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A conversation with Mark Epstein: Part 1 Summary
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These are notes from a phone conversation with Mark Epstein, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Union, on February 17, 2013. It was a ~3.5 hour conversation in which we both spoke very candidly, and with Mr. Epstein's permission I am sharing what we both said with the community. Instead of curating or editing in great detail, I thought it would be best to post the notes in their entirety. I apologize for taking over a week at this point. In the interest of transparency, I have uploaded them as quickly as possible without stopping to consider at great length how the whole document presents either one of us overall.
This is a work in progress, but I felt it was important to post something before Friday's forum (deadline to submit questions is this Thursday morning: bit.ly/Trustee_Qs) in order to make that valuable time more productive. I know it's long, but please try to consider statements in their context without just copy/paste-ing random sentences. My plan was to include a synopsis, but at midnight I am barely able to summarize my work up to this point. I have done my best to summarize Part 1 with excerpts, but it is not a replacement for the entire conversation and I will likely edit it in the next few days. Part 2 summary and full notes will come soon.
These are not 100% accurate and are just my notes from the conversation. [??] generally denotes that something was missed. Words in square brackets were added by me after the fact. changes in topic are separated by a few blank lines. omissions during an excerpt are are denoted by .... jumps in conversation during excerpts are denoted by |||||||
EE: Ethan Elenberg
ME: Mark Epstein
]
EE: First of all I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me
ME: Its ok, its what Ive been doing, talking to alumni, faculty, its been taking up a bunch of my time lately. but its quite ok, people passionately talk about the school
EE: Part of me was nervous how easy it was to get in touch with you, wondering if I was the only one, but it's good to hear that other people have been trying to get in touch.
ME: It's kind of comical, you know, I meet regularly with student reps and organizations, ... I was at a meeting with a student rep, it was myself. Francois De Menil who is the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees, another trustee, Jamshed is usually at those meetings but he wasnt at that one that day because he was out of town. and the student said to me "You know, I don't feel like I have access to you." And I said, "What are you talking about? You're sitting here in a meeting with the Chairman of the Board, the Vice Chairman, another trustee, Jamshed would be here if he was in town, Lawrence Cacciatore, you can't get higher access. You go try to find a meeting like this at any other school in the country." so when they say somebody doesn't have access and they're telling you that directly to our faces, how do you not laugh at that?
EE: Well, I definately wasn't aware of that during my time as a student, so I'm glad more people are aware of it now and that word is getting out. I think one of the concerns, as far as open access, is that other public institutions have open board meetings. But that's about the only difference I can see, but you make a valid point when comparing us to other schools.
ME: Most of the places where there is more access in terms of board meetings are public. It's mainly not private institutionos, and we are a private institution.
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ME: Look, let me tell you something: people are looking for who to blame, who to hang, there's nobody that deserves everything. but in retrospect, 20/20 hindsight and 40 years of history, I think in the 70s it became apparent that the school couldn't be sustainable forever. and [??] reduce the scholarship from 100% to 90% tuition [??] I would imagine that if people paid 10% over the last 40 years, the school would be in pretty good shape. But what the BoT has done since is what the BoT is trying to do now, which is to find any other means to go ahead without charging tuition, which is to kick the can down the road. I don't blame the board that much becuase there was always hope that we would be able to get out of this, selling off assets, I mean most of us who are on the BoT who are real estate people (a lot of our members come from the real estate world), we dont believe in selling property
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EE: ...if we just started to charge a little bit in the 70s we would be ok, my understanding is those were hard times for a lot of schools, and CUNY for the first time started to charge then, right, and so you're saying if we went the path of CUNY... if we look at the reputations of the 2 schools now I feel like cooper has maintained its prestige throughout the past 40 years whereas CUNY has been in decline, if you compare to what it used to be. that my concern-
ME: Cooper's reputation has declined, it has. whether tuition is part of that, thats another topic, but let me ask something to you. with all this talk of tuition, whether in the 70s or now or anywhere inbetween, the concept was always to charge tuition to those who could afford it. currently in the school about 40% of the school applies for additional financial aid. [??] people cant afford a place to live, let alone tuition. those students in that category, it would still be full tuition there will be financial aid to cover the rest.
