Our Genius Loci

Oliver Antoniu November 3, 2011

The issue of implementing tuition at the Cooper Union is far beyond a financial one. The gift of scholarship answers the human right of education in the form of a bastion of the highest quality of learning.

We stand behind an education that is “free as air and water” not because we feel delighted to be exempt from a financial burden, but because of how that exemption enables our community. We are free to rigorously question, free to na├»vely experiment, free to mindfully reciprocate, free to intimately confer, free to fervently participate, free to deeply self-examine. We are free of a student body resentfully divided by the paying and the non-paying; we are are free to each have a voice unsilenced; we are free to journey across all disciplines; we are free to use our will and merit as our means; we are free to band together and grow alongside students and teachers of the utmost ingenuity and dedication. We are free from exclusion, free from inequality, free from many of the poisoned affectations of our time. In short, we are free from the barriers most destructive to an education, free as air and water.

This is the climate very many of us turned down prestigious and compelling opportunities to participate in, whether to teach or to learn. This is the place we chose to come to.

The obvious rebuttal is to ask whether one would rather have tuition implemented, or see the school come to an end. The assumption that these two paths are in fact different is absurd. The further notion that these are our most achievable options is rash and unfathomable. We must take the time to find alternative solutions that are built upon the character of the school, or we must admit to ourselves that we have renounced the Cooper Union.

We have all lived a part of the 20th century and thus all know the proper term for an institution that is ligatured by its finances rather than its spirit. The growth of Cooper Union manifests itself in zeal, invention, and fellowship, not size, territory, and budget.

Our cause does not rest on the wayward conveniences of romanticism, prerogative, and idealization. Spirit IS pragmatic, not merely philosophical.

We oppose tuition not as something symbolic; we oppose tuition in terms of the end of an exemplary reality.

Tuition is anything but a “solution”.