These are the students, and they are all Cooper Union. They are there to address the Board of Trustees, which “votes” today to determine if they end the 100+ years of tuition-free undergraduate education at the school.
The only problem with the fact that the students showed up is that the Board didn’t show up. After telling these same students that the Trustees are dedicated to communication and transparency on Friday, they have moved the meeting to a secret location, where no one has to meet anyone’s eyes. That’s character.
It may seem to be a tangent, but it’s also of note that all the students fit in that huge staircase, which has no function except (with the help of three elevators) moving this many students into the tiny classrooms at the edges of the building.
The reason there’s so much empty space has to do with zoning laws that were designed — in spirit — to prevent a building this large from going up. By keeping a small number of usable square feet, but embedding it in a monstrously large unusable shell, the Trustees and the architects were able to meet the letter of the law (encouraging modest construction) and still find a way to spend $175MM on the building.
Coincidentally: it’s a building that had part of its construction contract assigned to a family member of the Board of Trustees.
So here all of the students in a staircase atrium, a space deliberately designed to avoid function. But it had a function today. Or it would have, if the Board of Trustees had demonstrated any signs of principle, and showed up to the building.