EE: but there's a-
ME: Another theoretical point: what was Peter Coopers goal? Was his goal that tuition should be free for everybody, everywhere, no matter what? was he standing outside of Harvard, protesting that they should be giving it away for free? or any other university? no. I think peter coopers goal was that he didnt want a lack of money to be a barrier to education. I think thats what his intention. there were classes who did accept people who were willing to pay. most of the students were poor immigrant kids like himself. they werent coming from wealthy families to go to cooper union because it was free. because the ones who had money would go to the harvards, columbias, etc. And here's another question: people talk about the tax equivalency payments from the chrystler building. Through the years [??] theres always a politician (and it was just in the paper again last week) who says "why should cooper union be getting it?" and if we start charging tuition, it makes a stronger argument to end that
EE: Yes
ME: But I see it exactly the opposite. becuase if we charge tuition to those who could afford it, some tuition. and everyone was still getting a minimum of 75% scholarship. if thats the number, lets say 75%. and now the tax dollars that we are getting from the chrystler building and the condos across the street and what we will be getting on the engineering building site, those tax dollars will now be used for their truly intended purpose: to educate people who couldn't otherwise afford it on their own.
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ME: The meritocracy to me is not that everyone is not paying, the meritocracy and the best asset that cooper union has is its students. The student body is not going to change by this. there are a number of students now have the ability to pay something
EE: My concern and my fear is that after this week we are compromising the quality of our students. And I mentioned that in my email, now have changed the admissions process. those students who have applied early-
ME: Do you know why?
EE: Yes, I do
ME: Why did that happen? I want to hear why you think it took place to make sure you have the facts
EE: I suppose I don't have the facts because the wording of the email that got sent to the cooper community made it sound like "The art faculty went back on their proposal in December and therefore we are deferring all the early decision applicants"
ME: .........as I said in the beginning, if we had all the money in the world, wed still be doing what we've been doing. but we can't do it anymore, its impossible. we have to find another way. thats a given, thats a fact. its not an opinion, its a fact. we will go out of business completely unless we start generating revenue somehow. so we knew, and jamshed was 1000% correct by saying, that if we were to impose tuition across the board - everybody - the protesting among students and alumni would be so great that it would ruin the school, that people would not want to come here with that going on. and look at what the mention of tuition has done, as far as creating hysteria, imagaine if we imposed tuition. so what he did, correctly, he went to the faculty. because he knew that if we came up with a plan that the faculty couldn't endorse, it would be mayhem. so we approached the schools, and said "look, these are the target numbers that the schools have to come up with" and the reason we went to each school individually is you can't really expect engineering professors to come up with a plan for the art school and vice versa. so there was no intention of the schools competing against one another.......jamshed charged to either create new programs that are revenue generating, you can make cuts to save money, the cutoff for the engineering school was roughly $6M. and these numbers were not for next year, they could be ramped up over time. the art school was close to $3M and the architecture school was about $2M. in proportion to what it costs, so each school has to be self sufficient [not pay for each other]
EE: Right, so-
ME: We had a board meeting on Dec. 5 where the 3 schools came to present their plans. and we were all very happy that it looked like this was working. now the engineering school has already determined that the probably have to charge undergraduate tuition and they think that 25% tuition would be ok
EE: No, I disagree with that because the faculty neither voted for nor against that proposal
ME: Well, you know, thats a little politics. they voted and it was a tie vote
EE: No, there was a vote for it that failed and there was a vote against it that tied, is what I believe happened
ME: Well, nobody wants to be blamed for saying yes to tuition. you know, thats the reality of it. theres the theory of it that they no they didnt vote for it because it was a tie. the reality is they just dont want to have it be able to be said that they in fact voted on it. so they came up with a plan that included it, and then didn't want to vote on it. and the wording of what they did was bantered[??] about for weeks to get the right term in there: whether it was support it, back it, adopt it, to get the right language
EE: Right, and I think they meant to do that exactly
ME: It was a plan they came up with, working with the consultants who say that if we increase the tuition level by charging 25% tuition we will not affect the student body. if we went to 50% tuition, then it would start affecting the student body, which is not what we want to do. It's funny because I'll tell you another conversation I had: his concerns too, were reducing the quality of the student body. so I wanted to find out what the admissions process is like, to see if this is going to be affected. so I talked to Mitchell Lipton (Dean of Admissions) and I asked him "If we have ~1000 applicants, are they labelled 1-1000 and we take the top 125 so if something happens to student #5 and we have to go to #126, are we in some small way affecting the student body?" and he said "No, that's not the way it works. We invite ~175 students to come to the school every year. They know through experience that about 50 will not accept the invitation.... there is probably a cushion of about another 50 students that no matter which 125 we end up with out of that 225 we are not really diminishing the student body." If you start going to student #500 or #600 he says that would definitely diminish the quality. so we have an ample pool of students. there are some that may not come because there may be a small tuition, but we still have enough students to make a cooper quality class. And that's the aspect of the cooper union that matters.
