The following suggestion is just the boldest and most articulate of several versions I have seen in the past several days. It is serious and exciting, and I respond to it below.
“We should design a twelve foot by six foot banner sign and go down to JOIN the wall street protests and have the entire school stand under the image we design that should be fabulous—-we will get national coverage!
It should say something like:
THE GREED THAT KILLED THE PHILANTHROPY OF NEW YORK IS TRYING TO RUIN COOPER UNION.
MERITOCRACY AND DEMOCRACY ARE INTERDEPENDENT.
KEEP COOPER UNION A SCHOLARSHIP NON-PROFIT ART AND ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL!
SUSTAIN THE PRINCIPLES OF NO TUITION AT COOPER UNION!
One of our students has already reported that last night the engineering students and some faculty have voiced their support for tuition. I warned the students we must fight for architecture only and see if the artists come with us—-stay away from the 35 tenured suburban buffalo grazing in vocationalism!”
1) In some ways it’s a fine idea, but to act on it right now is PREMATURE.
Nothing has happened yet and to mount this kind of social protest is a form of acceptance that it will—-that tuition is a foregone conclusion, which it isn’t.
I think we should concentrate on making our position known within the school—-use the banner and mass gathering there!—-putting pressure on the Board and others supporting the introduction of tuition, so that the Board never makes a decision to do it.
In other words, I wouldn’t give up that fight, which going en masse to Wall Street now would effectively do.
2) Joining the Occupy Wall Street protesters will confuse the issues. Who do we want to address? Bankers, CEOs of corporations, financiers? No. We want to influence our own Board of Trustees. Massive demonstrations in front of the Foundation Building have a chance of doing that. Getting lost in the Wall Street crowds will only put us at a ‘safe’ distance from them and the school.
3) The banner ‘slogans’ cannot be too wordy and conceptually diffuse. They need to be short, punchy, and precisely focused—-what is the key issue? Who are we trying to address and influence?
4) Blaming Wall Street greed for our problem at Cooper is too generic and abstract. Again, to lump our problem together with Wall Street greed effectively takes the pressure off of our Board. Our Board must be seen as personally responsible for the fate of Cooper Union.
5) One final point for now: the idea of exploiting the rivalries between Architecture, Engineering, and Art is a very bad one. Pitting them against each other will seriously weaken the political clout of each and all, making it easier for pro-tuition members of the Board to achieve their goals. No, THIS IS THE TIME FOR UNITY.
Professor Lebbeus Woods
The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture