A Fresh Start
This month I began my responsibilities as the Acting President of The Cooper Union, a role that I could not have imagined when I became the Vice President for Finance & Administration in September 2014. I came to Cooper Union for the opportunity to work at an esteemed institution with amazing faculty and outstanding students. I also came for the challenges presented by our financial condition, which are real, but not insurmountable. Now I face the added challenge of helping the Cooper community build a platform upon which the next president can lead.
We find ourselves today, and with each new day, with the opportunity for a fresh start, a time to take a deep breath and, as Walid Raad advised me, to exhale. We need to regain a sense of our history and identity. To return to a place where we work together towards shared goals and not let ourselves be torn apart by our differences.
We need to rebuild trust and heal our community, which are my primary goals for as long as I am Acting President. All of us have suffered together through the very public airing of our dirty laundry. For that I can only offer my sincerest apology, because we are all owed an apology. But now is a time to stop looking back. We must look forward. In this time we are called to rise, to brush off the dust of shame, and reclaim the greatness of Cooper Union. I ask you to answer this call.
Cooper Union is often called an institution, but we are people. We are faculty, students, staff, and alumni. We are Bob, Richard, Harrison, Julie, Carmelo, Devora, Maren, Justin, Marilyn, and Hunter. We, together, are The Cooper Union.
Like any community, we have different opinions, some of which strike at our very core of being, and which we have allowed to separate us. I do not seek to mute any opinions and I welcome the strength of our differences. We must all work to ensure that our differences never again pull us apart.
Now, as I am asked to lead the people that comprise Cooper Union, I cannot do so without your consent. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The status of my position and the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees pale in comparison to the power of our collective willingness to work together. I pledge my willingness and I ask for yours.
This is the first of my communications and it is, admittedly, one sided. There will be many opportunities for us to be together in free-flowing conversations.
Let me conclude today with a request for courtesy or to, as Mickey Hart said after the last Grateful Dead show, “Be kind.” Courtesy is a gift that we can give to one another, but it seems lost today in ALL CAPS emails, social media tirades, and unfeeling attacks on those we don’t even know. As courtesy is extended, it must also be accepted. It does not imply or demand agreement, but courtesy recognizes our commonality in the human race, despite our differences. Let us begin this fresh start, together.