ME: And I can tell you a story about that. I wasn in a panel discussion with the Chancellor of CUNY [Matthew Goldstein]. He told me that he had the opportunity to teach a class at cooper a few years ago, some advanced statistical analysis which he had taught at other places. He came to cooper, taught the class, and gave out a homework assignment. and he came back for the 2nd class fully prepared to go over the homework, which is what he always does for the 2nd class. and the entire class said to him "Just go forward, we got the homework, its ok, go forward." He said it was the only time in his entire teaching career that that's ever happened. He couldn't believe the student body at cooper union was so superior. we're not looking to affect that
EE: And that's great-
ME: And 1 more thing, about having the quality of the students on the table-
EE: As an alum, I'm aware of that. And I think that's the sort of message that needs to get out to other people.
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ME: To get back to the other point, Ill give you a shot, but we issued 1 early admission notice in the art school, the other faculty came up with a plan and we were happy to hear them. and it was very difficult to hear it because that was the meeting when the students crashed into the meeting and disrupted the whole board meeting
EE: If I was there I would have been more respectful, I apologize on their behalf.
...
ME: The reason the early admission notices were held back was Jamshed told the schools to come up with a plan. He said if we can't come up with a viable plan for sustainability, one of the options is to close the school. each school individually, not the entire cooper union. so this was always on the table, as a potentiality if a plan wasn't developed that would work. because we're not going to keep an unsustainable model going anymore. we can't. the Board has decided we are not going to keep an unsustainable model going anymore. we don't have the leeway to kick the can further down the road, ok. so now the art faculty who was encouraged and they came up with a plan, and now they did an about face and said theres no way they can support tuition for anything, for anybody, at any time. well,... so the option of closing a school was still on the table. we havent decided to close a school or not, but we haven't eliminated that option. And since we haven't eliminated that option, there's no way in the world we can invite anybody to an incoming freshman class in the art school in september.
EE: But the engineering decisions went out
ME: Because the engineering faculty came up with a plan that we could back and support. and we think that will make it a sustainable school
EE: So-
ME: It will include tuition it looks like, and the architecture school came up with a plan. thats why we know that next year we're bringing in an incoming engineering class, and we're bringing in an incoming architecture class. because those schools have plans for sustainability. the art school does not. we're not sure yet if we're going to bring in an incoming class to the art school.
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ME: I worked the phonathon most years Im in NY, I mean for decades. and to get on the phone and try to get somebody to give 5 dollars. "Why would I do this?" "Just let us count you as a giver, its $5" and they dont. so the argument about our student body not having money, thats nonsense. I hate to be that harsh about it. nobody cant pay $5 over the course of a year, they dont want to give
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ME: ...you're talking about a school where everybody went for free. they don't feel the need or desire, they don't have a legal obligation and they dont have any desire to give any back. its disheartening
EE: Right, and I do have a desire to give back, but I just dont know if Im going to use the Annual Fund because it seems like there are other departments that have told me that they need money for certain things and I feel like thats a better way to get money to the people who need it
ME: Give. But look, you better give something to the annual fund so we can count you as a -now I feel like Im at the phoneathon- give something to the annual fund, give 20 bucks so youre counted as a giver, so that percentage goes up a little. and then make a bigger gift
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...
