Nearly a year ago, the Cooper Union board claimed the school was a financial wreck. And the only way out? Tell students to pay $19,500 in tuition fees, beginning in Fall 2014. Until yesterday, that decision appeared to be set in stone, when alumni, students, and professors in the Save Cooper Union group filed a lawsuit against the school’s board of trustees. In this final blitzkrieg, the group charges the board with financial mismanagement and calls for the creation of an advisory committee to oversee the school’s decision-making process. Most importantly, it calls for an immediate injunction against charging tuition.
Pretty much, Save Cooper Union is saying that it’s ridiculous to seek money from students when the board needs to curtail its own extravagant spending. The lawsuit cites $350,000 spent on President Jamshed Bharucha’s inauguration celebration, $23,000 spent on Bharucha’s home (with nearly $10,000 spent on new blinds and $8,000 on a custom buffet), and additional funds spent on the President’s personal bodyguards. The suit also states that the “[b]oard spent $1.46 million of ‘unbudgeted expenses’ on consultants to help support the transition to charging tuition.”
And apparently, the board didn’t even take the consultation seriously. From Save Cooper Union’s affidavit:
Although the Current Board’s consultants recommended charging only 25 percent of tuition, the Trustees rejected that recommendation and decided to charge 50 percent instead, again apparently without regard for how this might affect the school’s ability to recruit the most talented applicants.
Plaintiffs in the suit include not just former and current students, but applicants who had to decline admission to Cooper Union based on the new tuition fees.
So far, the only response from Cooper Union itself comes from the school’s spokesperson Justin Harmon. He told the New York Post that “We are disappointed that the Committee to Save Cooper Union would choose costly litigation over constructive conversation.”
We’ll keep you updated on the process of the suit—as of yet, no potential court dates have been set.
But you won’t have to wait too long: This afternoon Save Cooper Union will be hosting a press conference and rally regarding the lawsuit. The conference will include remarks by members of Save Cooper Union and attorneys working on the lawsuit. So go—it’s at 1:30 PM, right outside Cooper Union’s New Academic Building at 41 Cooper Square.
Press conference and rally for the lawsuit & free education today! 1:30-2:30 pm, outside the NAB at 41 Cooper sq. pic.twitter.com/mqNV34HYDO
— Free Cooper Union (@FreeCooperUnion) May 28, 2014