February 24, 2009

Architecture Students Demand More Dialogue with College

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Calls for “no more incest” and a “new search” were pinned to the face of Sibley Hall early yesterday morning as part of an ongoing advocacy for openness by architecture students.
“The goal of all of this is to gain transparency within the school and to start a really rich dialogue between students and faculty,” said Andy Linn ’11.

[img_assist|nid=35496|title=Protest banner|desc=Architecture students posted a banner outside of Sibley Hall yesterday. The banner was put up around 5:00 a.m. and taken down by 8:30 a.m.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The displays were put up around 5:00 a.m. yesterday morning. All banners, except the ones on the bulletin boards inside Rand Hall, were taken down by 8:30 a.m. at the orders of “someone within the administration,” according to Linn.
The architecture students who organized the display wanted to “foster dialogue” rather than spur an uprising of students and faculty, Linn said.
“We did this because we care about our school, and we care about what it will be like in five years,” he said.
Prof. Arthur Ovaska, architecture, questioned the clarity of the displays.
“These things were slightly vague and obtuse in my opinion,” Ovaska said. “I would not say that the obtuse nature of these things contributes to some kind of dialogue. I was not particularly offended by them; I think [all students] have a right to express themselves. But where’s the openness?”
The banner calling for a “new search” expressed student concerns with the first round of candidates considered to replace Interim Architecture Department Chair Mark Cruvellier. This second round would consider new candidates and the top prospects from the first round.
“No one was really excited about the candidates the first time they came through,” Linn said.
The reference to “no more incest” referred to the hiring of five graduates of the University’s architecture program as professors. According to Linn, students do not oppose specific faculty members but rather are concerned with the overall diversity of the program.
“In the future do we want to keep hiring grads or … build up the young group of faculty from both sides?” Linn said.
A second large banner reading “Mass Retire, Mass Hire” was hung inside Sibley Hall.
According to Linn, the display stemmed in part from student concern with the “rift” between tenured faculty and young visiting professors.
“[This protest] is a call for us to accept that within the next decade or so our tenured faculty will retire … and if we don’t start bringing in new faculty, we’ll have to bring them in within a few years of each other,” Linn said.
Ovaska does not see any significant divide within the architecture faculty.
“I don’t know of any rift that students may be imagining between visiting and full-time faculty,” Ovaska said.
“As far as retirements are concerned, these are individual cases,” he continued. “This is the first I’ve heard of any mass retirement.”
Currently, only two architecture professors are on track to tenure — far fewer than students and faculty would like.
According to Ovaska, the creation of new tenure tracks has been a long-time concern for the architecture department.
“One of the number one things we [in the architecture department] would wish is for new tenure tracks to go into development,” Ovaska said.
Both students and faculty seem conducive to negotiation and agreement on issues.
“[We need to] stop with all this uncertainty and talk about what’s really going on,” Linn said.
“Any time a student wants to speak to the faculty, we’re open to it,” Ovaska said. “If students have something to say, I think they should come out and say it correctly.”
According to Linn, creating a more open environment would benefit the whole of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.
“I think that starting an atmosphere where students and faculty talk openly could definitely carry over to all of AAP,” Linn said.
AAP Dean Kent Kleinman was out of town and unavailable for comment last night.