Accountability - Email

Toby Cumberbatch November 4, 2011

Dear Colleagues

I apologize for yet more correspondence - but it takes little time for you to hit the delete button.

I have bcc’d to avoid that huge list of email addresses - this is going to engineering faculty, faculty that I know in other schools, some administration, the chairman of the trustees and selected students.

I feel compelled to write one last time because I am surprised by the apparent lack of concern over the future of The Cooper Union – rubbish many will say - I beg to differ.

Non-tenured faculty are concerned about their future; students are wondering whether to transfer to a school from which they will be able to graduate; alumni are wondering what their funds will be used for; alumni are wondering whether there is any purpose donating to an institution that may cease to exist in the near future; staff and faculty face an uncertain
future; ..

I too would like to know what is going to happen - my kids start college next year.

From what I understand we all have to place our faith in the board of trustees.

Recent events make this an uncomfortable dependence.

It all comes down to money - or the lack thereof.

There is much discussion about how to get more money - but little to no *open* discussion about current and past expenditure. I think this is a case for using history - understanding the past to solve the problems of the present.

I think it is true to say that everyone I have talked to over the past few days broadly agrees that a COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT discussion about finance must ensue for us to move forwards.

I am not the first to say this and surely won’t be the last -


- this topic appears to be having enormous difficulty gaining any sort of traction.

When I heard about today’s *teach-in*, I naively assumed it to be a forum within which the fundamental issues underlying our current predicament would be discussed.

Sadly - we appear to have reverted back to the model of the previous administration - carefully managed dissemination and control of information - an administrative whitewash!! A not uncommon view I hasten to add!

We are promised meetings with the trustees - what kind of meetings? Stage managed, carefully controlled and vetted questions??
I asked Tom Micchelli for a 15 minute slot for today’s event - and *very much appreciate* the offer of 10.30 - 10.45.

But - after a lot of thought - I decided that my remarks would probably not have been very well received. Do not doubt that I am afraid of voicing these opinions -

Had I come to the Teach In today - I would have prefaced my statements below with the remarks above.

I think we MUST answer the following questions before we can usefully proceed to a *community* discussion about the future.

1) How much *real* money was raised specifically for the construction of 41 Cooper Square?

2) How much did 41 Cooper Square *really* cost? That is how much would you or I have written a check for - in other words - no hidden gobbledygook about not counting this or that.

3) Our long held suspicions (see attached letter to Mr. Campbell – still awaiting a response!) about there being insufficient funds to construct 41 Cooper Square have now been proven to be true - so - Why was the decision taken to build 41 Cooper Square - and with what justification? Real answers please - not the BS we have been fed for six years!!

4) What are the financing arrangements for 41 Cooper Square? How much does this *actually* cost CU per annum? We have been hearing about a SEVENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLAR early payment penalty - if this is true – which deranged idiot signed off on this??

5) How is it possible that in early September 2011 the projected budget deficit was $8 million - and in mid-October 2011 it more than doubles to $16.5 million??

An EIGHT MILLION DOLLAR MISCALCULATION and no one has been held accountable?? Extreme incompetence or fraud spring to mind!

Oh - and please explain how our current situation equates to the information in the WSJ (2009) and NYT (2010) articles in which it was reported that Cooper had outwitted the markets and emerged in very robust financial health!!

6) We have been given figures for the current annual expenditure – but what we *really* need to know is how this *really* breaks down into academic and administrative costs; building maintenance; external contractors (lawyers, lobbyists, accountants etc)? We all appreciate that some information is confidential but at the same time I think we deserve a more transparent breakdown than we are getting at the moment - it is OUR future!

7) We are told that radical changes are required - we are told that $X million needs to be raised - again the question - for what?? For how many years?? We need an understanding of where the money is going - of what expenditure is actually required to promote the mission of the school - education. For example - my students tell me they are unable to get appointments in the writing center - the writing center has no money – our students receive limited assistance with their coursework, their grad school applications and so on - a direct reduction in the quality of our education program.

If we place the probability of charging tuition on the table - surely we should also address other *uncomfortable* issues such as:
A) Does the development office pay for itself - staff AND overheads?
B) Should we vacate 30 Cooper Square and move the administration into the schools - we’d all actually get to know each other then.
C) Should we get rid of the Deans? Nothing personal but you are extremely expensive!
D) Should we sell the dorm? That would provide a bit more breathing space.
E) Should faculty teach more courses?

8) Why are the trustees hiding behind President Bharucha? How can he possibly answer questions about events prior to his tenure at Cooper Union - and why has he been enabled as the fall guy for the topic of charging tuition. There is a lot of venom associated with this subject – much directed to the new guy *who has come in from out of town and understands nothing about Cooper*. I hope you will agree that this is manifestly unfair and unbecoming behavior.

In conclusion, I most respectfully ask that you to do everything within your capabilities to expedite an account of:
A) Why The Cooper Union is in its current position
B) The full facts surrounding 41 Cooper Square
C) Full disclosure of our current expenditure and how each line item contributes to the mission of the school.

Let us all work together to ensure that Cooper Union will celebrate its 300th anniversary in another 150 years

If you actually read this far - thank you for your time. Whether you agree or disagree - please help the conversation move forwards.

Back to grading ..

Toby—Toby Cumberbatch (
Electrical Engineering Dept,
Cooper Union,
41 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003-7102
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