Cooper Union Students Barricade Themselves in Building to Protest Tuition Hike
For the last 24 hours, a group of students of Cooper Union, a privately funded college in Manhattan, New York, have barricaded themselves within the 8th floor of their school in order to protest the school’s decision to charge tuition for the first time in 110 years.
Cooper Union was founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, who designed the school to operate under a new egalitarian model in which education should be “free as air and water,” in which each student that was accepted would receive a full-tuition scholarship, worth roughly $150,000 today. But in April this year, Cooper Union decided to break with tradition and will now begin charging tuition to its students. While undergraduates will still receive a full-tuition scholarship as before, graduate students will instead be forced to pay out of pocket.
As a result of the school’s sudden change in policy, the group of 11 students then decided to occupy the 8th floor of the Cooper Union Foundation Building on Monday morning, and have remained there since. The students unfurled a banner from a window reading “Free Education To All,” have started a livestream of the protest, and have released a list of demands for the school’s administration in order to end the sit-in.
The student’s demands include the immediate resignation of Jamshed Bharucha, president of Cooper Union, a greater degree of transparency regarding the administrations management of the school, and a public affirmation of “the college’s commitment to free education.” The protesters have singled out President Bharucha due to his longstanding position that the college must begin charging tuition in order to remain open.
Although the administration for Cooper Union initially attempted to drill through the barricade and end the protest, fears of injuring any student pressed against the barricade have caused the school’s officials to instead attempt to wait out the protest.
“They were drilling and ramming the door,” said protestor Victoria Sobel. “It was very scary.”
Sobel went on to tell New York Times reporters that the protestors were prepared for a long slog against the administration as they stockpiled food, including ramen and outmeal, and brought in sleeping bags in order to remain barricaded on the 8th floor for “as long as necessary.