Students Disrupt Cooper Union Board Meeting With Sobs, Songs (Plus: More Balloons!)

photo(43)Daniel Maurer

Students barged into a meeting at Cooper Union’s new academic meeting this morning, sobbing dramatically in front of president Jamshed Bharucha as the school of art’s board members discussed controversial new programs.

Saar Shemesh, a student in the school of art, was among an estimated 65 students who chanted in the basement hallway outside of the meeting. Three of her colleagues, she said, managed to gain entry before maintenance workers were instructed to block the door.

Ryan Cullen, a sophomore, was one of the three who entered the board meeting. “At some point we just walked past everyone and walked through. After a few students got in they made a wall,” he said, referring to the security detail.

Inside the meeting, Mr. Cullen and his colleagues did their best to disrupt a conversation about the school’s forthcoming graduate programs by sobbing dramatically and playing music. “We cried for like 20 minutes,” he said. “It was kind of real, kind of for show –- we just sat in the middle while they talked about expanding and making new programs at our school, which is the opposite of what we want and the opposite of what our faculty wants.”

A photo tweeted by Mike Essl, an associate professor at Cooper Union, shows one student crying in front of Mr. Bharucha. A photo tweeted by Free Cooper Union, an organizer of the protests, shows a student replacing a portrait of Mr. Bharucha with one of Peter Cooper.

Mr. Cullen eventually left, but one student stayed behind to take minutes of the meeting while another streamed it live. During the meeting, according to the minutes, the board reaffirmed its support for Mr. Bharucha. Alan Wolf, acting dean of the school of engineering, was quoted as saying, “If there are any conspiracy theories at play they are being hidden from me. I drink vodka with [Mr. Bharucha] late at night at the Fishhouse.”

As the meeting unfolded, a couple dozen students gathered in front of the school’s Foundation Building, where twelve students have occupied the Peter Cooper Suite on the eighth floor, and wrote messages of support on index cards. The messages were sent up by balloon, just like yesterday’s pizza delivery.