In an editorial published in the school newspaper in Fall 2013, then freshmen Sam Rosner addressed the danger of willful ignorance amongst the student body.
Originally published by The Cooper Pioneer in December 2013
Stop what you’re doing. Take a good look around. Look out the window and look out into the hallway. Have you spoken to anybody outside of your school today? If you’re an engineer, have you talked to an artist today? Artists, have you spoken to an engineer today? Architects, have you left your studio today?
The school has been crumbling at our feet. It’s been slower in the past, albeit, but things seem to be deteriorating at an accelerating speed. I feel as though relations between the schools are more estranged than ever. In times of strife, it’s easy to withdraw into our comfort zones. It’s easy to decide to focus on your work, to say “fuck the school I’m going to just do me and get the hell out.” It can’t possibly fail, it’s been standing for 155 years, why not 155 more? This passivity will be the death of the Cooper Union.
What do you want to look back on in five years? Will you be ready to look back? How about 10 years? 20? 30? How about 50 years? Let’s look back.
What are you most worried about right now? Is it your calculus final? Completing a model? Finishing your sculpture? Is it that HSS essay that’s due the day before break? Understandably, present obstacles seem the most pressing. They’re easy to look at, to face, to conquer. You can count on the power of a single individual and you have the skill-set necessary to complete the task. That’s what you go to school for. To gain the necessary skill-sets in order to be successful and innovative in the field of your choosing.
But how do you fix a school? Do you know how to do that? How would you even start? Sign your name on a petition, make a meme, say “I know it’s bad and I don’t like it but it’ll work itself out.”
What will this school be like once we have a paying class? We will no longer be the Free School. There’s the New School down the street, but somehow the Free School has a better ring. Now we will be the “School That Was Once Free”. The melodrama of our situation will resound in the nomenclature.
So come next year, assuming that indeed, we are charging tuition, Cooper will be caught in a divide. It will be both the Free School, and The School That Was Once Free. Two schools.
Can a school divided stand?
But you go to the Free School, so it’s all cool. Those kids who go to the School that was Once Free won’t be here till next year and that’s practically a lifetime away.
Your inactivity is perpetuating the cultural shift which will eventually destroy the Free School. You are a frog sitting in warm water, not noticing that it’s getting hotter. You’re sleepy, drifting away, but you’re slowly, degree by degree, boiling away.
So what do you see yourself leaving behind? You’ll eventually leave this school. You personally won’t have paid a dime towards tuition and you’ll be patting yourself on the back for having escaped the binds of throttling student debt. But what will be left? A school that is but a shell of its former self. The seniors will graduate, the current juniors, the current sophomores, and last, the current freshmen. And who will be left? The Free School will have been abolished, its ideals forgotten, its legacy diminished, its future dismal.
And how is your class going to be seen? Will you be the class that sat quietly, twiddling their thumbs, letting the Board destroy 155 years of tradition? Or will you be the class that stood up, and said “This is a Free School and it will stay Free!” Will you be the class that enabled destruction? Or will you be the class that took action, unified, and changed the paradigm of student empowerment?
Think about what you’re leaving behind. Think about your legacy.