The Cooper Union Occupation Is Over

12.10.12 Andy Cush

The eleven occupiers (and one reporter) of Students for a Free Cooper Union emerged today, seven days after they barricaded themselves into an eighth-floor room in the school’s Foundation Building. The students apparently left of their own volition, stating that they “feel empowered” to meet their list of demands themselves.

Upon entering the space last week, the group issued a comminqué saying they’d remain until their demands were met, which included a reaffirming of the school’s principles from the administration, and the removal of president Jamshed Bharucha. And though the administration made no official statement of support and Bharucha remains employed, they’re claiming success–in the loosest possible terms. From the press release:

With regard to transparency. On Wednesday, December 5th, several students entered a meeting of Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees. They livestreamed and posted real-time, public minutes throughout the meeting. These actions mark the beginning of structural changes that will create open flows of information and truly democratic decision-making at Cooper Union.

And finally, with regard to leadership. Jamshed Bharucha’s absence and lack of direct communication over the past week has made it clear that he is a liability to this institution. We can declare without hesitation that Jamshed Bharucha is no longer our president.

It’s admirable that the students took such a strong stand for a cause in which they believe, and it’s evident that they created widespread conversation about Cooper Union and free education, but that explanation smacks of cop-out. In their original statement, the group explicitly demanded that the administration–not students, not faculty, not alumni–affirm a belief in free education, and that Bharucha step down. Neither of those things happened.

And at the risk of sounding too reactionary: though it was its own alleged mishandling of funds that started this fiasco, the Cooper Union Administration deserves a small tip of the hat for the way it handled the occupation. Seven days of lock-ins, without police or security being called in. It’s the only way they could’ve emerged from this PR nightmare with any goodwill intact, but it’s also a mild reaffirmation of the school’s progressive values.

(Photo: Lucky Tran/Twitter)