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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where is the Board, Where is Hafermaas? Where is the Leadership?

Art Center is adrift and our supposed leadership is failing us. It has been 2 1/2 months since the Board announced that RK would not have his contract renewed, and they have been basically silent ever since. Nik Hafermaas has been the Acting CAO for more than a month, and almost nothing has happened from his office, not even a statement of what his direction will be, or how he will engage the campus community to implement changes.

There are serious issues pending: A new president needs to be hired, the financial health of the school, poor scholarships & high tuition, a lack of vision in 21st century education, false moves towards sustainability, falling apart facilities, under-spending in education and over spending in other areas, enrollment standards, falling confidence in the companies that hire our graduates, over-crowding, low faculty/staff moral, poor governance system, and a terrible communication tradition. We understand these issues will not be solved overnight, but THERE MUST BE BETTER COMMUNICATION and CLEAR INDICATIONS OF PROGRESS.

Students, faculty, alumni, and staff want to know: What is the school's plan? What changes are being implemented? What is the timeline? 

The leadership of this school needs to show respect for the community it serves. You are responsible for making change happen, and you are responsible for communicating how that change is progressing. God dammit, get moving!


Anonymous said...

Now 2 1/2 months ago, had I written such a diatribe, you'd have told me to remain calm and allow the system to work.

I'm glad to se that you finally "get it". They are isolating you by ignoring you. They look at things this way:

1/8 of their "problem" just vanished via graduation. There is no plan, FOAC. The plan is to just keep going and keep it the way it has been. If you have not noticed, they really do not care what you (or even 1500 others) think about them. You have not been offered a seat at the table of reform because the table does not exist. Nik replaces a guy who resigned, and he reports to the same guy as the former CAO did.

The more you demand inclusion, the more they will exclude you.

Future of Art Center said...

Actually, I think you ascribe more strategy on the Board and Hafermaas' part than is actually there. My take is that there is a lot of ineptness and inaction due to a lack of vision, inexperience, and unwillingness to do the real work and engage with the issues and people directly.

I suppose we do agree in that the Board does not really understand its role and responsibly in terms of the college community - they are isolating themselves and that is wrong. But they are not a monolithic entity - they are fractured and probably confused by this whole situation, as is the rest of the school.

That's why we need some leadership - the process of reform has started, but is stalling because the Board and Hafermaas are not living up to their responsibilities and leading. I hope they understand that their reputation has already suffered because of this inaction, and that the future of the school depends on their stepping up. If they don't, we should throw them out as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm proposing the following.

Stop giving Art Center money...

I did, it's great. I'm was forced to get a job that can pay off 60k in debt. The faster I made $$ the more time I had to make Art for myself, not corporate clients. My designer friends are still paying off debt they accumulated in school dreaming of a better salary or a home ownership.

It's more meaning full that way.

I know it's hard...

7th and 8th you should finish because you are paying for the big show in the end more than anything.
(whats another 30k on top of 120K)

If your 4-6th term your thinking
I'm in too deep I should graduate.

below 4th term you have gained a incredible work ethic and have skills you can charge over 50 dollars and hour for. You will be disappointed as you go up in terms everyone is. They teach less and less after 5 term.

Unfortunately, some of you have no idea what 150k in loans will cost you in the long run or your parents are paying the bills and therefore the school will continue to take advantage of you and produce more financially ignorant designers who undercharge and undermine all of their earning potential.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the new post that asks the leadership to step up.

Communication has been dysfunctional for a long time at Art Center, but after the past several months of student discontent, it would seem that the leadership would get the message that they should give these concerns attention. It's easy to have those nice titles, work a few days a week, draw a nice salary and travel on tuition dollars, but the responsibility that comes along with that is that you should feel obligated to answer to student concerns and make them feel proud to attend Art Center. The board should clean house (leadership) which would boost morale for students, faculty and staff and get this thing moving forward in a POSITIVE way. I can't imagine that the Board thinks that this in-action plan is good PR for anyone connected to Art Center.

At a minimum, students should be informed of what the plan is You owe this much to the students of Art Center, who are typically hard-working, honest kids.

Plein Air said...

Here's the plan I've heard. Koshalek is history, and we wont be seeing him anymore. He'll be replaced soon by an interim president named Frank Ellsworth, a former Pitzer College president known to be an authoritarian budget-slasher.

Anonymous said...