EE: Could you explain how George Campbell cut things??
ME: I dont know the numbers exactly, but I do know that one of them he was asked to cut 10% from the budget
EE: Yes, and-
ME: And I think he achieved more like 5 or 6%
EE: Ok, because the numbers-
ME: I don't have the breakdown of where but those are real numbers
EE: The number that Ive seen, Im aware that the Master Plan said "reduce expenses by 10% every year," but that was one of the components (like all of them) that didnt meet its goal, and the budget increased by 10% every year. So feel free to correct me on that if you have other numbers
ME: Well, they cut, and maybe there was an increase in the overall budget but if you didnt have the cuts maybe it would have been a 15% increase instead of a 10% increase. so that counts as a 5% cut
EE: Oh, ok
ME: It might not go on the very bottom line but there were cuts. so we were looking for 10% but he was only able to achieve about 5
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ME: Everybody wants something but nobody wants change. thats the reality of it. what happened at the [art faculty] meeting, I was at the faculty meeting for 2 and a half hours, and after about the first 45 minutes to an hour trying to talk about the plan, why did they change their mind, then the decided to just go on "Well, youve just got to raise more money. well work with the development department, well get students to help." I said again "Its a nice theory, but weve been trying to get students to participate in the phoneathon for decades." I used to be president of the alumni association, I know from what I see. very few have participated in any way, shape, or form. alumni come, faculty rarely show up to help out. now everyones going to jump on the bandwagon? I doubt it, it doesnt work out. I said "It sounds good, but what would you do the same and what would be different?"
EE: On the issue of fundraising-
ME: And I said at the meeting twice "Lets go back and try to find out how we can get sustainable, because just raising more money is not going to do it. were not going to be able to raise enough money through development" its going to be a multifaceted plan. obviously beefing up development as much as possible is part of that, but thats not the 1 thing.... Thats why the engineers and the architects came up with plans. nobodys happy about having tuition as a means for-
EE: In fact they did not vote for it
ME: You dont know. But the Board does not have the luxury of not voting for it. The Board cant just say "thats your problem" to anybody else and say "you fix it, you go raise more money, and tell me when you have a cure" The Board, its a buck stops here kind of thing. Thats a luxury, its cavalier, we have to make sure the bills get paid
EE: I can respond a couple of ways, one of them is that I think in the early history of the school, the trustees just sort of took care of any operating deficit.
ME: Yea
EE: So theres an argument that the school was never really sustainable if it started off that way
ME: Well the school was always, it was like the holiest of holies to try and sustain. always, yes, in the early 1900s theres 5 Gentlemen of New York: David Lewis[??], JP Morgan... their schedule, divide it by 5, and pay it off, yes. so that was sustainable on its own funds, Peter Cooper didnt leave enough money for that to happen, so what happened in the early 1900s, the Chrystler Building kicked in, Carnegie gave $600k, thats when the school figured out: "Ok, we have enough assets to generate enough income that nobody has to pay tuition" Thats when the "free as air and water" came
EE: See, I disagree with that because the Engineering School has never charged tution
ME: Um.. The Cooper Union has charged tuition
EE: Right, but the Engineering School has never charged tuition, and now that is being talked about for the first time
ME: Well, not the first time, weve-
EE: Its going to be voted on for the first time
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ME: When they started the Masters program, it was always intended that tuition would be charged.
EE: For engineering or for architecture?
ME: We didn't get around to it, but it was always part of the mix. when we started the Architecture Graduate Program a couple of years ago, it was always the intention that eventually tuition would be charged for them
EE: For architecture or also for engineering?
ME: No, the Engineering Graduate Program started back in the 60s, very small. the architecture only started a few years ago.
EE: Right, and Ive heard that before that the architecture masters program, it was our first experiment, sort of, in this "Hey, lets see if we can get people to pay for a Masters at Cooper" and not many people applied. and then we sort of-
ME: I think they got to 10 or something like that. This was seeing if they could attract people, they started for first years, experimenting to see. But the intention was always then that it would be somewhat..?
