Welcome to the Future

Please send any private comments to futureofartcenter at gmail.com. Note that comments were turned off last May. They are available now for the most recent post only.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Top 5 ACCD Issues

A lot has happened in the last couple of months, and many people we talk to feel like there is an unprecedented opportunity for positive change at Art Center. The college is searching for new leadership, the ill-communicated and overambitious DRC is tabled, the college has announced a "Zero Waste Plan", there is a renewed focus on education, scholarships have become a higher priority, and faculty and students are beginning to find their voices. 

Please use this post to state what you feel are the TOP 5 issues that need to be addressed at Art Center. We encourage people to use their real names if possible, and at a minimum to indicate if they are faculty, student, alumni, staff, admin, etc. It is helpful to understand your perspective. Even if you disagreed with the protests and felt the college was already on the right track, this is your opportunity to indicate your priorities for the college.


Anonymous said...

I am not even a student there yet and I have some issues to mention...

1) Getting the brush off from admins and faculty. I was given generic answers and brushed off by Kit Baron and The FAO person. When people are spending this kind of money, help them!!! And no, the Stafford website calculator is not broken, I checked.

2) Lying to your students. Especially when the item about the "Ad Department bulletin" in question is posted RIGHT ON THE ART CENTER FORUM WEBSITE AND WAS DISCUSSED IN THE MEETING LAST WEEK!! Don't deny it is there and give a generic answer. I want answers about what is being done about it, not a brush off and a flat out denial. This is my education and career we're talking about and I DO NOT take this lightly....

3) Put in place a plan that MAKES SENSE. Get rid of the bloat, fix what needs fixing and turn this school around. The reputation is depending on it, because right now it is going to shit in the design circles.... There will be no more ACCD if this stuff continues.

4) Focus. Pay attention to who and what this school is about. The students and becoming the best designers in the world.

5) Fear. This should be a fostering community, not a facist regime. This is a school, not a dictatorship. This just ruins the spirit for everyone.

Dylan Diomede

Anonymous said...

Art Center should

1) Keep admission standards so high that potential students will be truly grateful to be accepted.

2) Rework the tuition and scholarship system to make more funds available to current students and lower tuition or keep it level until other sources of funding can be identified.

3) Develop new forms of faculty and class reviews to ensure that coursework is leading edge and relevant and to maintain only the best and the brightest of the faculty.

4) Promote an all-green agenda at the school. All technology must be powered by solar or wind. All vehicles allowed on campus must be zero-emission or ultra-low emission. All projects must use only renewable or recycled materials. No meat or materials that embody high levels of energy in their creation should be sold or used on site.

5) Create new forms of campus-wide communication. Every term the president, CAO, and department chairs should participate in an all-school forum. Ditch the Art Center forum and send out weekly e-mails with links to pertinent news and announcements.

Anonymous said...

1) Finances

2) Integrity and honesty

3) Simplicity of purpose

4) Transparency

5) Community

Best regards,

"An alumni"

Ophelia Chong said...

7/9/08 4:06 PM

I love your list. Especially Community. This is the first instance that I have seen students, faculty, staff and alumni band together at ACCD.

You would find that at any other college except ACCD. It's wonderful to see it now at our college.


Jason said...

1) Financial independence from tuition. (This includes rethinking how we leverage our real estate assets.) The current student housing plan will not generate revenue for the school for 20+years and that money will come from students pockets when it begins to payoff.

2) Financial transparency. By law Non profits are owned by the community they serve. We should not have difficultly getting numbers in the future.

3)Checks and balances in the power hierarchy we are experiencing the effects of a power/priority struggle I like the idea of the CEO, CFO, and CAO reporting to the board and then give the CEO voting rights. (I'm not that knowledgeable here but it seems there is a lack of policy/legislation in this area.)

4) Art Center needs to diagnose why so many alumni do not give to this school. If this problem could is addressed which I believe it can be by enhancing the current student experience. (This is a diverse set of solutions probably from each department with a lot of help from financial aid, marketing on behalf of the students.)

5) Put additional effort into number one.

thewallshaveeyes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thewallshaveeyes said...


In regards to your #1: “Financial independence from tuition”

The cost structure of the college needs to be reduced. This is the crux of all conflict in my opinion.

By cost structure I mean how many people are on fulltime-permanent payroll (~250 not including teachers) and how we spend our money in terms of permanent cost centers and initiatives (which I will not list here but we have discussed for a couple months on the blog). I do not believe you can reduce tuition costs at all, much less get to “financial independence” without SIGNIFICANT reductions of total cost.

