August 3, 2013

August 1, 2013
Does the title contain The Cooper Union? For the uninformed, Cooper Union is not a supermarket or financial institution or …. etc. Cooper is an institution of higher learning and an integral part of the New York City metropolitan landscape. More on Cooper to follow.

I have read three articles on The Cooper Union in the past four months describing Cooper’s financial fiasco. The authors all had one thing in common: they were not Cooper graduates. The articles were cold, almost indifferent, essentially written from a hedge fund manager’s perspective, and contained financial analyses that were, at times, unintelligible. Well, this one is being written by a Cooper graduate with a Cooper grad’s perspective.

Most of my friends, colleagues and relatives couldn’t wait for the day when they would graduate from college. No doubt, the same can be said for most of you. When the day finally came that hostilities (as I referred to it) had ended, there was joy in Mudsville and parties galore. Well folks, here is how I felt on my day of graduation from The Cooper Union, as excerpted from a May 29, 1998 AS I SEE IT article.

“Graduation Day was, at that point in time, the saddest day of my life. Although all my friends could not wait to get away from the dreadful place, I didn’t want to leave. Despite the 80-page lab reports, a 200-page senior design project, the regular diet of open-book exams (always tougher than closed book), etc., the pressures and problems of later-day life had yet to surface. Still, I knew then that I was leaving the best years of my life behind.

I will never forget sitting alone on the hard stone of the stoop outside the frat house the night before graduation. I recall it was a warm humid evening and a balmy breeze was sighing mournfully to remind me of my solitude. I was in a trance. The lights of the city were visibly ablaze despite the skyline cover of the tenement buildings. I felt the shudder of the overhead Third Avenue El when in actuality, the trains had rattled by for the last time on May 12, two weeks earlier. I was indeed alone.

It was my last hurrah at Cooper. It was goodbye.”

My 2.4/4.0 GPA (a C+ average), along with my days in Stuyvesant High School, got me accepted into NYU’s chemical engineering doctoral program. My first year GPA in graduate school was 4.0/4.0. Thank you Cooper.

That was then. And The Cooper Union I knew then is now a thing of the past. Gone is the free education – there were, of course, registration, laboratory fees, etc, and we only paid for our books. Peter Cooper’s dream to establish an institution providing free education that would exist in perpetually was not a dream – it was a reality.

Now is now. Enter Dr. George Campbell, reportedly a Harvard affirmative action Ph.D. graduate. Enter Campbell’s dreams that differed from Peter Cooper’s. Enter massive borrowing (perhaps Campbell didn’t understand the College’s mission was based on perpetuity). Enter financial collapse. Enter tuition. Exit perpetuity. Exit Campbell. Tuition can now be as high as $20,000/year and that is sure to increase with time. Peter Cooper’s dream is no longer a reality. His dream has been shattered. But it means much more than that since the need of Cooper administrators to balance the in perpetuity rent royalties with expenses is gone. The Harvard MBA mentality arrived and Cooper is no longer different than Obama and government entitlements; anytime there is a perceived need in the future that costs money will simply be resolved by increasing tuition. There is an analogy to be noted: Obama and our government have taxes and now Cooper has tuition.

It seems to me that Campbell is not alone. Something has gone astray with many university presidents. I’ve been following a series of articles by progressive Dr. Robert Scott, president of Adelphi University, a local neighboring institution. Reading his material, advocating a liberal agenda in college education, is actually frightening. So Cooper is not alone – other institutions are also screwed up.

I need to close by formerly expressing my disappointment to Dr. Campbell for destroying what was once a proud and integral part of my life. The memories of those earlier formative years will remain. That he thankfully cannot take away from me. But, unfortunately, he has taken that away from many deserving youngsters.

P.S. Dr. Campbell was recently appointed President of WEBB Institute. One can only wonder what Campbell has in store for them

Lou Theodore

Here is what is on tap in the coming months:
September 1: On Chaste, Pristine, and Random Thoughts XIX
October 1: On the Barack Hussein Obama Legacy