Letter from the CUAA President

November 1, 2011

Dear Fellow Cooper Union Alumni,

Many of you have already heard of the challenges that The Cooper Union now faces, and the many discussions that have developed in the past few weeks. You may also have read the New York Times article just published on the issue (Cooper Union Looks at Changing Tuition), or the one published by the Wall Street Journal (Cooper Union Weighs an About Face). Many of you have been invited to sign the recent petition to Save Cooper Union Without Tuition, or have joined the Save the Cooper Union Facebook group.

As President of the Cooper Union Alumni Association, I want to make sure that we communicate where we stand on these issues of critical importance to the future of the school that meant so much to our lives, and what information and resources we have out to you, the alumni we represent.

Cooper Union has, despite news articles to the contrary over the last few years, been running at a deficit for a very long time. The endowment has been impacted by both the long term deficit spending, and by the recent poor economy. Historically, the real estate and stock portfolios in the endowment were reasonably expected to balance each other and to cover for an operational deficit, but now, when both real estate and stock markets are depressed, the school has a very real and immediate money problem. President Bharucha is exploring many different paths to fiscal stability. While nothing is decided yet, he has been considering every option.

Currently, the student body (our future alumni) and many alumni, faculty, and staff, have been galvanized and are engaged in discussions with President Bharucha and other members of the community. The Alumni Association is supportive of the students and the grassroots movement that began last week. We share the goal of wanting Cooper Union to be financially healthy and a credit to its founder well into the future. We are excited by the level of dialogue and community engagement surrounding these issues.

These are our communications and data gathering tools, and we will use them to share the information with you as it develops further:

  • Alumni engagement with the students who are raising this issue, and participation and discussions with them.
  • Participation on the Revenue Task Force set up by President Bharucha.
  • Four alumni trustees on the Board, who have the responsibility to communicate the voice of CUAA and constituents to the Board of Trustees, and communicate the actions of the Board to the CUAA.
  • Exploring additional fundraising options with the group of mobilized students and alumni.
  • Review by a small group of independent alumni of the financial information and preparation of a summary to be distributed to the alumni body.

Last night, President Bharucha and alumni were hosted by students in an open forum where he presented a proposal to create a task force made up of alumni, students, and department chairs to evaluate the revenue sources and to help solve this financial problem.  I have been asked to serve on this task force.

One of the easiest ways to show alumni engagement is, of course, to continue to donate to the Annual Fund. During the forum last night it was repeated that only 18% of alumni give back. Given that 100% of us received an amazing gift from this school, not just financially, but in all that we learned, I find this low number perplexing. While we alumni probably can’t close the deficit on our own, we can and must show both the school and potential funders that we are engaged in this discussion and we have a seat at the table by increasing that percentage. Even if you are only able to give a little, please do so today to help support the school and to show that alumni can be counted on.

I want to thank you for your continued support of The Cooper Union. I speak for the Alumni Association when I say we all share a desire to keep CU open and affordable for many, many years. Thank you to all who are helping to find solutions to this problem.

Please let us know how the Alumni Council can help you with better information and a voice in this issue.


Peter G. Cafiero CE’83
President, Cooper Union Alumni Association