It’s not easy for an outsider to keep a low profile in a school of less than 1,000 students, but that’s precisely what photographer C.S. Muncy did when he snuck up to the 7th floor of the Cooper Union to capture the occupation of the president’s office. More than 50 students took over president Jamshed Bharucha’s office Wednesday morning in protest of the end of the institution’s free tuition, and at least 20 slept there last night.
After Muncy enlisted the help of a tenured professor who helped him get past guards to the third floor–“You’re witnessing the end of the sixties right here, tonight,” the professor said–he found the overcrowded occupation space at around 7pm. “It was hard to walk through the office,” Muncy said, though students were trying to keep it clean.
Earlier in the day, student occupiers prepared for a possible police intervention when a fire truck arrived–no police came up to the 7th floor, but students linked arms in a soft-lock to prepare for potential arrests. The dean of the School of Art at The Cooper Union, Saskia Bos, and the associate dean of the Yale School of Art, Sam Messer, also met with students to try and convince a contingent leave to speak to Bharucha. Students refused, and instead asked the president to come to his office and meet them.
Muncy arrived 20 minutes after some students reportedly scuffled with security guards. TC Westcott, Cooper Union’s vice president of finance, arrived at 5 p.m. to tell students that they had an hour to leave, or face the school’s judiciary process. Security guards cut off use of the 6th and 7th floor stairwells, and students found that their bathroom doors had been bolted shut, along with a wooden board tamped over the water fountain. Organizers then managed to get roughly 100 students who weren’t in the president’s office to come up to the fifth floor, remove the bolts, and regain access to the stairs–it’s been reported that a few students were injured during this time, but that remains unconfirmed. At 10 p.m. last night, students were able to move freely between floors.
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“I left at 9:30 [p.m.] and I made it a block away and I decided I couldn’t leave,” said senior Aaron Graham. “It feels sort of up in the air and we’re going to have to figure out what our goals are now,” he added. “I feel like [Jamshed Bharucha] could resign now any minute, but if he doesn’t we’ll have to recalibrate.”