We, the General Assembly of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York stand in solidarity with the Cooper Union Student Occupation. We believe Cooper Union should be free. We believe that CUNY should be free.
We are inspired by the Students for a Free Cooper Union who have taken action to call attention to the institution’s plans to impose tuition on Cooper Union students for the first time in the institution’s history. Their courage and foresight have powerfully challenged the current administration’s assault on Cooper Union’s 150-year commitment to excellent tuition-free education. We stand with these students in their rejection of the restructuring of universities based on austerity policies and a fallacious logic of “comparative affordability.” Colleges and universities with long histories of free admission should not be forced to compete with the tuition rates at other institutions. We refuse this logic of competition and oppose the commodification of education and on every level.
We see the student occupation of Peter Cooper Suite as a legitimate and necessary direct action. The occupation intervenes in an illegitimate decision-making process from which students have been excluded. We believe students and educators must be a part of the governing structures of their universities. We support Students for a Free Cooper Union in their denunciation of the current administration and their demand for transparency, accountability, and direct participation in governance. We echo them in denouncing the CUNY Board of Trustees as an illegitimate governing body and demand more faculty and student control of the City University of New York.
Until 1976, CUNY too offered tuition-free education to New Yorkers, and we still live with the memory of the struggle against tuition implementation. Tuition degrades the quality of life of students and their families and it necessarily leads to the exclusion of those who cannot pay. As we know all too well at CUNY, tuition increases always disproportionately affect working class people and people of color. Tuition implementation is a classist project. Tuition implementation is a racist project.
We support the call for President Bharucha to step down. The Cooper Union administration must enter into good-faith discussions with Students for a Free Cooper Union and they must unconditionally include student voices in all future decisions which bear on the structure and governance of the University.
We categorically denounce any past, present, or future use of violence to force these students to desist and to intimidate others from addressing these issues. We also demand that the Cooper Union administration make a public statement ensuring that no legal retribution against these students will be taken. Students must be respected and listened to, not silenced, sidelined, belittled or repressed.
The occupation at Cooper Union is an inspiring demonstration of student power and a radical demand for more student control over the future of the university.
in solidarity and struggle,
The General Assembly of the Graduate Center,
The City University of New York