This does not mean saving a bit here and there (such as stopping business class travel). It means elimination of entire cost centers and many people’s jobs. It means the elimination/reduction of non essential activities. It means stripping things down to essentials the way the school ran years ago. Businesses have been doing this for a while to address competitive global markets, adapt to disruptive technology, and get back to their core competencies. It sounds cruel, but it is a matter of institutional survival and excellence.

These are not popular topics to discuss. Almost ALL conflict arises from the tactical realities of what is a high enough priority to keep and what should go. This is where the whole meltdown started. Everyone thinks we have to keep what they are working on and every activity sounds wonderful and essential at face value. This is where almost all political bitterness and intense fighting arises. This is where the transparency or lack of it has caused so many problems and where so many realities have been twisted.

Ophelia Chong said...

#4. Alumni can't be compared to other alumni from colleges like USC, UC system, Stanford etc. We have a smaller student body and most grads are struggling in the first years after leaving ACCD. Plus the other colleges have grads in the sciences and business administration which typically give back more.

Most important ACCD has not been known to foster student group activity on the scale of other colleges, there are events for students but not on the scale of larger colleges. We don't have competitive sports (if we did, would we be a D4 or lower...?).

So once you leave ACCD, you keep in touch with your closest friends, but you really don't come back to the college for any purpose.

Alumni don't give because they don't feel the connection. Some do, but you have to really work for that sponsorship.

Anonymous said...

On Ophelia's last reply, this is why I think Art Center should cozy-up to a larger institution and allow itself to become part of that entity. The current Art Center spends 8 semesters alienating its students/future alumni. They're so pissed-off by graduation, they'll almost never give back. They never feel like they matter or count. Being an alumni only makes them count less.

I think if Art Center could provide the same level of excellence as it has in the past, education-wise, but be able to give the students a full "collegiate" experience to go with it, you'd have students that are more willing to donate back to the institution.

With the appropriate facilities, and the tweaking of some academic requirements, Art Center could fit quite nicely into an existing college such as Cal Tech or Oxy.

If I could have gotten the same Art Center academic experience along with the integrity of Cal Tech's administration, I'd have left a very satisfied student.

Anonymous said...

So much for open communication at Art Center. The ACCD blog has been taken down:

Page Unavailable

Please Note: The page you are requesting does not exist.

Please visit ArtCenter.edu and follow the appropriate links to find the information you are requesting or call our Admissions office at (626-396-2373) to arrange a tour and personal counseling session.

Ophelia Chong said...

Hmmm...I wonder what is happening up on the Bridge.

Ophelia Chong said...

the forum is still there.

Anonymous said...

Their blog is back up now, but they no longer allow anonymous questions (supposedly due to past personal attacks). I find this interesting, as the forum is 100% monitored, and they could edit-out the attacking comments. They had a history of moderating-out the tough questions anyways, so this site was effectively a sham. They only want to play ball if they get to control the dialogue, and it simply will never work that way.

Ophelia Chong said...

What I find most interesting about ACCD is that there are networks within the college that are bound together through friendship, and that they cross over departments. These friendships are not based on loyalties or agendas. They are based on commonality. Those friendships are bound together by common interests, not the the collegeThey weather through the turmoil, and they don't pick sides.

As alumni, we are only bound to the college if we choose to. There is no reason to contribute or to participate in events, unless we choose to. The conundrum is not why Alumni don't contribute or come back, but how to get them back.
How do you build that link past graduation when its not there to begin with?

To create that link, you have to do that while the Alumni is still a Student. You have to foster community while they are there. There are groups now that are serviced by the Student Life dept., but they are hamstrung by budget and manpower. This is where Alumni can step in, already there are a few that are holding events for students and Alumni, but we need more. If you don't want to connect to the college, then connect with the Students. Have an event at your studio, give a lecture, mentor.
Participate on that level. It's fulfilling and you are giving back directly.


Anonymous said...

I have seen absolutely unacceptable things happen in the classrooms of ART CENTER, and indeed a monitoring system has to be put in place to make sure teachers are doing what they are supposed to do.

Here's a few examples: In my 3rd term product class, there were two teachers: Norm Schureman and Ms. Baumgartner. During the term. Ms. Baumgartner showed up about 2 times, always leaving about 1 to 2h early for undisclosed 'emergencies'. Norm Schureman was absent 3 times, once because he was taking a vacation in South America. When a group of students went to the Dept. Chair, Marty Smith, he replied to us by raising his shoulders.

