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Cooper Union President Resigns Amid Tuition Controversy

By Lisha Arino | June 11, 2015 10:50am
 Cooper Union's president Jamshed Bharucha arrives at the school's graduation ceremony in 2013.
Cooper Union's president Jamshed Bharucha arrives at the school's graduation ceremony in 2013.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

EAST VILLAGE — Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha announced his resignation Wednesday, saying he would step down next month after four years in the position.

The announcement followed months of trustee infighting spurred by a state Attorney General probe into the board’s financial management, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported Bharucha’s departure.

Bharucha will serve as a visiting scholar at Harvard University in the Graduate School of Education this fall, he said in a statement.

Cooper Union has come under fire for its decision to charge undergraduate tuition for the first time in more than a century, starting last fall. Cooper Union said it could no longer afford to cover students’ tuition, but critics said Bharucha and the board mismanaged the school’s funds.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began a probe into the board’s finances earlier this year, focusing on the decisions that lead to charging tuition, according to the Wall Street Journal. A few weeks later, the school’s board of trustees voted to inform the Attorney General’s office that it would not renew Bharucha’s contract next year if it would help end the investigation, the paper reported.

The Committee to Save Cooper Union, a group of alumni, faculty and students united against charging tuition also took the school to court last year. In a statement, the group said it welcomed the news of Bharucha’s resignation. The case is ongoing.

“We hope that this resignation marks the beginning of a new chapter for Cooper Union — one that honors Peter Cooper's mission of free tuition, transparency and fiscal conservatism that has benefited thousands of students over the years,” the group said.

Bharucha defended the controversial move in a statement.

“The focus of my presidency has been to secure Cooper’s finances for generations of deserving students in the future, while preserving excellence and increasing socio-economic access,” he said.

The board also supported the decision and supported Bharucha in a statement, saying the financial situation of the school when he arrived was "not of his making and he deserves credit for sounding the alarm about the need to take urgent action to ensure Cooper Union’s long-term financial sustainability.”

William Mea, Cooper Union’s vice president for finance and administration, will take over on an interim basis on July 1, according to statement from the school’s board of trustees. A presidential search committee will be launched in the fall and will include faculty, student and alumni representation, according to the school.

Bharucha is not the only departing board member. Five trustees who supported Bharucha, including World Trade Center redevelopment architect Daniel Libeskind, also resigned from their posts Tuesday night, according to reports.