How Leadership Training Could have Helped Cooper Union

Cooper Union Inquiry Puts Nonprofits On Notice,” (New York Times, 4/10/15) is a headline that is not uncommon in today’s world. Fill in the blank on the name of the organization or the “nonprofit” and you have the formula for increased scrutiny of just about everything in today’s hyperactive, transparency driven media climate. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is a prestigious college founded upon the premise that all students should attend tuition free. 2014 found a change of heart when the board issued an edict that facing financial ruin, it would begin to charge tuition. The New York Attorney General sprung into action with an immediate investigation into board activities including oversight of its rich endowment. One of its assets includes no less than the Chrysler Building.

Proper Leadership Training Could Have Softened the Blow

My message? Once again I drive home that only through proper leadership training, proper preparation and planning can community college boards as well as those of their foundations avoid the coconuts that are flying all about us. Understanding the size, diameter and velocity of those coconuts is your only defense against accusations of mismanagement or wrongdoing. In today’s edgy world, Cooper Union’s board needed to properly prepare its public for what was to come. It may have needed to understand better the impact of such a dramatic decision that was at the very least a patent violation of founder Peter Cooper’s edict of free education at the institution.

Proper leadership training includes knowing your Purpose, be Prepared, engage in appropriate Planning and have the Perspective of leadership in a crazy world. If you don’t, you too could have a problem bigger than even the Chrysler Building.   

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