A case brought by ECBA against the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Union, disputing the decision to charge tuition for the first time in the school’s history, has settled. ECBA represents the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), a coalition of current and prospective students, alumni, and faculty. CSCU filed suit in May 2014, arguing that charging tuition violated the trust established by Peter Cooper and seeking to reinstitute free tuition, to provide a full accounting and to implement greater oversight. As a result of the CSCU lawsuit, the Attorney General of the State of New York launched a confidential investigation into The Cooper Union, which culminated in the settlement announced today.
The settlement agreements, which will be filed today with the Court and which the Court is expected to approve at a hearing on September 14, include a consent decree signed by the CSCU, the Attorney General, and The Cooper Union, as well as a cy pres petition by the Attorney General. The agreements impose an independent financial monitor; establish a Board committee made up of alumni, students, and faculty that is dedicated to developing a plan for the return to free tuition; require the school’s leadership to make a good faith effort to return to free; and expand the presence of alumni, students, and faculty on the Board of Trustees.
ECBA lead attorney Richard D. Emery explained: “A tragic chapter in this great school’s history has ended. For the past several years, a lack of fiscal restraint, conflicts of interest and a failure of educational vision banished Peter Cooper and his spirit from the school he founded. Cooper built a completely free, merit-based learning institution that encouraged free thinking and produced some of our nation’s greatest minds in the arts and sciences. These recent years abandoned those values in favor of financial manipulation and debt. Because of the litigation settled today, Peter Cooper is back. Justice for Peter Cooper and all those who benefited from his great experiment is now a promise that must be kept.”