Students protesting the end of Cooper Union’s free educational model are still using president Jamshed Bharucha’s office as the base of operations they claimed Wednesday morning. On Wednesday night, roughly 50-60 students from at least five other New York schools rallied on the ground in Cooper Square as a show of support, using the People’s Mic to address the crowd.
“With this vote, we express our abhorrence and disapproval of the policies of Jamshed Bharucha’s administration,” Cooper Union students read. ” As stewards of the Cooper Union we are viscerally interconnected to Cooper’s mission of championing free education for all. We know more intimately than any consulting firm that the integrity of academic and creative excellence achieved by Cooper Union is intrinsic to the college.”
In addition to students, distinguished visiting professor Gail Buckland spoke to the crowd. “You all have earned your place,” she said. “And I do not want my students to owe a debt to bankers; I want you to owe a debt to society.”
Buckland–who notably curated the “Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present” exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum–told me that while she’s been involved in the Cooper Union vision of free education since 1979, she didn’t realize how much she valued it until it was taken away.
“Frederick Douglass said–and I’m paraphrasing–give a slave an education, and it sets him free. But give kids big college debt, it will chain them like slaves,” she said.
At least one protester brought a pot to bang–a token from the student tuition protests that shook up Quebec last summer–while the group circled the building. An NYPD paddy wagon and line of scooters lined the square, but aside from erecting barricades, the 20 or so police officers present milled around at a distance. The rally was over while it was still light out–by 7:20, cops were packing up the barricades under clear skies, and four officers with plastic zip cuffs attached to their belts filed out of the building.
Victoria Sobel, one of the students organizing the action from upstairs in the president’s office, told me later that evening that talks with the administration had reached a point of non-negotiation. There’s only a week of school left, but the students “aren’t envisioning an end to this action,” she said. “We’re focusing on the escalation of the actions, day by day,” Sobel added.
Upstairs, students bathed the president’s office in red light, a signal of their protest to nighttime passersby.