Marty Smith is by far one of the most unqualified, most detached and uninterested Dept.chairs I had to deal with. His work schedule is usually from 10am to 3:30pm, with plenty of lunch break in between.

This is just an example of how the school disregards the students and what they paid for.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Film chair Bob Peterson quit or was kicked out? I was a student when he took over after Jim Jordan's death and always thought that Bob was dedicated to the quality of the program. As far as I'm concerned, either reason for his leaving is a bad omen for the school.

W. Lee said...

I think it's time to focus on communication as the overarching issue here at Art Center. A bridge needs to be built between the different factions to unify us in a new direction. There has been too much arrow-slinging and house burning by both sides of the issues. (That being said, I say it without accusing anybody of doing so. Please take no offense.)

I applaud the administration taking some steps towards resolving some issues. Sustainability and recycling in the cafeteria initially looks good. It will take time to assess its true impact on students and educate everyone on it, but I think that it was well implemented. Beyond that in regards to sustainability I would like to see an attempt towards reducing paperwork across the board through a computer automated system.

Although the 'transitionary taskforces' have been much scorned and labeled as invalid by some for a variety of reasons, this unfortunately will need more study. They do need to all of the teams in gear providing the school body with information and progress in regards to the issues that they are handling. Time frames and expectations need to be established about what is expected. This is the most troubling issue that needs to be handled by the task forces.

I recommended to the administration implementing a survey at the end of the term gathering information from the student in regards to their needs, expectations and so on from the school. I think it is important that the school now focus on the unification aspect by trying to understand the demographics of the students (and beyond,) that they now serve. This will provide for better communication and 'customer service'.

The school needs to reposition itself as a leader in the global economy. We need to study our competitors and see what is working with them that makes them successful. The school needs to have an understanding that we will be playing catch up in a few areas and in order to 'win'. It will need to adapt to the changing marketplace in re-branding the school.

I am still leery of the official communication website. Speech is monitored and some questions go unanswered. Frankly they are up to their eyeballs in questions and suggestions, and I do sympathize, but not allowing for certain questions or opinions to be expressed still is restrictive. In order to add legitimacy to that is missing the website should not have a wait time on questions to be screened.

Well generally speaking, in propaganda-speak this is the issues that I see that need to be addressed.

1) Communication.
2) Time management and proper time frame expectations.
3) Demographical information for 'customer service'.
4) Re-branding and repositioning the 'product.'
5) legitimize the website.

I would like to express my grief with the handling of the release of individuals over the past few months and thank them for their sacrifices to get us this far. I encourage the school to give everybody the olive branch and even reconsider some of those terminations.

lee bolton

Anonymous said...

Lee wrote:

"I am still leery of the official communication website. Speech is monitored and some questions go unanswered."

I know that most of my politely worded questions went unanswered. They await moderation because Art Center's leadership teams does not want to be embarassed by the questions themselves.

What they have effectively done is moved all discussion to this online forum that they can control. By having in-person, open-mike sessions, they have no control over what questiosn will be asked. The PR machine can now screen questions and answer only the "softball" questions they feel comfortable dealing with.

Anonymous said...

Ever get the feeling you're being cowed by control freaks and greed?

What I'd like to know is what are you getting from ACCD that you can't get from USC schools or smaller more specialized institutions?

Have you experienced those other institutions or are you just going through Plato's Cave and just imagining it's something that it's not?

I know of plenty of artists that have gotten their BFA degree at ACCD then gone on to a USC to get their MFA degree.

Anonymous said...

Is it me or did this whole uproar start fast and die out faster?

Came at the right time too...

Thanks everyone. =)

Dylan D.

Jason said...


It's week twelve,

Everyone is waiting for an announcement from the board because they don't want to make any promises that can't be delivered.

It's not clear whose in charge. Or if the leadership is in blaming or problem solving mode. Perhaps neither since the bridge has looked abandoned for weeks now.

All students are putting their energy into their school work.

Remember livelihoods and lifetimes of debt are at stake so people are cautious. The blog has calmed down but change is expected.

To be honest Dylan a student with a your kind attitude toward keeping the school accountable is exactly what the Art Center Communty needs.

It's sounds like you are long gone.
Your lucky, In recent years students have found out the "take and take accounting at ACCD" once they are in too deep and it's just worth it to "go for broke and graduate."

