George Campbell More on Cooper Union

I very much appreciate the interest in The Cooper Union that led to the article, "Man on a Mission" in the September 2000 issue of Prism. The analysis captured many of the extraordinary attributes of the institution, which is, indeed, "legendary;" however, readers were profoundly misled in a couple of areas.

The almost parenthetical suggestion that our engineering curriculum is outdated couldn't be further from the truth. Always ranked among the top three undergraduate engineering colleges in the nation, The Albert Nerken School of Engineering at Cooper Union offers state-of-the-art laboratories and studio classrooms, a trailblazing project-based  learning environment, cutting-edge undergraduate research opportunities, entrepreneurship training, and acclaimed international programs. Over the decade of the 1990s, 42 percent of our graduates have gone directly into graduate programs at top tier institutions. We would not be able to attract a freshman class with average SAT scores above 1400 year after year with either a curriculum or a faculty that is less than extraordinary.

Of course we're faced with enormous challenges maintaining a leadership profile in all  areas of a rapidly advancing computer and information technology environment, but on that score we're no different from other institutions of the first rank. One of our "aging" buildings, constructed in 1859 and designated a national  historic landmark in 1962, has since undergone a total interior renovation designed by one of America's great 20th century architects, John Hejduk. The Foundation Building, recently referred to in the New York Times as one of New York's grand monuments, is now in the final stages of a $12 million restoration of  its exterior. With  respect to our financials, the writer is correct in noting a recent operating deficit and the need to increase our fundraising efforts to realize our ambitious plans for the future. However, the complete story shows that, taking into account  our real estate holdings, The Cooper Union has exceptional financial strength, with a AAA bond rating and an effective endowment of more than $300,000 per  student.
George Campbell
The  Cooper Union

A Matter of Degrees

I would like to comment on Frank Huband's "Tackling Big Issues" column in the March 2000 issue of Prism. Having received a Dipl.-Ing. from a university in Germany and a Ph.D. from a university in the United States, I would like to point out  that a simplified comparison of the time to completion is misleading.Germans graduate from a gymnasium before entering universities. The last two years at the gymnasium are roughly equivalent to the first two years of college in the  U.S. The German Dipl.-Ing. is at the same level as an M.S. in the United States, if the Dipl.-Ing is awarded by a Universitaet. The Dipl.-Ing. degree is longer and more intense than the B.S. degree, and must be compared to the master's degree, not the bachelor's.
Markus Klausner
Robert  Bosch Corp. Women

Where the Women Aren't?

I just finished reading the September issue of Prism. I must admit that I was disappointed to see your photo display of the ASEE 2000 conference. Why?

Although engineering is a male-dominated field, there were women in one session: WIED. That is where my presentation, which concerned female engineering students, was accepted. Although this session drew over 70 people, I see virtually no  evidence of any female speakers in your pictures.Please show us, too--and not just in photos at the zoo.
Susan Haag
Arizona  State University

It's  All How You Look at It

Your item in September's Briefings on how many full professors teach undergraduate courses  ("Full Loads for Full Profs,") reminded me of why one should only own mutts for dogs. With purebred dogs there is an expectation of performance, while with mutts there is none. If a mutt shows any positive attribute, it is unexpected and therefore praiseworthy. If you start with a low enough standard there is always plenty of room to brag.

If your standard for full professors is that none of them would be expected to teach undergraduate courses, then indeed the news that 61 percent of them do is praiseworthy. But is that not the wrong standard? Should we not expect that all full professors, who get their pay either from tuition dollars or publicly-sponsored research,  be required to teach undergraduates? Instead of crowing about this sorry state of affairs, your headline should have blared "39 percent of full profs never teach undergraduates!"
P. Aarne Vesilind
Bucknell  University

What do You Think?

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