EE: Right, so has there been any learning from the mistakes of that, or what
ME: Well, because they think they can ramp that up and bring in more people. Part of the plan of the architecture school is to actually cut down a little bit on the size of the undergraduate class, so they could have more room for the graduate students. Thats a plan that the architecture faculty came up with.
EE: Right, well thats a little tough to hear and I would probably feel worse about that if I was an architecture alum,...
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ME: I know, I know, but still if its draining the rest of the school, if we dont have to pay money that would be going to the benefits to pay for the engineering school or the architecture school. to support an unsustainable art school, theyre doing a disservice to the architecture students and and engineering students. Heres another quesetion, there are certain factors that make cooper, through the years. 1 is of course the full tuition scholarship, no question about that. the other is an academically excellent institution, ok. now, we know we cant continue both forever. so I propose to you, which do you want to give up? What do you want have happen to those kids? Do you want to turn it into a completely free, mediocre institution? Or do you want to keep it acedemically excellent that everybody wants to get into, but those who could afford it pay a little bit?
Thats the lecture of the evening
EE: But-
ME: Theres a theory in business negotiations, that youre negotiating the deal, and if both parties walk away from the table completely unhappy, you know youve got a deal. its a fair deal. and thats where we're at. no ones walking away from this happy. but the reality is we have to deal with this. were not going to shove it and push it off to another board or another administration. doing what trustees in the past should have done, especially back in the 70s
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EE: ...this might be wishful thinking, but I feel like it could be possible to run a school on the PILOT payments from the Chrystler Building and from all the other real estate. And I think that should be where we focus on. If you look at the budget of the engineering school, and the budget of the architecture, and the budget of the art school, and compare that to all of the PILOT payments, all of the real estate revenue, I feel like theres a push in the community to sort of start at those basics. and then build from there
ME: Well, what are you going to cut, what are you going to cut? If you want to talk about running the school, the idea of running the school we can afford with the income we have now has come up. and thats sort of like what the art faculty has said.[??] But I dont think you could run a school, that you would want The Cooper Union to be, on that small of a budget. What do you want, do you want to keep it as great as it could possibly be, but you could only afford it for 10 students? youve got to find a-
EE: I feel thats basically what we have now
ME: In the 80s or 90s, we cut the student body to try to find a way to save costs. and it turns out that most of the costs are fixed, and cutting the student body didnt save anything. but the downside was, we now for those years have churned out less alumni who might support the school in the future. we were actually killing alumni support measures by cutting the student body
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ME: In the art school theres 9 full time faculty. we dont have a huge full time faculty, most of the teaching is done by adjuncts. Thats not the cost, the fixed costs are whats very hard to cut. We have to maintain the building, we have to have custodial staff, office people, development teams, alumni staff, that stuff doesnt get cut by cutting the number of students
EE: So is there any way to cut those sorts of things? Because the administrative budget is close to 50% of the budget
ME: If you look at our numbers compared to other schools, and when you include the support staff for education, the deans, the lab techs, [??taking care of the organization??] when you include all the costs that actually go to education, rather than administration, our numbers are high compared to other institutions ... The fact that we're a school of schools only makes our administrative costs amortize out to more per student, ...apples to apples if you look at other schools the same way, the administrative costs are not that out of line, or out of line at all, we actually do better than a lot of schools which have a higher percentage of administrative costs
EE: But I think thats something we really need to see and look more into, how do you split up these administrative costs, because trying to look at the numbers, the Expense Reduction Task Force put out numbers that basically say "administrative budget is 50%" and theres no granularity there. theres no way to split it up between support staff and educational costs
ME: Well [??], it depends on what category youre putting it in. In particular, if take a few lab techs, if you dont put them on the educational side of the line, then theyre [??] without having a really accurate count
EE: Exactly, and people have been looking for that accurate count for a year and a half
ME: Well, the numbers have been transparent via, TC and Jamshed have held dozens, dozens of small group seminars of folks, meeting to go through the numbers
EE: The 990s, or actual numbers?
