This post is being updated as the story develops. See most recent updates at the bottom.
A little before 11 a.m., more than 50 students took over Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha’s office on the seventh floor of the school. Students say they’re holding a vote of no confidence in Bharucha’s leadership–and trying to gather as many signatures to the petition as possible.
The action comes two weeks after the school’s board of trustees announced that future students, including the incoming class of 2014, would be paying tuition for an education that has been historically free. This isn’t the students’ first protest: In December of last year, 11 art students occupied the Peter Cooper suite on the eighth floor for a week in protest of the proposed tuition hike, fully barricading themselves in.
Security wouldn’t let press upstairs, but students did send down two representatives to meet me in the lobby–Angus Buchanan, a second-year, and Aaron Graham, a senior.
“All the people upstairs and doing these sorts of actions to keep this school free–we’re not fighting for ourselves. We’re fighting for future students because we’re all already guaranteed the scholarship we’ve been given,” Graham said.
Even with the black banners draped from windows on the building’s façade, bystanders could easily mistake the protest for a school-supported art installation. No police were present, and students were milling freely in and out of the building while the administration held talks with those conducting the sit-in upstairs.
“This a peaceful and nonviolent action. Meetings are being held with students to discuss it further,” said Claire McCarthy, director of public affairs.
“It’s a little chaotic, we’re waiting,” said organizer and senior art student Victoria Sobel. “We know they’re going to come back and give us some sort of ultimatum.”
At least there’s pizza. After students wrapped up an interview with Democracy Now!, alumni organization Friends of Cooper Union sent the students several stacks of hot melty cheese.
City College of New York students will join Cooper Union students to rally today at 6 p.m. in Cooper Square. Watch this space for updates.
Update, 5:15 p.m.: The nine full-time members of Cooper Union’s art faculty have signed on to the students’ no confidence petition. Read Dore Ashton, Robert Bordo, Christine Osinski, Mike Essl, Dennis Adams, Walid Raad, Sharon Hayes, Day Gleeson, and Margaret Morton’s statement of support here, and watch the video of faculty members presenting their petition in the president’s office below.