Cooper Union was a free college. The trustees’ duty was to preserve the school. Mark Epstein defiantly announced on April 23rd that Cooper Union would begin charging tuition in 2014. No remorse. No apology. No admission of grievous, unthinkable and shameful failure. No shame at all actually. Just more contempt and condescension for alumni. To dig the dagger even deeper he once again laid the responsibility at the foot of the alumni. No, Mark Epstein. This was your failure. You were entrusted to preserve the legacy of Cooper Union, free tuition and the school’s financial health. It is you who failed, not us. We certainly feel defeated and heartbroken. But worse, we feel betrayed—by you.
Scores of people TOOK from Cooper Union since its inception. Cooper Union’s mission was to GIVE education. We students and alumni are only guilty of taking what we was given. If we had known earlier that the school was insolvent surely we would have given back more than we did. Yet I think about other takers from Cooper Union. It seems that Cooper Union was pillaged by shadowy individuals. Powerful decision makers with their own agendas. The language of board and administration has eradicated any talk of a Free Education in their speeches and literature.
I studied at Cooper Union. It changed my life. It changed my mind. I confess that I may have even took for granted at times that there was a place where a few hundred artists, architects and engineers were selected out of thousands to study and do their very best, every single one them granted a full tuition scholarship. That place is no more.
We won’t give up on Peter Cooper’s dream. We lived it and were changed by it. Other’s should have that opportunity as well.