Volume 76, Number 26 | November 15 - 21, 2006
Cooper art students don’t like picture, so walk out
By Lori Haught
Charging they’re being ignored by The Cooper Union’s administration, students staged a walkout Thursday just as it was time for the junior and senior art students to move the contents of their studios to Long Island City, Queens.
Two seniors, Sophia Bernstein and Rebecca Horn, led the walkout after weeks of petitioning and protesting. Bernstein said the protest included art students, as well as architecture and engineering students.
“It was everyone,” she said. “We feel that the administration has become completely immune to the feelings of the student body.”
The heated debate centers on the pending demolition of the Hewitt Building, where 120 art students had their studios. The Hewitt Building, on Cooper Square (Third Ave.) between Sixth and Seventh Sts., is being knocked down to make way for a new $120 million “green” building for Cooper Union. The commute to Queens, coupled with the lack of communication about 24-hour access to their new studios, is setting the students off, however.
“They disenfranchised us,” Bernstein said. “We don’t want to be in a battle with the administration, but they forced us.”
Claire McCarthy, Cooper Union’s director of public affairs, said most of the issues were resolved in a meeting directly after the walkout at which the president of Cooper Union, George Campbell Jr., and the art school’s dean, Saskia Bos, sat down with the students.
McCarthy said that originally it was thought that 24-hour access to the Long Island City building with the new studios could not be granted due to the legalities of it being a commercial property. However, that was resolved and the students will be granted 24/7 access to their studios, she said. She also said that shuttle vans would run from the main Astor Pl./Cooper Square campus to Long Island City for the first few weeks to see how this system works and see how much the van is used.
Bernstein said the students are concerned about the school “violating” their rights and the segregation that will inevitably occur with this long-distance relationship at a school that was founded on commingling disciplines. She also said that from the students’ perspective, Cooper Union is only doing this to save a buck.
“We signed a contract with the school,” Bernstein said. “We give them our participation. Many of the students here had large scholarships at other institutions. We are the school’s capital.”
Cooper Union students sign a contract stating they will keep up their course work in exchange for their tuition-free education.
The students are also worried about the school having set up the construction offices in the heart of campus, in the colonnade of the Foundation Building again feeling the school is cheating them in the interest of saving money, they fear there won’t be enough exhibition space. Bernstein said the students may walk out again if the gallery space issue is not resolved.
McCarthy said there would be plenty of exhibition room and that Bos had met with students on the subject.
“We had to pay the same for the site office whether it is on or off site,” she said. “As far as I know, we aren’t saving anything.”