Boos and Hisses at Meeting to Address Cooper Union’s Financial Woes

Cooper Union Foundation Building.Eastvillagedenizen’s Flickr

Last night, Mark Epstein, chairman of Cooper Union’s board of trustees, held a community meeting with students, alumni and school officials, in part to discuss a controversial announcement that the school may begin charging tuition for the first time in over 100 years.

Though press was not allowed at the event (The Local was firmly but politely escorted out of the school’s Great Hall), the proceedings were tweeted by Sean Cusack, an alum of the school and an adjunct professor who is a member of the Cooper Union Task Force.

Mr. Cusack’s tweets depict an at-times contentious exchange. Asked if he would take personal responsibility if the school had to charge tuition, Mr. Epstein is said to have drawn boos and hisses when he stated, “If it weren’t for the lack of alumni support, we wouldn’t be here.”

Mr. Epstein reportedly told the audience that it would take a $127 million boost to the endowment to take the option of charging tuition off of the table.

When asked why the severity of the school’s financial issues was only now coming to light, Mr. Epstein is quoted as saying that the administration of current president Jamshed Bharucha is transparent and that former leadership was not.

According to the tweets, Mr. Epstein stated that the school’s costs have outpaced its revenue for some time, owing to the market as well as slacking donations. He is reported to have said that Cooper Union was not broke, but that the school was running a deficit and could go broke if changes weren’t made.

The chairman reiterated that charging tuition is a last resort for the board, saying that as a graduate of Cooper Union, he believes in free education, having benefited from it himself.

Read the tweets here.