Dear Members of the Cooper Union Community,
Since my arrival at Cooper Union in July 2011, I’ve had the pleasure of talking with many of you about this extraordinary institution and the tremendous opportunities we have going forward as leaders and innovators.
There really is no other institution like Cooper Union. In teaching and working with students and faculty, I’ve learned more about the texture and nuances of our academic community. Among them is an unparalleled commitment by students to their work. Conversations and relationships are mainly focused on creative work, which is extraordinary. This is indeed a meritocracy. We have a unique set of schools - Art, Architecture and Engineering and an environment that encourages a dialectic of thinking and making. Our location in the dynamic, edgy East Village is a huge attraction.
Our founder, Peter Cooper, was a great thinker who was continually inventing and reinventing. We must address our economic challenges by reinventing ourselves. Our first task during the next three-to-six months is to work together to develop a sustainable financial model that will enable our institution to continue to be vibrant now and forever.
This letter will serve as an update on progress. We have good news to share about new gifts to Cooper Union, and an announcement of members of the Revenue Task Force which will play a significant role in our reinvention process.
This past fall, I advised the community that Cooper Union is operating with significant financial deficits. In the past fiscal year, we had an annual structural deficit of close to $16.5 million. With expenditures of $59.7 million, this represents a deficit of approximately 28 percent. We need to balance the operating budget without selling assets or dipping into the endowment beyond the spending policy. We must examine our cost structure. And we need revenue models that scale to the expenses associated with operating an outstanding academic enterprise positioned to engage the challenges and opportunities of our time.
In the past few weeks, a series of steps have been taken to move us forward:
· Our community has stepped up philanthropically, as I announced during a Presidential address on Dec. 13, 2011. Please join me in thanking our many donors, including alumni, parents, foundations, and friends, for supporting Cooper Union.
· Also on Dec. 13, I announced the formation of working groups, my intention to conduct administrative and academic reviews, and the opportunity to convene brainstorming sessions about Cooper’s future. We will proceed with:
o A Task Force on Revenues, chaired by Phil Weisberg, EE ’89, CEO, Fx Alliance, LLC with vice chairs Milton Glaser, A ’51, Principal, Milton Glaser, Inc., and Eric Hirschhorn ME ’89, Managing Director, Bank of America.
o An Expense Reduction Task Force, led by T.C. Westcott, vice president of finance and administration. In addition, an experienced external consultant will conduct an administrative review to make recommendations on our administrative structure and processes..
o An academic review, which I will lead in consultation with internal and external experts, to ensure that we maintain unsurpassed levels of excellence, and that our graduates are exceptionally prepared to make significant contributions to society.
o A set of brainstorming sessions to help us think most optimistically and positively, about key questions, from “What should Cooper Union be like in this world that is changing so fast?,” to “How can we make the most important contributions to serving the public?”
· The Board of Trustees issued a summary on Dec. 16, 2011 of 12 years of audited financial statements highlighting the circumstances of our current financial distress. As the Board noted in its detailed report, Cooper Union remains committed to the goal of insuring access to education for students with demonstrated financial need.
The first six months of 2012 will be an intense period as we work together to strengthen this institution and to develop a bold plan of reinvention. Thank you, in advance, for your involvement and your support.