Two high-level administrators at New York’s Cooper Union have left the college this month.
An Aug. 6 e-mail to the Cooper community from president Jamshed Bharucha announced the departure of TC Westcott, vice president for finance and administration, after four years. An Aug. 13 message announced the resignation of dean of student services Linda Lemiesz after 23 years at the school.
The circumstances of their leaving are unclear. A college spokesperson says that both resigned and that Westcott left to care for a sick family member. There is widespread speculation among students, faculty and other school staff about the reasons for their departures. “Both of them had meetings scheduled with us after what became their last day,” one school employee told A.i.A. by phone, “and then they disappeared from campus.”
Phone and e-mail messages left for Lemiesz and Westcott were not returned.
The departing staffers are said to have been sympathetic to students who occupied Bharucha’s office in protest for over two months this summer, according to four employees of the college who spoke on condition of anonymity. Lemiesz is said to have opposed Bharucha’s plan to charge the students with trespassing.
The school, in New York’s East Village, has been torn by controversy since fall 2011, when Bharucha revealed that the board would consider charging tuition of its undergraduates due to a financial crunch. All Cooper students have received full tuition scholarships for over 100 years, supported initially by a 1902 gift from Andrew Carnegie and from continuing income from real-estate holdings. Cooper has about 1,000 undergraduate students in its three schools—engineering, art and architecture—and fewer than 100 in master’s degree programs in engineering and architecture.
Representatives of Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group, a business consultancy, the Aug. 6 e-mail said, will oversee the school’s finances until Westcott can be replaced. The e-mail does not specify who will manage her administrative duties, which included human resources. Dean of athletics Steve Baker will fill in for Lemiesz, according to the Aug. 13 e-mail.
These departures come just two weeks before a new class of students is set to arrive for the fall term. They follow the June departure of Jody Grapes, head of buildings and grounds.
PHOTO: The Cooper Union’s New Academic Building.