"AAUP Blasts Climate for Academic Freedom at Savannah College of Art and Design"
"I feel sick to my stomach.
As a former student and now as a professor at SCAD finishing up my final year here, I feel that perhaps our ‘plight’ is not accurately portrayed by ether the “Ex-SCAD Profs” or by those who have only “heard” of what goes on here.
I came to SCAD to earn my MFA after 20+ years in the industry. My experience at SCAD as a graduate student was life changing. The attention, creative mentoring, and the arse-kicking I received from my professors empowered me to grow tremendously as an artist and as a scholar.
The experience had such a profound effect on me that i took a two year sabbatical to join the faculty at SCAD and I was welcomed with open arms. In twenty years I have never worked with such a collegial, professional, and talented group of people. They have become family to me.
My success at SCAD as a scholar, an artist and as a professor exceeded all of my expectations. The sheer number of dedicated, passionate, student-centered professors and professionals I have met and worked with at SCAD has shown me what a truly magical place this university is.
One short, but telling event occurred during my first week as a professor. I ran into a SCAD professor standing in line at the coffee house. After exchanging pleasantries, she excused herself because she was “Going to help the freshmen move into their dorms.” I was shocked— why would a professor give up her saturday to help move freshmen into dorms? “Because,” she said, “It helps make the new students feel a little less scared, and a little more connected to our community when a professor takes the time to help them out on their first week, its scary being away from home.”
I have observed many of these ‘going the extra mile’ - acts of kindness from SCAD professors. The great majority of us Profs, love our jobs and our students and we would not think twice about doing what we could to ensure our students have the upper hand in the job market. I believe that this attitude and belief is what sets SCAD professors apart from their colleagues at other universities.
And yet, it has been my observation that there is a cancer that eats away at the very soul of SCAD. I believe that the source of the cancer is the administration’s unwillingness to believe in the product they sell.
And that cancer takes the form of “a culture of fear” among all faculty members at SCAD.
The culture of fear is maintained by an administration that infantilizes its faculty, making them dependent on the administration for their livelihoods. Reminding them that they have a contract renewal coming up— “now… can you volunteer for one more weekend of marketing for the university?”
The administration infantilizes its faculty by keeping a tight grip on what we say about the institute publicly (they have been known not to renew your contract if you are critical of them).
They infantilize the faculty by telling them what they can and cannot have on the walls of their office, what they can and can’t wear to work.
They infantilize the faculty by taking attendance taken at quarterly “Ra ra go SCAD” meetings.
They infantilize the faculty by summarily dismissing faculty when the faculty expresses political views in the classroom.
They infantilize the faculty (and students) through controlling access to websites critical of SCAD.
They infantilize the faculty through the monitoring of personal email.
They infantilize the faculty by ‘observing faculty’ that are not getting the ‘message.’
These infantilizing acts slowly break down new faculty. What I could not put my finger on as a student, I see clearly as a professor.
The administration attitude toward the faculty is: “We don’t respect you, we do not respect what you do, and we certainly do not trust you— shut up and do your job.”
Why might this be? It is my opinion that that administration does not believe in the product they are selling. How can one believe in the product if they do not respect those who make the product? Those who design and oversee the day to day delivery of the product? SCAD is more than pretty buildings—honeytraps for new students and their parents.
SCAD is a magical place. SCAD is a magical place with a diverse, talented passionate faculty that are dedicated to their profession, the art of teaching, and to ultimately to their students’ success.
When I leave SCAD this spring it will be a very sad day for me. I have grown to love this place as a student, and as a professor. I truly believe in ‘the product.’ I will miss the 25 classroom contact hours per week, the weekend extra help sessions. I will miss the emails of thanks from my students when a job prospect I sent turns into a job. Most of all I will miss the talented, inspired and passionate faculty that I have been blessed to teach beside. "
"It is very sad indeed. SCAD gets a bad rap because it truly is a wonderful place for students to study. Aside from the absolute commitment of the faculty to the students' education and careers, there is an atmosphere of student-centered education that I dare any other institution to match. As professors, we work way beyond to insure that our students get the very best of us.
What, then, is so tragic, as artprof1 so eloquently pointed out, is that the upper administration, people like Mr. Osayzin and the President are so distrustful of us, and operate under the assumption that, if they don't treat us like children they don't really seem to like, then we will surely misbehave.
I don't know what they are afraid of. Despite their utter disrespect and indifference to all we do, we still produce an amazing product for them because we care about our students. What a place SCAD could be if the President (it all comes from her) just trusted us and strove to create an atmosphere of positivity that our mission so proudly trumpets.
They will lay off dozens of staff for a few weeks in December to save money as their location in Hong Kong drains the coffers, a new museum opens and other expenses are disbursed that are whims, not sound.
A Dean who had been here many years is gone because he complained and tried to point out to the new CAO that his policies and tactics are destroying the school
They trumpet how great the facilities are, yet only a few majors have those great facilities, most suffer with woefully inadequate places to do their work
When the President's office makes bizarre and demeaning requests, everyone jumps, no one ever questions the decisions and she is surrounded by people who are enabling her slowly crumbling sense of what's right and good for the university.
Her son is running Hong Kong, enough said.
Mr. Ozaysin is uniformly despised by everyone in the college except the President, he is gutting programs, destroying lives and making ludicrous decisions that only someone with virtually no academic experience could, yet he continues his reign of terror, counteracting so much of the good that his predecessor put in place.
They try to control every aspect of the college's life and there is absolutely NO academic freedom whatsoever. It is more like a communist regime than an institution of free thinkers all contributing to a great outcome.
We are all desperate for the President to have someone in her ear that she trusts point out to her what she is allowing to happen and stop before its too late.
We all love SCAD and only us professors know the truth about how powerful a force we are in the lives of our students. And the numbers support us. Almost 85% of our students enter the job force, even in this economy, within six months. Can any other college match that?
Will SCAD go the way of the Roman Empire and Leona Helmsley? "
Creative Loafing Atlanta
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