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The student occupation of the eighth floor of the Cooper Union Foundation Building entered its second day this morning, as activists pressing for reaffirmation of the college’s tuition-free structure, governance reforms, and the resignation of the Cooper Union president remained barricaded in a space at the top of the college’s iconic signature structure.

As discussed here yesterday, the occupation was launched in conjunction with a day of action around the college’s decision to consider charging tuition for its undergrads for the first time in more than a century. (Cooper Union, founded as an institution committed to radical accessibility in 1859, is today one of only a handful of American colleges to provide full tuition scholarships to all admitted undergraduate students.)

The Cooper Union occupiers released a second statement this morning. In it, they reiterated their intention to remain in occupation “until our demands are met or we are otherwise removed.” The group also announced plans for a press conference outside the Foundation Building at 2:30 this afternoon. Additionally, a livestream of the occupation has been set up, and is broadcasting as of the time of this writing.

The New School Free Press has been covering the occupation since it began. Their liveblog now reports that a group of students who occupied a space on the fourth floor of the Foundation Building overnight in solidarity with the eighth floor demonstrators were removed by campus security this morning.

Noon Update | I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, but it’s worth repeating here. All current Cooper Union undergraduates, and all new admits for Fall 2013, are guaranteed free tuition until graduation. The college has pledged not to charge any student currently enrolled or applying any tuition fees whatsoever.

That means that all the folks who are accusing the CU occupiers of acting in their own narrow self-interest are wrong. From a financial perspective, the occupiers have nothing to gain — and, given the possibility of legal charges or academic sanctions, quite a bit to lose — from their protest. They’re not doing this because they don’t want to pay tuition. They’re doing it because they believe in what Cooper Union stands for, and has stood for over the last century and a half. They’re doing it to preserve the character of the institution for those who come after them.

4:45 pm | Students are still occupying. Supporters outside recently rigged up a pulley system with an Up-style balloon bouquet to deliver a pizza up the building’s facade. The New School Free Press has the text of an afternoon statement from Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha in which he declares that the college’s priority is “the safety of our students and to insure that the actions of a few do not disrupt classes for all.” The statement goes on to say that the administration’s “approach in the coming day(s) will continue to be one of discourse —engaging in a dialog with the students.”

Doesn’t seem like a police raid is imminent.

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.

New York City’s Cooper Union is one of the nation’s great private universities. Founded in 1859, it was from the start an experiment in radical accessibility — open to women and people of color and students of any religion, free to the working class. And since 1902 it has accepted students on a need-blind basis, charging none of them a penny in tuition. Today the college is among the most selective in the country, and though more than two thirds of its students come from public high schools, the average graduate leaves Cooper Union with just $10,000 in debt.

But that may be about to change.

Last year the college announced that it was considering charging tuition for the first time since 1902, citing the economic downturn, poor investments, and a series of expensive capital projects. This year Cooper Union began charging tuition in its graduate programs, and though undergraduate enrollees for the fall of 2013 have been promised a tuition-free education, no similar pledge has been made for the following year.

Students have been mobilizing against the tuition plan since it was first proposed, and today marks their biggest day of action and outreach yet. Starting at noon, the activists of Free Cooper Union will be holding a day of free classes and demonstrations at the campus’s Peter Cooper Park, followed by a three-hour Summit on Debt and Education at the college’s Great Hall at six pm.

Afternoon Update | Students have barricaded themselves inside the top floor of the college’s Foundation Building, demanding a return of free tuition, governance reforms, and the resignation of the college president. Ongoing coverage here.

Several dozen students briefly occupied Dutton Hall, an administration building on the University of California Davis campus, yesterday afternoon in protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza. The protest came one day after the first anniversary of last year’s notorious pepper-spraying of UC Davis activists by campus police.

According to the California Aggie, the UC Davis student newspaper, tempers flared between protesters and pro-Israel students at the occupation in two separate incidents.

The paper says that when demonstrators saw one student recording the action on her camera phone they approached her and “two neighboring Israeli students, yelling ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Fuck Israel’ until they left.” Later, the paper reported, a demonstrator “grabbed [another student] by the shirt collar and raised a fist” after he “vocalized disagreement with one of the signs in the room.”

It’s not clear whether Aggie reporters witnessed either of the two incidents. The paper’s tweets from the scene mentioned only “heated … talk,” not intimidation or physical confrontation.

Update | Aggie editor and article author Janelle Bitker says she and another Aggie staffer witnessed both incidents.

The student government at the University of California at Irvine last night voted unanimously to divest itself of investments in companies that support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and to urge the UC Irvine administration to do the same.

The resolution, titled “Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid,” is the second such policy to be adopted by a UC student government in recent years. (A similar resolution at Berkeley was passed, and then rescinded, amid intense media attention in 2010.) It passed by a vote of 16-0, with no abstentions.

The student government’s vote is unlikely to have any immediate practical effect. There is no indication that the UCI student government has any investments in corporations supporting the Israeli occupation, and UC administrators have stated that they have no intention of considering any such divestment on an institutional scale. But it is likely to revive discussion of Israel divestment on American campuses.

Irvine’s resolution draws explicit parallels not only between Israeli policies and South African apartheid, but also between the current campaign and American students’ past organizing for South African divestment. “As the example of South Africa shows,” the resolution declares, “it is imperative for students to stand unequivocally against all forms of racism and bigotry globally and on campus, including but not limited to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, patriarchy, and Israel’s system of apartheid.”

Unlike anti-apartheid campaigns, which targeted any companies doing business in South Africa, last night’s resolution does not call for full divestment from Israel. Instead it calls on UCI to end ties with companies that “provide military support for, or weaponry to support the occupation of the Palestinian territory,” those which are involved in “the building or maintenance of the illegal wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes,” and those which “facilitate the building, maintenance, or economic development of illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.”

The resolution names eight companies meeting one or more of those criteria in which it claims UCI invests — Caterpillar, Cement Roadstones Holding, Cemex, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon, Sodastream, and L-3 Communications.

In 2010 UC Irvine suspended its Muslim Student Union in the wake of the disruption of a campus speech by the Israeli Ambassador. Ten Muslim students were subsequently convicted of misdemeanor charges in connection with that incident.

Just last week an Israeli news website described UC Irvine as “a hotbed of pro-Israel activity,” by the way.

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StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out AngusJohnston.com.
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