Let’s put the situation bluntly, without any diplomatic softening of the hard edges: It will be the end of The Cooper Union as a unique school bringing together an ideal of social equality and creative freedom, if its full-scholarship tradition is overturned by the current Board of Trustees.
As another expensive, tuition-driven private school, it will no doubt offer a good education for those who are able to pay (or are willing to indebt themselves for years to come), though, in fact, it may not compete well against elite schools that offer the depth of great universities—-outstanding libraries, interdisciplinary programs, student recreational facilities, the sense of belonging to a wide intellectual and social community with a long tradition. By giving up its tradition, its uniqueness, The Cooper Union will become a second cousin to such schools, struggling to get paying students from a position of competitive disadvantage.
If The Cooper Union will henceforth be treated as a high-brow business venture, its students will become consumers—-with all the expectations and attitudes of consumers we already know—-and the faculty will become the purveyors of the knowledge-products the consumers demand, whether it’s the latest know-how in computer graphics needed to land an office job, or training in business ethics to help them climb the corporate ladder. Gone will be the ideal of a faculty whose knowledge, experience, dedication to personal principles sets the tone and direction of their teaching. Gone will be the striving for works that will make a better world for all people. Gone will be the spirit of The Cooper Union, which will live on in name only.
Professor Lebbeus Woods
The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture