Legal Action & The Committee to Save Cooper Union

Seeing a clear pattern in the way the administration had sabotaged community efforts in the past, alumni and faculty met in parallel with the Working Group to develop an alternative course of action in the event that the Board decided to ignore the community and implement their tuition scheme. The Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), a not-for-profit organization, was founded to keep Cooper free through legal efforts and political outreach. The group is co-founded by Art professor and alumnus Mike Essl, Engineering professor Toby Cumberbatch, and Engineering alumnus Adrian Jovanovic.

CSCU attorney Richard Emery speaks at a press conference outside the New York State Supreme Court.
CSCU's petition
CSCU's petition (39 pp., 365 kb, PDF)

At the 2014 Commencement ceremony, CSCU announced their intention to file a lawsuit against Cooper’s Board in the New York State Supreme Court. The petition calls for five points of action:

  1. An independent accounting of the college’s finances 2. The creation of an oversight body known as the Associates of Cooper Union (as called for in the college’s Trust and Charter)
  2. A declaratory judgment that charging tuition is not permitted by the college’s Trust and Charter.
  3. An injunction to halt the charging of tuition
  4. The removal of trustees who voted to implement tuition for “breach of fiduciary duty”

CSCU successfully crowdfunded $260,000 from over 1,000 donors to fund the litigation. During the fundraising period, the Board’s lawyers attempted to have the case reassigned to the court’s corporate division but were denied. In an attempt to stall litigation, trustees Mark Epstein and Jeremy Wertheimer refused to be served their court papers.

Following these delays, the court date was held on August 15th, 2014. Lawyers for the Committee, the Board, and Wertheimer delivered arguments before Justice Nancy Bannon. While no trustees or administrators were in attendance, supporters of Free Cooper Union and the CSCU (including a handful of incoming students) packed the room.