Cooper Union has not promised to do away with its controversial plan of charging tuition, but it has agreed to look into ways to avoid making students pay to attend, and for the protesters who have occupied its president’s office since May, that was enough. Well, that and summer and a rumor they would soon be arrested. The protesters announced on Monday that they had quietly vacated the office. They straightened up the furniture, washed the windows, and wiped down shelves before they left, one told the New York Times. The school agreed to create a working group “to undertake a good faith effort to seek an alternative to tuition that will sustain the institution’s long-term financial viability and strengthen its academic excellence,” a statement on Cooper’s website said. But the occupation of president Jamshed Bharucha’s office might just have been at its natural end anyway.
As the Times notes, the protesters’ ranks had been “thinned by summer,” and occupier Joe Riley “said the protesters had a different motivation to negotiate: they had been warned by third parties that if they did not cooperate, they would shortly be arrested.” Bharucha didn’t comment on that, saying only that arrest “would have continued to be a last resort,” the Times reports. And the school has said the students won’t face any penalties for their sit-in.
Bharucha, who only visited his office twice while the students occupied it, spoke to the Times from Rome to call the working group of students, faculty, and alumni a “terrific resolution.” So it’s not like he’s been pacing the hall waiting to be let in. He did drop by two weeks ago, “motivated by a desire for closure before the start of his summer vacation,” and started the negotiations that led to the working group deal. The protesters finalized that agreement with two trustees last Thursday, they said in their statement, and they’ve already gotten a space to start their summer homework assignment: coming up with a way to keep paying zero tuition. They have until December to figure it out.