ME: As an administrator, Im not an administrator, but TC is such a valuable employee of the school. having to- dont take offense to the term- but waste so much of her time repeating the same stuff over and over and over again because people just dont want to see what it is, in a sense. because she has better things to do with her limited amounts of time
EE: Well, theres a difference between going through the 990s and going through the actual budget
ME: We had a webinar. Ron Weiner, trustee, a year ago or so, he did a webinar. Hes was a CPA, he owns a big firm in new york, and devoted a lot of time into the webinar. for all those 12 years of financials, whatever it was, any questions that anybody had. and then what? [??] Eventually we decided that we have to stop. Again, you cant convince people who are working on their own facts. impossible. They dont want to listen to the real facts
that dispute their made up facts. You cant talk to them, its unfortunate. The Board, most of us are businesspeople, theyre successful people. we have committees, the reinvention committee, theres the revenue task force. these are not [??] no ones come up with a solution to solve our problem, there is none.
EE: Other than everyone just writing checks, but thats not sustainable
ME: Well, it would be great if everybody wrote checks, but its not going to happen. again, thats the difference between theory and reality. if every person paid for $1000 a year, wed be doing ok. but theyre not going to do it
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ME: Thats what people pay for, its not "I want a seats for the great hall, can you give me money for the great hall?" "No!" "If I put your name on it, will you give me money?" then "Well, ok!" Thats how you raise money. We dont have enough people, again we dont have a very wealthy alumni body. Lets say we triple our giving,... Even if the alumni giving, increased participation, its still not enough to make a 5 year difference. it could make a sizeable difference, but that kind of development is not being met. Its hard [??] Thats why we have development. One of the things during my term, that I and the Board pushed for, over past administrations, was development [??] Because before that, development was under the umbrella of Ronni Denes who was the VP of General Affairs and she was in charge of development, external affairs, alumni relations, event planning [??] How could you not have a VP of Development? It was budgetary
EE: I feel like those are all important and all related. and I feel like one of the concerns of development is then "How do we get these alumni numbers up" when development is more than that. is seeking the philanthropic community and the country
ME: The current VP of development, he came from columbia where he put a well oiled money making machine together. he came in and he saw that the efforts at cooper union was not sufficient. so we couldnt always fire people, but we were able to slowly through attrition (some people left, retired) we were able to hire people better suited for that work. and the goal of it, the idea of it was not to throw money at development and then cash starts flowing in, development is about cultivation. you have to cultivate little by little. your big donors-its usually older people,... they usually start off as annual fund givers. and then theres a slow transition to get them to increase their annual fund through the years. then eventually, if they have the wherewithal, and the inclination, then they become major donors. its a smooth transition. at cooper it was always that the annual fund was looking for $100, $500, $1000 gift. and then there was a different arm, the development office, trying to get major donors, major gifts, without having that smooth transition from annual fund giver to major donor so[??]
EE: I think that that makes sense, actually....
ME: Well we have a number of cooper people who do make major gifts.
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ME: The new academic building is not named, that was like a $35M price tag
EE: So would those not be enough to close any sort of gap?
ME: No, no.
EE: Not sustainable?
