School Historian: ‘You Can See Peter Cooper Rolling Over In His Grave’

cooperJoanna Marshall

Students ringed Cooper Union’s Foundation Building to “give it a hug” after an announcement that the school would end its practice of providing full scholarships to all undergraduates.

As a half dozen police officers kept watch, students, alumni and faculty gathered beneath a large banner — reading “FREE EDUCATION TO ALL” — strung between two trees in Cooper Triangle.

Despite the police entourage, the scene was rather subdued. “This is a very emotional day for us,” said Victoria Sobel, a senior in the School of Art. “We knew that this news was coming, but it’s hard to finally hear that the school has given up our legacy of free education. The students really just want to be together today.”

cooper 2Joanna Marshall

“For months, the school has been talking about our ‘options,'” she said. “Whenever we would criticize something, they would say, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just an option. It’s not final. These are all just options.’ ”

“We’ve had 18 months of options,” said Peter Buckley, an associate professor who, according to his faculty bio, is working on a history of education at Cooper Union.

Ms. Sobel, who has been a vocal opponent of tuition charges, was not satisfied with the way today’s Q&A was conducted. “Historically it has been a place of dissent, but they didn’t seem interested in hearing our point of view,” she said.

Mr. Buckley agreed. “That was the first time that I’ve ever seen them use note cards to write down the questions in the Great Hall,” he said.

“If you go to Greenwood Cemetery, you can see Peter Cooper rolling over in his grave,” he added.

“Someone actually painted a picture of that,” said Jake Lee, a senior Architecture student. “Peter Cooper was painted on a round canvas and then rolled.”