March 11, 2009

AAP Cuts Force Program Reevaluation

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As Dragon Day approaches, students and faculty in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning have another proverbial beast breathing down their neck — budget cuts. Like all colleges, AAP faces a 5 percent budget cut and has been steadily slicing away what the AAP administrators deem as unnecessary and spendthrift facets of the college.
“AAP is in a somewhat different budgetary situation than many of the other colleges in that we were already facing a structural deficit at the beginning of this fiscal year,” stated AAP Dean Kent Kleinman in an e-mail. “Our current budget includes a number of reductions over 2008 in central areas such as facilities, maintenance, communications and general expenses.”
Though this year will be one of the hardest financially for the college, Kleinman noted that the worst may be yet to come.
“Next fiscal year will be more difficult,” said Kleinman. “We need to realize an additional 6 percent cut and cannot rely on one-time reserves as we have in the past. To achieve this, we will need to save in many areas, such as field trips, number of invited review critics and elective offerings. We also need to do more with fewer staff, and seek efficiencies wherever possible.”

[img_assist|nid=36002|title=Walls closing in|desc=Pictures line the walls of Sibley Hall, home of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. Recent budget cuts in AAP may change its fiscal strategy.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Kleinman referred to the faculty quality as “sacrosanct,” but inevitable student pessimism has arisen in the face of budget cuts. According to some students, the dynamic and fluid nature of AAP requires that new faculty constantly be putting ideas into the college — something many fear will be greatly diminished amidst budget constraints.
“Even though the tenured faculty is great, it’s really important to have new, young people with the architecture school, especially because the field is always evolving,” said Jeremy Burke ’11, a third-year architecture student.
First-year student Jose Tijerina ’13 added to Burke’s assertions.
“The worry is not only that they’ll cut the faculty, but that they won’t be bringing in new, important faculty,” Tijerina said. “We need to be bringing in people with new insights, and we can’t do that if we don’t have any money.”
Though there are certain ambiguities in what exactly will be cut, one specific cut that was announced last week has many faculty and students panicked. The shutdown of the Knight Visual Resources Facility, one of the University’s oldest and largest collections of images and visual resources, was announced last Thursday. Though a majority of the KVRF collection has already been digitized, it is not just images that are being lost in the shutdown.
“Because this is a shared and collaboratively built institutional collection, any Cornell University community member has access to it,” said Director Margaret Webster, who has been at KVRF for 37 years. “I do not know whether or not another group on campus is willing and/or able to pick this service up. The consequences of this action will be tremendous in terms of scholarship, course development, teaching support, not to mention the various digital resource projects that have and would continue to bring tremendous national prestige and recognition to the college and University.”
According to Webster, there were no preemptive discussions, nor was she given any warning about a potential shutdown of the KVRF. Before the announced shutdown, the KVRF was involved in numerous projects, including inter-college image exchanges and nationwide image compilations. Despite the strong reaction of some faculty to the closing, Kleinman emphasized its necessity.
“The closing of the Knight Visual Resources Facility … was a very tough decision,” Kleinman stated. “But in this particular case, I believe we can reconfigure how and where we offer visual resource services and perhaps even augment certain former KVRF functions, such as providing high-end digital equipment for AAP students.”
According to current AAP students, resources such as digital equipment, of which the KVRF was one of the school’s main suppliers, are among the most important functions of the school’s budget. Burke noted that many of his peers went to places like KVRF to rent filming equipment to document work and apply for jobs. Because of all the supplementary tools necessary for students in AAP, it is crucial when certain supplies are provided.
“I spend $300 a month on supplies,” Tijerina said. “So, it’s really important when we get stuff.”
Despite the current rough patch and specters of more cuts to come, Kleinman emphasized a bright future for the college.
“I am actually very optimistic about the immediate and long term future,” Kleinman said. “I believe that the field of design is emerging as a major force in addressing what I consider the three most pressing societal issues: climate change, rapid urbanization and the technology revolution. AAP and our collegial neighbors are incredibly well positioned to address these issues with a unique combination of creativity and technological expertise.”