Ladies and Gentlemen, the Cooper Union Occupiers Have Left the Building

UntitledSasha von Oldershausen A student occupier embraces his friend after emerging from eighth floor.

After a week of sleeping on yoga mats, eating food cooked on hot plates and accepting pizza deliveries via floating balloons, the Cooper Union occupiers have left the eighth floor of the Foundation Building and are going global with their initiatives.

“The problems at Cooper Union strike a nerve with millions of others struggling with student debt, administrative bloat, and expansionist agendas,” said student organizer and occupier Kristi Cavataro during a press conference held outside the school’s Foundation Building.

The eleven occupiers who barricaded themselves into the Peter Cooper Suite saw daylight again as they congregated with community members, supporters and faculty to discuss their unmet demands and the bigger picture.

reverend_billy1Sasha von Oldershausen Rev. Billy

Tyler Paige, another student organizer and occupier, told The Local that the students plan to participate in board meetings, from which they had previously been barred.

“We realized the student body is now unified and we’ve come together with the entire city as well as the entire global struggle,” Mr. Paige said. “We’re back on the ground to help work with that direct-action movement.”

When asked about President Jamshed Bharucha’s whereabouts, Mr. Paige said he was “hiding in his house on Stuyvesant Street,” further confirming his “campaign of silence” and lack of involvement in the process.

During the press conference, students called Mr. Bharucha “a liability” to the institution and denounced him as their president.

“During the last week, the president has really staunchly said that he’s not going to negotiate and so these students coming out of the eighth floor I think is an acknowledgement that we’re not going to negotiate with the president anymore and we’re just going to do what we need to do,” said Jenny Eagleton, a senior.

kristi_cavataroSasha von Oldershausen Kristi Cavataro speaks on behalf of students.

Friday, Cooper Union released a statement saying that Mr. Bharucha had taken students up on their demands to talk, but many of them declined. Today Jolene Travis, a spokesperson for Cooper Union, told The Local that the school has been in contact with the students, mostly through Rachel Appel, one of the head organizers for Students For A Free Cooper Union. She described communication with the students occupying the eighth floor as “ongoing” and said the president was leading it with the support of the board.

Last week, the occupiers received an e-mail asking them to sign a safety waiver, and upon doing so “they would leave us alone,” Mr. Paige said.

“We realized they don’t care, we were still liabilities, only numbers and that our voices weren’t being heard,” Mr. Paige said. “All they cared about was safety and that’s not what we wanted.”

But after a campaign that even captured the attention of “The Rachel Maddow Show”, the Cooper occupiers hope to become part of the larger discussion on student debt.

“While Cooper is certainly the most important thing here, right now, it’s not the most important thing globally,” Mr. Paige said. “It’s worth connecting with other people. We’re stronger as collectives than as individuals.”