year old tradition of meritocracy and free education. We stand together with the extended Cooper community in opposition to this decision; we reaffirm all of the previous and future actions of our fellow students and allies.

Originally, one of the December protestors' aims was to force Bharucha to resign, for he is the official that began talks of ending free tuition in the first place, and that part is back, as well:

This is a non-violent direct action, you are not being held in this room, you are free to exit when you please. Jamshed Bharucha, we are here today to deliver you a statement of No Confidence from the School of Art, we no longer recognize your presidency at Cooper as legitimate and in so doing we commit to re-claim this office in the interim until a suitable administrative alternative is secured.

President Bhraucha has yet to formally respond to his office's new inhabitants, but it's doubtful they'll be able to share the space for very long.