If you can afford to burn through a ton of cash and won't have to pay for it the next twenty years then it's a great education if you make it one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jason.

I spoke out because I had nothing to lose. Since I am footing my own bill entirely, I need to see the value in both my time and money.

I saw it before this whole uproar happened, but cannot see it now and glad this all happened for both the students, faculty and future students.

It sucks because I really wanted to study at ACCD, but there is too much at risk here.

Hopefully things will turn for the better and improve and if my comments as a prospective student helped in any way, then maybe it will benefit someone now or ahead of me.

Good luck to everyone!

Dylan D.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the school's leadership needs to find the depths of "true bottom" before it is willing to admit that it needs change to happen.

Anonymous said...

Keep Koshalek the master of puppets around another 18 months and that shouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone is being scammed here. Companies (and colleges) do not decide on non-renewals for CEOs and then keep the guy around for 18 months. They usually "resign" for personal reasons and an interim is quickly named.

My guess is that the story they want us to hear has been planted. Wait and see. Koshalek will be hailed as a hero by the board some months down the road for his awesome ability to get Art Center moving again and through this difficult period. Why do I think this?

Because CEO's do not accept slaps of the face such as this one from anyone. If it were for real, he would have left already. Richard and the board have created a false story, are waiting for you troublemakers to graduate (and go away) so that they can get back to ru(i)nning Art Center their way again.

Think I'm kidding?

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding. I don't think you know anything more about what's going on than any of us. It's time we hear more from John Puerner and the Trustee posse.

Anonymous said...

It'll never happen. They will wait and you will eventually tire.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone care anything about the recent faculty/chair resignations?

Anonymous said...

fill us in.

Anonymous said...

You mean the "leave, or else" resignations?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone confirm the news about Marty Smith and Peter Lunenfeld?

Anonymous said...

I have heard from one of Peter's students he is leaving.

He is going to UCLA because he has been offered a better contract.

Anonymous said...

The venomous blood is still at the school. As with any snake bite you can't start healing until the poisonous venom is removed. You also don't solve it by just hacking of limbs. You remove only the bad parts.

Anonymous said...

Easily one of the top 5 issues is that the board voted but nothing has happened yet. They haven't even removed the guy they voted out. Hello. Actually they appear to be now propping up all the presidents stooges. Hello. The board also rejected the building plan and the school seems to have a money problem. Yet walking by the Architecture department, it appears to be churning at full speed. Hello.

Anonymous said...

John Puerner wrote:

"As a first step, we will be forming a search committee to lead this process."

Has this been formed? But wait: Does the board see anything wrong with fundental strategy at its own level? If they hire a nw President, what on Earth would they want out of him?

Before they jump to the solution, perhaps they could do us all some service by reading the transcript on the nature of the problems we face.

They're telling us that "yeah, yeah, we get that a change is needed, so leave us alone and we'll get you a new president"

In my mind, that's like switching from Vodka to Marlboros.

Mr Puerner, answer this:

What's wrong at Art Center that requires new leadership. WE tend to have some ideas, but what are the BOARDS ideas?

Mr Puerner, communicate with the Art Center community. Right now, you are doing more harm than good. You may as well just go and renew Richard's contract at this pace.

Anonymous said...

Are you out of your mind? Renew the demons contract? And end up with 10 more years of talking a lot, traveling a lot, wasting a lot, and never really going anywhere. That is about the worst possible thing John P could possibly do. Don't even mention it in jest. It might come true. I do agree though with do your homework. Find out yourself what happened. Don't listen to anyone that actively approaches you. Walk the halls and ask whomever you find. Don't ask anyone who benefitted from RK or Nate or Nik. See what the average faculty and students think. Then go back to the above and triangulate. Ask hard questions. Then make some recommendations from your gut. Not what RK or Iris fills your ears with. Every future student will benefit from your time. Your unbiased perspective. And you will feel good for having done it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not out of my mind. Why? Because it won't matter what the answers are when you're asking the wrong questions. Or if you are asking no questions at all.

CEO and CAO start to disagree. CAO resigns. Students get upset and start protesting a wide variety of issues. Contract is not renewed and a new president is sought.

Puerner has not shared with the Art Center community exactky WHAT they (the board) thought was wrong. Plenty WAS wrong, but how do we know that their vision of the solution is starting to synch with ours?

Puerner and the board might have been upset that Koshalek wasn't better able to sell us all on the Gehry project.

