New York Students Seize President’s Office in Protest of New Tuition Spikes

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steel drumsMore than 50 students at a Manhattan college have staged a takeover of their president’s office, as part of protests against recently announced tuition increases.

Last Wednesday, protestors seized the 7th floor office of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art President Jamshed Bharucha. A month earlier, the college’s Board of Trustees announced that it was planning to end the school’s full scholarship programs -- a tradition in place at Cooper Union since 1902 -- with incoming students expected to pay half of a new $19,000 per-semester tuition bill beginning in autumn 2014.

The college’s nine-full time art faculty members have all signed the protestors’ “no confidence” petition, The Village Voice reports.

“All the people upstairs are doing these sorts of actions to keep this school free,” The Village Voice quotes Cooper Union student Aaron Graham, “we’re not fighting for ourselves. We’re fighting for future students because we’re all already guaranteed the scholarship we’ve been given.”

A similar protest was held last December, with 11 students barricading themselves atop the college’s Foundation Building amid early rumors of tuition spikes. The college -- whose alumni include Thomas Edison and Batman creator Bob Kane -- announced a $12 million budget deficit earlier this year.

Late Monday evening, Bharucha – a violinist -- met with student protestors -- the first correspondence between the two parties since the sit-in began last week.

"There is so much that's unique about Cooper, so much that's inevitable, that's hard to put into words, and even spiritual,” he is quoted by The Village Voice. “I hear your mournful tones, I hear your high pitched agitation, I hear your yearning for resolution and harmony. But I also hear the crescendo of hope."

According to Victoria Sobel, an art student at Cooper Union, the impromptu meeting resulted in little resolution.

"The conversation was un-moderated and he came on his terms -- he came and left when he pleased,“ The Village Voice quoted her. “I think the format of the dialogue prevented genuine discussion.”

Photo credit: Michael Fleshman / Flikr