If you’re just joining the Cooper Union story, the NYT headline summarizes it quickly: “Free Tuition at Cooper Union May Be Near End”. To elaborate just a bit, let’s say that a great institution serving the public good has been jeopardized — possibly to extinction — by negligent and ill-informed financial management with a heavy smear of bullshit to cut the smell.
The latest chapter is the most significant one yet: incoming Early Decision applicants to the School of Art have had their admission considerations “deferred.”
Think about being a student, 17 years old, making your commitment to early decision to Cooper Union, instead of another school. Now imagine finding out that you have considered an institution that might or might not be considering any students at all.
The faces above will help you to authentically imagine the faces of the Deferred. And as Clay Shirky points out, these posts on the 99% tumblr can help you imagine the face of the alternatives.
It’s possible that Cooper Union has reached the end of the line, and can’t bring in students because it can no longer subsidize the education that Peter Cooper worked to provide. But if that’s the case: say so.
If it’s not the case, say yes or no. “Deferral” is a bureaucrat’s word. These are students, and at 17, they still speak English; they understand yes and no. None of this could possibly make any sense to them, as it certainly doesn’t make sense to a lot of other people.
I personally sympathize with Cooper’s administration, who have the very difficult role of having to determine whether the school can continue. But that consideration is not something to inflict on students.
It’s hard enough to be 17 and to set out on a difficult course towards a difficult (and important) career. But the role of education is to prepare you for difficulty, not to subject you to it. Sink the ship, or let them on, but don’t leave them adrift. It’s unfair, uncool, and it will always come back to bite you in the ass.