Trustee Update:  June 8, 2016

 CUAA summary notes, as prepared by Carol Wolf A’84.
 The CUAA hosted a Trustee Update at The Cooper Union on June 8, 2016.

Trustee Attendees:

Kevin Slavin A’95, Vice Chairman, Alumni Trustee
Monica Abdallah ChE’17, Student Trustee
Thomas Driscoll ME’77
Adrian Jovanovic BSE’89, Alumni Trustee
Peter Katz A’76, Alumni Trustee
Malcolm King EE’97
Scott Lerman A’81
Jessica Marshall EE’17, Student Trustee
Robert Tan AR’81 Alumni Trustee
Rachel L. Warren
There were approximately 20 audience members in attendance. It was a diverse group ranging from current students to alumni who graduated in the 50s and every decade in between.

Trustee Update June 8 2016

Opening Remarks

Scott Lerman was seated at Board meeting earlier in the day, and Julian Mayfield has been brought on as the new student trustee.

Status of Presidential Search Committee

A pool of a few hundred candidates was interviewed and winnowed down by the committee in two stages using an anonymous ranking system. There are now less than 10 candidates under consideration — a diverse and highly-motivated group.
What are the criteria you are using to evaluate the candidates? Is a commitment to free tuition required?
Free tuition is not a litmus test; mainly we are looking for a good cultural fit.
Will the new president be in place by the start of the new academic year, as originally proposed?
The new president is not likely to start by the next academic year. Timing is not a criteria; we will find the right person and work within their timing constraints. A Fall start has not been ruled out, but is believed to be highly unlikely.
The final candidates have all demonstrated thorough knowledge of Cooper Union, and are all in tune with the current situation. These individuals are all “amazing,” high-caliber candidates for the job of President.


Several questions were asked about the current budget. Thomas Driscoll provided the following information:
The Board approved Acting President Bill Mea’s budget, and has asked for a risk analysis for budget cuts in the future. There will be $2.2 million in budget cuts this year and $.8 million next year. The Board does not determine where those cuts will be made; Bill Mea is managing those details.
The current deficit is $17 million. In 2019, there will be a balanced budget because of the bump up in the Chrysler Building lease. Then over the next 10 years the deficit is expected to increase again. The current debt burden is $230 million.
Revenue generation is going to be an important part of balancing the budget. It was noted that the school has still been unable to rent the St. Mark’s Bookstore space, which represents $150k in lost income per year.


Can we look forward to a small tuition cut. to show good faith in the effort to return to free?
We are not in a position to say yes to this at this time. We did consider forgoing the increase.
The average tuition is approximately $9k per student. When four paying classes are in place, this will total $8.6 million in tuition revenue.
24% of students are currently attending for free (with a full scholarship).

Status of the Free Education Committee

The Financial Monitor is not yet in place, but is expected within the month.
The committee has been meeting for the last 4-5 months, reviewing various reports and data. It was noted that cutting expenses will not be enough to achieve free tuition; we will need new sources of revenue as well.
The FEC plans to issue its first report on July 1, 2016.


There was lively discussion about fundraising: the challenges and hopes for the future. Following are some of the highlights.
We need to do a better job with branding, to explain our story better. The concept of free tuition doesn’t resonate with outsiders. Scott Lerman noted, “Our Mission is much richer than the tactic”…we need to do a better job of explaining it. What is our value proposition? For Cooper, it is not easy to define.
The Board recognizes that trustees should be raising money, and the Development Office is encouraging them to reach out to fellow alumni. It was mentioned that the alumni contacts are of great value…that the Development Office should cultivate those as potential donors.
When are we going to launch our next capital campaign?
Chris Cloud of the Development Office has been working with the Board on this, but it is probably 5 years out. There is a list of pre-requisites to complete before this can begin (installing the new President, defining our mission and vision statement for outside donors, etc.).

Expanding the Board

The Board is looking to add 1-3 new members this year. Important qualities are philanthropic potential and integrity/reputation.
When will you select/name the new Board Chairman?
Internal conversations within the Board are currently taking place. We expect to name the new Chairman at the September Board meeting, and he/she will be seated in December. We are looking for a unifier, someone who understands the school. Personal giving ability will not be the lead factor in selecting the new Chairman.

Other Comments/Topics

It was mentioned that one way to bolster our presence within the community and build that relationship is to make better use of The Great Hall. The Associates have been formed through the Consent Decree, and The Great Hall may be a good area for them to help optimize, along with other parts/programs of Cooper that are more outwardly focused.
The Board’s Communication Committee is considering ways to keep up with social media. Perhaps a monthly column, some type of selective Q/A, or a”FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions) page was suggested.
Peter Katz remarked: “We are heading into a period of rebuilding. We should avoid obsessing about ‘what we were’ and focus on what we will become.”