After observing a media blackout since striking a deal last Friday, The Cooper Union’s President’s Office, administration, and Board of Trustees released a joint statement affirming the agreement between student occupiers and university officials ending the occupation in exchange for increased student input and participation in governance. Though the debate over the school’s decision to charge tuition continues, it appears the parties are at least making a show of being on the same side.
The press release largely confirms the facts established by the occupiers in their initial statement to the media after the end of the occupation, and answers one big outstanding question: The joint statement explicitly offers occupiers amnesty for any violations incurred during the occupation.
The announcement is a show of good faith by the group regularly depicted as the villains behind Cooper Union’s fall from grace. As the Voice has chronicled over the past several months, the Board of Trustees and others in positions of leadership sometimes used brute force on the school’s three faculties to accept their decision to charge tuition to incoming first-year students, at point going as far as to threaten to reject all applicants to the Art School after its faculty openly opposed the creation of tuition-based programs.
The higher-ups at Cooper Union also became a symbol for the Dionysian excesses of university spending and higher education’s deep entanglement with the financial services industry. After the extent of the school’s bad investments became known, and that its endowment was largely tied up in poorly performing hedge funds, echoes of bankers’ malfeasance during the recession reverberated across the already bristling debate over the affordability of college in the United States.
The conclusion to the story is still months away, but at least here we have a sign that the administration has registered the outrage of the Cooper Union community and is taking steps to soften it.