Comments on: Are Cooper Union’s finances fixable? A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: traducator daneza Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:58:06 +0000 Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

By: unreceivedogma Sat, 18 May 2013 17:23:11 +0000 Enlightening. Great and necessary clarification. To bad it’s needed. Thank you, thank you.

ML, CU A’76

By: Cooperalum Fri, 17 May 2013 13:57:02 +0000 I watched the “debate” between Salmon and Mark Epstein in which Epstein gave hazy answers to direct questions and was unbearably smug and condescending. With leaders like this, why would anyone want to support the school?

As an alum, I can attest that Cooper’s fundraising efforts have been weak at best. But these problems harken back to over 20 years ago when the school built the dorm against the will and good sense of much of the alumni, faculty and student body. The president and board were completely dismissive of all differing points of view and barreled ahead with their plans. Now it is clear that this was also a poor financial decision that has contributed to Cooper’s woes.

Salmon’s assessment of Cooper’s problems but also of their strengths is remarkably insightful. Thanks for a critical viewpoint.

By: EllieK Thu, 16 May 2013 08:11:49 +0000 Felix,
Thank you for your careful, compassionate post about Cooper Union. I have been inspired by the legacy of Peter Cooper for so many years, of free tuition for students of the school, and it makes my heart ache to learn further details of the endowment’s mismanagement.

There is no reason, none, for 60% of the school’s (non-real estate?) assets to be invested with hedge funds. The loan, the new building, all of it, seems to have happened as though there were no board of directors at all.

I cannot see any benefit to selling the leasehold on the Chrysler Building. The current board and managers of Cooper Union haven’t demonstrated much ability to manage the school’s finances to-date. They don’t seem regretful, repentant now, so it is unlikely that they would change their irresponsible ways going forward. Nor is the “Mayor Bloomberg foundation as savior scenario” good, even if he were inclined to pursue such. I’m not implying anything improper about his integrity! Only expressing concern that there is too much responsibility for New York City, its governance and economic dependencies concentrated in the financial sector already, with Bloomberg L.P. being a large part of that. If Mayor Bloomberg had had fiduciary responsibility for Cooper Union, I doubt that the school would be in the situation it is in now! But he isn’t the answer. Appeals to alumni for funds, or selling off, at a minimum, renting out that wasteful new building would be a better place to start.

Also, consider the possibility that there may be restrictions associated with the land under the Chrysler Building bequeathed to Cooper Union by Peter Cooper. The founding documents of the school would need to be reviewed carefully. Even if permissible, I don’t think that selling off that asset, that wonderful income stream for Cooper Union, would be a good thing to do.

By: sallyn Wed, 15 May 2013 16:25:54 +0000 I too hope that The Cooper Union will find a way to avoid tuition, but it seems ever more unlikely.

In the past almost 2 years the school had endless meetings about the financial crisis and possible solutions. While I do agree that the Board of Trustees probably went in believing it was the only solution, any effort to present or discuss alternatives was disrupted by the “no tuition ever” contingent. Claims of “no transparency” are frequently code for “you aren’t doing what I told you to do.” The board is probably corrupt. The president is not good at thinking on his feet. The occupying students have romantic-nostalgic (and ultimately conservative)notions about the world, and non-profits, work. Nobody is behaving particularly well.

By: twodox Mon, 13 May 2013 20:10:30 +0000 I think you meant “torpid performance,” not “torrid.”

By: rinagoldfield Sun, 12 May 2013 13:10:19 +0000 Many great points but perhaps I’m missing something—the takeaways of this article seem to be:

1. Selling off the Chrysler building is a terrible idea. It would deprive the school of a huge and RELIABLE source of income, plus the school wouldn’t get the right price.

2. Selling off the Chrysler building (for the right price) is the only way to save the school.

If the school liquidated this treasure of an asset and paid off its mortgage, what’s the school’s income? The PILOTS pay for most of the school’s operating expenses. You conclude “the trustees would just have to work out how many students they could afford to teach on the income from the money left over.” What evidence is there that the trustees could handle such a task, or that even the best financial manager could turn these “leftovers” into a long-term source of income sufficient to sustain a free college? I don’t see how selling off the Chrysler building—even for a fair price—is anything but a very short-sighted solution to the school’s financial woes.

By: samadamsthedog Sun, 12 May 2013 11:36:14 +0000 Not at all to argue with your very sad analysis, but when you said “torrid”, didn’t you mean “horrid”?

By: TFF Sun, 12 May 2013 11:32:57 +0000 Absolutely, the alumni should start contributing. Coopers Union is 150 years old — it has easily 50 years of alumni still working who received a valuable gift when they were young and have a moral obligation to pay that gift forward (with interest).

If the alumni are unwilling to pony up, then the school has already failed. TANSTAAFL.

By: Twinkbait Sun, 12 May 2013 07:15:11 +0000 Nice piece on a stellar institution in a very unnecessarily sad situation.

Besides the ways mentioned of getting the ship righted as discussed in this article, I’d also:

1st) get rid of the President and current Board members asap
2nd) start tapping the shoulders of the alumni to pony up some cash, and get that stream started coming down the pipe