"but after the past several months of student discontent, it would seem that the leadership would get the message that they should give these concerns attention"

Art Center's leadership has watched numerous incarnations of significant discontent arise (independently) over the decades. They've come to expect it and consider it a part of being a school like this. The fact that they happened to become dissatisfied with the performance of the leader during this latest incarnation is probably purely cooincidental. This group of students thought it was a time of celebration and change when the non-renewal was announced. They went back to work and waited for the honeymoon to begin. It never did. You see, on the bridge, it is business as usual. There is a leadership change going on, and once it's made, it's made. End of change. All change will be the change of the new guy.

If you want anything else from this process, you're going to have to demand and take it.

Anonymous said...

Art Center and every other school are raping students



Der Vimp said...

I was alarmed when I found out that Nik Haffermas was having meetings with small groups of hand picked Graphic students regarding the changes and things of that nature at the end of the term last semester. In my opinion these meetings were just another example of the exclusion and smokescreen that is practiced by Haffermas and others in the administration. In my opinion these meetings were set up with the "trusted" student body in an atempt to use these students as mouth pieces. There were emails sent to a few amount of "chosen" students and even some personal phone calls made by steve kim. I don't understand why no meeting has been set up that would involve the entire department, which is in a major period of change based on the fact that Nik is no longer just "ze friendly chair".

The only change/info I have heard out of the administration this term is the fact that chairs were added to the waiting room of the office. That is a sad indictment of the lack of information that Haffermas has, or is willing to share. And the fact that he has made an explicit point of only inviting his student body friends to any meetings regarding changes is just sad.

Anonymous said...

He has to tread carefully with his bosses (the board), or he has no hope of getting the job permanently. He's not going to take any risks, and if that means keeping communication to a zero level, then that's what he'll do.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9/11/08 12:44PM,

I got accepted to ACCD for Fall of '09.

Five minutes with a calculator and some simple math saved me $160K + interest and 30 years of paying for an overpriced education from a bloated and dysfunctional institution.

Anonymous said...

Nobody is reading this blog...

I'm telling you people, take you voice to the halls of the school.

Tell it to your lame sycophant fear induced faculty council and make them grow some teeth.

Actually talk to Student Gov. they are the only people that follow words with action.

FOAC you've done great job but this blog is not allowing the movement to "Stay on Message"

All this blogwriting is diluting the motivation and direction.

Ophelia Chong said...

to 9/13/08 12:39 PM

I guess you are though. Where should we start? what should we do?

Give us some direction, or lead the way.

Anonymous said...

I just spoke to someone I know who was at Pitzer during Ellsworth's leadership. His reputation, specifically, was that of budget slasher. He was well liked, except by those who were impacted by his budget ctting.

So, if you are a highly-paid staff member on the payroll today, ask yourself this question:

Is my contribution so valuable that Art Center can't get by without me?

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts....

1. The wheels move slowly at Art Center. I don't really see an upside to the board or senior management making much in the way of announcements of strategy, etc before a new president is named. Much will follow from the new president's direction.

2. As far as taking our thoughts to the halls of the college, some of us aren't at the college but still care. That's the beauty of the internet. People from all over could comment without having to be on campus. Look at how the petition got signatures from all over the world.

3. Keep pressing on FOAC!

Future of Art Center said...

"FOAC you've done great job but this blog is not allowing the movement to "Stay on Message"

All this blogwriting is diluting the motivation and direction."

I don't really get this. Yes, if people are on campus, they should voice their concerns to the student government, faculty council, etc. But how does the blog detract from this? It also helps get the message out to people who are not on campus, in particular alumni and the Board. There are many ways to apply pressure.

"1. The wheels move slowly at Art Center. I don't really see an upside to the board or senior management making much in the way of announcements of strategy, etc before a new president is named. Much will follow from the new president's direction."

No one should expect all the changes to be fast, but certainly Hafermaas could put out a message about how he is listening to the concerns, and to give an update on all of the task forces. In addition, the college needs to show some real signs of listening and responding - they could spend some money on fixing small things, and the Board needs to respond to the student council's letter from over 2 months ago.

For example, what is tuition going to be next year? What will scholarships be? How are student facilities going to be improved in the short and long term? Will there be a student rep at Board meetings? These questions don't need the new president. And without answers, it appears that the board does not care about student concerns.

Perhaps an interim president will be named soon, perhaps not. But the long-term appointment of a president will not happen for another year or so. The Board and current leadership can't be silent on issues nor stand still until then.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving voice to what many of us feel. To come back to another term with next to no information about where this ship is heading, after the anxiety of last term, is disheartening to say the least.

Faculty greet each other in the hall with the weary resignation, this term, but maybe not next?

You are the closest thing we have to a collective voice.
Thank You.