As I mentioned this morning, today is a day of action at Cooper Union, one of New York City’s oldest and most esteemed colleges. Cooper Union has been tuition-free for 110 years, but this fall the administration started charging for Masters programs, and students fear undergrads are likely next.
Today’s announced activities included a teach-in, demonstrations, and an evening colloquium, but late this morning activists launched another tactic — barricading themselves inside the top floor of the college’s Foundation Building. As of this writing (2:40 pm Eastern Time), that’s where they are.
The occupiers released a statement at midday, in which they declared that their action was a “response to the lack of transparency and accountability that has plagued this institution for decades and now threatens the college’s mission of free education.” They issued three demands: That the college restore and preserve free tuition, that it initiate governance changes including student and faculty representation on the board of trustees, and that the college’s president, psychologist Jamshed Bharucha — who took office just seventeen months ago — resign.
Cooper Union activists are tweeting about the day’s events at @FreeCooperUnion, and #FreeCooperUnion has been adopted as the go-to hashtag for coverage. New School Free Press reporter Kali Hays, tweeting as @HaysKali, appears to be the only person regularly updating from inside the occupation.
Hays tweeted from inside the occupation for the first time shortly after noon, and reported half an hour later that maintenance workers were “attempting to drill/saw” through the door to the space the students had taken over. Hays later reported that the drilling had been called off, and that administrators had given assurances that they would not for the moment attempt to gain entry to the space. At about 2pm Hays tweeted that the occupiers would “not negotiate with administration,” quoting one occupier 40 minutes later as saying “We feel confident about our demands. We’ve put a lot of work into them.”
3:30 Update | The occupation is front-page news on the website of the arts magazine Art in America, and has made the City Room blog of the New York Times as well. The City Room story includes an interview with occupier Victoria Sobel, who says the students were inspired by past occupations at The New School and NYU, as well as this spring’s Quebec student uprising. Sobel says that the occupiers have food and bedding and are prepared to stay “as long as necessary.”
3:40 Update | Sobel confirms to the Gothamist website that the group’s demands are non-negotiable, saying that they will not leave until those demands are met.
4:40 Update | Heading out to dinner with my kids. Will update when I return if there’s news. In the interim I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I snuck a look at Twitter over fries, and RTed a thing or two.
Morning Update | They lasted the night with no disruptions. More in a new post shortly.