See my point? If you think regime change is the true solution that is needed, think again. You might just get yourself another Gehry evangelist (if not Koshalek himself). And if the board fails to communicate and define exactly WHAT they thought was wrong, yeah, I'm saying that you might as well save us all a million+ dollars and extand his current contract.

Anonymous said...

Good point.

I think a lot of us agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. People think this big "change" happened with the non-renewal, and it most certainly was a change. But what kind of change was it? The new change might end up looking a lot like the old change.

So we need to look to the board for some communication. They even put resources into a "communication blog" that they choose not to utilize. It might be week 14 for us, but it ain't week 14 for them.

Anonymous said...

That's absolutely moronic reasoning!

Just give up and give in?
I sincerely hope you are not a faculty. Why not just give "W" another eight years in the oval office while you at it.

Anonymous said...

Moronic? Your reasoning is akin to "Anyone other than Koshalek". At $500k+ per year, I'll take the job.

Future of Art Center said...

Okay folks, name calling each other is not helping anyone. I think the anon 2:26 PM poster is not seriously suggesting we keep RK, but being provocative to make the point that we have not heard anything from the Board in a long time, and we don't really know what their agenda is. For a civil and to the point discussion, anon 2:26 PM, it might be more productive to just state that instead of baiting people. Likewise, anon 2:54 PM, let's consider the question rather than name calling.

While I think (hope) we'll be getting some news soon about the search committee for the new President (which will have members of the student council, faculty council, and chair reps (haven't heard about alumni representation -- anyone?), overall I have to agree. The Board and the school in general simply do not get it when it comes to communications. The Board and Nik Hafermaas need to quickly get in the business of communicating their decision making process, making transparent the future plans, and opening up a real dialog with the school community regarding the future. Patience is wearing thin.

Anonymous said...

Good points, FOAC.

Some trustees were just in town and still didn't communicate with the AC community. Or maybe the word is not getting out?

We need more communication, please. John Puerner, are you listening?

Anonymous said...

FOAC, I'm not trying to bait, but I'm trying to make people think about the possible outcome of their (the board) recruiting a new President without first taking a serious look at the school's overall vision and strategy. If they do not tweak the vision and strategy (and themselves) then a new President will be just like the old one.

The board is (and always has been) aloof. They operate in secrecy, but why? This is not the board of a public corporation like IBM, but of a really small private college. If they want us to feel like a tight-knit community, then they need to start behaving like they are interested in what we have to say. What are they afraid of, RISD finding out the recipe to the "secret sauce"?

Board members: I'd like to say thanks for your time, energy and work, but what we really need from you is transparency in your operations. If you want to retreat into executive session to discuss HR issues, I'm cool with that, but the meetings really need to start being open to the public now. It's all inthe family, right? Right.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for Marty!


Art Center continues to lead schools category with 13 awards over the past five years

Pasadena, California, July 29, 2008 … Art Center College of Design has received six awards in the 2008 international Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) competition, the only U.S. design school to receive awards this year. Four awards were given in the student category for products ranging from mobility for the disabled, to furniture, to a malaria healthcare system. Art Center also received awards in ecodesign and interactive product experiences.

Art Center continues to lead the field in the “Schools” category. Over the past five years, Art Center has received 13 awards, comparable to the total number won by the second place corporation and tied for third place for design firms. This year’s awards bring the total to 47 awards received by Art Center since 1991. Additionally, Art Center alumni are consistently on the design teams of the top ranked corporations and design firms.

“These awards are indicative of the high level of professionalism that all of our students seek to attain in their work,” stated C. Martin Smith, Chair of Art Center’s Product Design Department. “Using a high level of mechanical innovation, they have created beautiful objects that emphasize design strategy, sustainability and compelling form – which leads to great design that is also socially and culturally relevant.”

A complete description of the award-winning designs by Art Center students and faculty are listed below. In addition to the awards, Art Center also had seven additional finalists in the student category.

The awards, sponsored by BusinessWeek, are presented annually by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) in three categories: corporations, design firms and schools.

Ophelia Chong said...

Transparency. The Democratic Process. An Open Forum where all concerned can participate. Is ACCD ready for that? Or will it be behind closed doors and for a selected few?

What ever happens, this is your legacy, how you choose to run ACCD will reflect on you. Now with the internet and search engines, your legacy will follow you whenever someone types in your name in the search field.

You may count on the students and alumni to forget or to move onto other issues, the internet has a long memory.