The students who have been occupying the office of the Cooper Union president in opposition to the college’s plan to impose tuition fees for the first time in more than a century have ended their occupation with a negotiated agreement.
The Cooper Union students announced the terms of that agreement this morning, and while they did not succeed in rolling back the tuition plan — yet — the concessions from the administration are significant. Here’s what they won:
- A working group of students, faculty, alumni, administrators, and trustees is to be established to “to explore ways in which Cooper Union may revert to providing full-tuition scholarships for all enrolled students.” Student and faculty representatives on the committee will be democratically elected, and will together make up seven of the committee’s sixteen members. (Alumni will account for another three of the members, but it has not yet been announced how they will be chosen.)
- The working group will, according to the students, “have access to all of the information needed to analyze and model operational and financial alternatives,” potentially including confidential financial data not available to the public.
- An elected student member of the Cooper Union board of trustees will be installed by December of this year under procedures approved by the trustees at their September meeting.
- Space for a Cooper Union “community commons” has been pledged by the college, to provide meeting and working space for campus activists. A room in the administration building has been set aside for that purpose during the summer, with a permanent commons space made available before the start of the fall semester.
- All occupiers have been granted full amnesty.
In addition, students announced this morning plans to establish an independent Free Cooper Union non-profit corporation “that will enable us to kick off our own parallel fundraising campaign for a tuition-free school. Free Cooper Union will, they say, be “a collaborative effort comprised of the Students for the Free Cooper Union, Faculty for a Free Cooper Union, and Alumni for a Free Cooper Union that will revive and uphold the mission of our beloved school.”
Update | A good piece on the process that led to the settlement.
Second Update | Coverage from Art In America.
Third Update | More good coverage, this time from The Village Voice: “This group [the working group] is going to try to work out a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose-lose situation.”
Fourth Update | Some on Twitter and Facebook have expressed concern about the terms of the amnesty granted to the occupiers. Here’s the deal: In the document linked above, it was stated that if the occupiers “agreed…in principle” to the terms of the agreement, vacated the president’s office by a Friday deadline, and “commit[ed] to complying with, and cooperating with the enforcement of, all laws and Cooper Union policies,” then “all individuals who violated laws or Cooper Union policies in the course of the occupation will be granted amnesty.”
Whether the amnesty was made contingent solely on the students’ “commit[ment]” to compliance with “all laws and Cooper Union policies” or to their compliance with such laws and policies in perpetuity is, by my reading, ambiguous.