ME: Were running a $15M a year deficit. It changes every year because of return on investment affects the bottom line, but lets say $15M
EE: Ok, because Ive hear a lot of numbers. I remember hearing 18 and then the new york times just said 12 this week
ME: ...over time it averages out and you know you have a real deficit
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ME: We get a number of visitors, and we try to get more all the time. we occasionally get new Board members. also, through our history, since the first few decades of J.P. Morgan, the Board was never really selected for their giving capacity. we just recently instituted a recommended minimum giving for trustees per year. [??] and the new trustees were bringing on are informed early on that "this is what youre expected to give, as a member"
EE: I think that makes sense, and I commend the Board for that
ME: Other places, the board makes the initiative. all of a sudden we need $100M, the board says "ok, well kick it off with $20M or $50M." we dont have a Board with that capacity. So were interested in making sure that at a minimum, they need to give
EE: Ok, that makes sense. Definitely a minimum at this-
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EE: I think its very important for people to know that and for that information to be available, but the best that people have been able to do is just look at the website cooper.edu/trustees and just watch the list change. thats the only notice people have about whos on the board and whos not. how we can contact people, how we can welcome people who are coming in, I think thats something that needs to change. and if we talk about openness and transparency in governance, I think thats a great place to start. "Here are the trustees," and then if people leave or are added to make an account of that somewhere
ME: I believe theyre all listed on the website, the Board hasnt been hiding. How much information can you put out in anticipation of what people might want to know? all the information that weve been talking about has always been out in the open
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ME: Also a big part of it was at the time, we had a lot of the money in cash when the investment banks took a hit. whatever reason, as one of the Board members said that you cant spend relative to [??]. we lost money. you know, our investment policy has always been to be extremely conservative. because we know we cant afford to lose money. even with extremely conservative policies, we were getting great returns. If I had millions and millions of dollars to invest, Id want the cooper union investment committee to handle my money
EE: So there were no hedge funds or any-
ME: We have great people on there
EE: I though that there were hedge funds and we got caught up in the market, you know, as you just said the market was doing well and then the market tanked
ME: Yea, well thats what kept cooper union alive for a long time. so to come back now and say becuase the world collapsed and we took a hit, to say it was the wrong investment strategy at the time, it doesnt hold water with me. when we were losing, you know, the deficit and getting 20% returns on our money (or whatever we were getting at the time) when things were good, to tell me that was a failed investment- had I known that would happen, we would be charging tuition 10 years ago. in all reality, knowing as much as I know about whats taking place and what took place, and where we stand, the only mistake that was made (if any mistake was made) was that tuition was not instituted earlier. I was against tuition, all along every time it was brought up I said "No, no, theres got to be another way," just like [??]. but now weve reached a point where I [??] enough evidence that theres really no other way where we can go on having a school that we want to support
EE: So does that mean-
ME: I have enough information and enough facts, and its blind luck that we havent implemented it already
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ME: First of all, the new building basically paid for itself. if we didnt build the new building, we would not have sold the ground lease on the engineering building. we would not have gotten ~$97M from that. we got $60M from the capital campaign. the naming opportunities in the new building, and also in the foundation building. I actually bought the naming opportunity for the clock in the Peter Cooper Suite
EE: I actually saw that one time when I was up there
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ME: Had we kept the engineering buildling and the hewitt building, those 2 buildings together were going to need 10s of millions of dollars in improvements.
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EE: I imagine when John Hejduk rennovated the Foundation Building in the 70s, he didnt charge market rate, or whatever Thom Mayne charged to build the New Building
ME: ...there was no architect from cooper union who was willing to donate their services to build the new building... could a cheaper building have been built? yes, but that wouldnt stop our problems. if we saved $50M off the cost of the building, if that was possible, thats another $50M in the endowment. we could continue on living [??] but not enough to solve our problems. I just said to you I dont want to say $1M doesnt count. it counts, but its clearly not enough.
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ME: the costs have gone up so rapidly, not just at the cooper union but around the country in higher education, and the rent stream from and taxes the chrystler building cant keep up. its roughly 1/3 of our budget now instead of 100%
EE: Yes, so I think theres cause for expense reduction if thats the case
ME: Expenses were cut, george [campbell] cut expenses. he had trouble cutting as much as we wanted. jamshed implemented anouther round of cuts. we cant cut our programs, we cant cut back on mowing our lawns and taking care of the grounds because he have none. [??] theres not a lot of extraneous places to cut money. the administration is not that overly staffed. development is not overly staffed. TC has a list of things they would like to get if we had the money, but were still in debt [??]
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[end of converstion]
EE: Thank you, you definitely answered a lot of my questions
ME: I dont want to hear people telling me they have no access, ok?
EE: Right, and I appreciate it. would you be ok if I told people about this, what you said here?
ME: Absolutely, I wish you would
EE: Great, because I think people really need to know where you come from and your opinions on these sorts of things, and your facts and setting the record straight. If I have any other questions-
ME: Anything else, you can contact me