Serious Play was the latest in a series of bi-annual conferences hosted by Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, around the theme ‘Stories from the Source.’ It is part of an initiative from the top brass to position Art Center as a forward thinking school in competition with schools like Carnegie Mellon, Stanford D and others, equipping students with cross-disciplinary tool kits for the world of tomorrow.
As stated by Richard Koshalek, President of Art Center, Serious Play is an important event that strategically places Art Center within the global community of design and education. And as he quoted Erica Clark (the other person responsible for the ‘Stories from the Source’ Series), “isolation breeds irrelevance.”
Well, as a student of Art Center, and as a participant in the conference, I have a story, from the source. Art Center is in danger of becoming highly irrelevant to the very world it is trying to influence. This conference, along with Art Center’s ‘Sustainability Summit,’ is an example of Art Center continuing to present two separate faces to the world. While touting its desire to be a leader that prepares students for the world tomorrow, Art Center lacks any understanding of what that world will be. Or at least, lacks the legs to walk the path it loves to talk about.
Anyone who attended the Sustainability Summit was lucky enough to drink from glass cups and eat off ceramic plates for the dinners and snacks provided throughout. They also had the option of some recycling bins to place recyclable trash accumulated over the few days. Unfortunately, the people attending the three-day summit had more options to recycle and be responsible than the students who attend Art Center on a daily basis. The Art Center Cafeteria still uses Styrofoam plates, in spite of numerous efforts by select faculty and students for two years to change this. We know how to change this. We also know how to reduce the amount of waste we generate. And we know how to substantially improve our recycling rate beyond the standard 50%. Money has been cited as the limiting factor to this, but I can respect that only so much.
Student tuition has been raised 5% consistently over these past two years so that Art Center can “remain competitive,” or so the little letter I receive in the mail states. Well, I’m glad someone in Art Center was able to find the $385,068 in 2005 to pay Gehry Partners to design our new “advanced technical center.” A facility that has yet to break ground, and will not be finished before any attending student graduates. With a net loss of $128,955 reported in 2005, it’s not surprising that the 2008 Car Classic got cancelled. For that much money, we could hire an entry level Senior Officer who advises solely on Sustainability, and one-day work their way up to our President’s $439,950 2005 compensation. I haven’t seen the latest Form 990 from Art Center I’ll be naively optimistic and hope that these prices have been adjusted to remain “competitive.”
I’m not saying that it is as simple as cutting our president’s salary in half. I respect that he was worked hard to get where he is, and this is his earned compensation. I could simply not pay my tuition, as the popular thing to do now is “vote with my wallet.” That would take me out of their conversation completely (though one in which I feel I am already ignored to a serious degree). That option is comparable to walking away from the negotiation table before everyone has been invited. We have to affect change in our immediate spheres of influence. We have to be willing to make an effort. And I would very much like a return on my investment so far.
I want a degree, I want it to come from a place I respect, and will continue to respect in the future. I fell in love with Art Center before knowing its problems. The face that I fell in love with still exists, there’s just a bit more to her than I first realized. True to that love, I want to help out, if only my partner would admit to the problem and make an effort her self. Art Center is infamous for being demanding and destroying the relationships of its student body, but I think this is one relationship I can do something about. I just need a little help myself figuring out how to do so. And then maybe together walk the talk, hand in hand.
Art Center Waste Stream Analysis 2007
Art Center 2005 Tax Form 990
Art Center Tuition Raise Information Letter