Cooper Union Alumni Sue School Over Tuition Scheme

The Cooper Union. Photo via Facebook.

On May 27 the group Save Cooper Union, which is made up of alumni, admitted students, and professors, filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the highly regarded art, engineering, and architecture school that has provided every admitted student with a full scholarship since it opened in Manhattan in 1859. The suit is aimed at preventing the board of trustees and administration of the school from carrying out their plan to start charging tuition in the fall 2014 semester, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The lawsuit alleges that the school’s board and administration, under president Jamshed Bharucha, did not fully explore the possible alternatives to charging tuition, and have extenuated the college’s fiscal hardships by mismanaging its funds. Among the costly grievances cited in the lawsuit—and on Save Cooper Union’s page about the lawsuit—are the construction of the school’s costly new building (above right), and extravagant expenses like a $350,000 inauguration fete for Bharucha.

The lawsuit claims that the school’s administration and trustees “built an extravagant new academic building that the school could not afford” and that “the Trustees compounded the impact of this mistake by squandering the endowment through investments in risky hedge funds.”

The plaintiffs, who are represented by Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff, & Abady, also cite the $1.46 million that the board spent on consultants who were brought in to advise how best to implement tuition. After dropping such a hefty sum on the consultants, the trustees then ignored the recommendation to charge 25 percent tuition, and doubled the figure. Barring the lawsuit’s success, the Cooper Union is on track to begin charging students a 50 percent tuition rate, or $19,500, this fall.

“We are disappointed that the Committee to Save Cooper Union would choose costly litigation over constructive conversation,” school spokesperson Justin Harmon told the WSJ.

Save Cooper Union has launched an IndieGogo campaign to help raise funds for its legal battle against the school.

A press conference and rally is happening at the Cooper Union on the afternoon of May 28.

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