For a college that has seen much activism in recent months in response to a lack of administrative transparency, we are appalled that such a drastic step was taken by the College of Architecture, Art and Planning by closing the Knight Visual Resources Facility.
The KVRF — which will be closing in June — served the needs of many students and faculty within AAP where the facility was housed. Garnering national prestige, the resource was one of Cornell’s most notable collections of images and visual materials.
We know the financial prospects for the University are dire and dictate that there must be cuts in moving forward in order to make ends meet. And clearly, all colleges are being forced to realize that depleting budgets mean fewer resources. But with the KVRF on the chopping block — bringing staffing positions down with it — we fear that the University is beginning to make rash decisions, letting the needs of its students, staff and faculty fall by the wayside.
Perhaps in the long run, shutting down the facility wasn’t the worst decision. When looking to cut extraneous costs, it is obvious why the University considered eliminating materials that seem out of date. In a sense, closing Knight behooves the University to complete in full the digitization of an antiquated resource: 35mm slides.
However, the immediacy of KVRF’s closure, which highlights a lack of communication and shortsighted planning for the future, has us worried.
Closing Knight is just another step that was taken with little regard to faculty and student input. Most significantly, KVRF’s own director was left out of any discussions regarding the shutdown and she was not given any warning about the plan. Faculty within and beyond AAP who were dependent on the facility and its services, were merely informed by a mass e-mail announcement sent by the dean of the college.
The administration would have been wise to consider a more gradual approach to KVRF’s shutdown. The facility was in the midst of a number of inter-college image exchanges and nation-wide collaborations, and the cessation of Cornell’s participation will undoubtedly put a damper on Cornell’s reputation.
In addition to external projects, Knight was also in the process of digitizing a 500,000 slide collection, which has not yet been completed. Now, the conversion of any new images into slides, both digital and analog, has been halted due to the facility’s closure. Additionally, many faculty members in various departments, such as architectural history and the history of art, had intended on using Knight’s services in preparation for courses to be taught in the fall. Many of these courses cannot be taught without access to relevant images and as a result, classes have already been cancelled. Faculty across the board have yet to be informed as to how they will manage to prepare for the coming semester.
At this point, the University has not done its part in making up for the lost resources, and what’s worse is that the effects are beginning to ripple across campus.