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Guest Opinion | River Jukes-Hudson and Emil Mertzel, ArtCenter Faculty: Faculty and Students Ready for Change at ArtCenter College of Design

Published on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 | 5:44 am

If you’re familiar with the global landscape of art and design education, then you already know that ArtCenter College of Design has consistently been ranked as one of the best. Renowned alumni play central roles in creative industries across Southern California and around the world. Graduating from ArtCenter is a ticket to a community of artists, innovators, and big picture thinkers at the forefront of entertainment, industrial design, fine art, graphic design, transportation and many other fields. 

That reputation is now at risk. If the leadership of the college wants to ensure ArtCenter remains cutting edge for years to come, they have a big decision to make. 

Last year, a supermajority of ArtCenter faculty voted to form a union, the ArtCenter Faculty Federation, to advocate with a unified voice for our jobs and for the future of the college. We came together out of shared concern that mismanagement is harming our ability to educate our students, fraying the fabric of the community that sets ArtCenter apart from other institutions.The magic of ArtCenter isn’t a mystery. It’s there in the creative connections and exchanges between faculty and students; in educational encounters whose effects can last a lifetime. 

Historically, management has undervalued and opted not to invest in our faculty. The result is not only frustrated professors, but isolated students, who aren’t getting what they expect and deserve from the college. Talented educators are being pushed out of the college and more of them are on the verge of leaving. This puts the well-earned reputation of the entire college at risk. It’s time for things to change.

Our goals in negotiating our first contract with the college are to grow and improve the connections we have with students and to reset a campus culture that has lost its way. This means important changes, rather than business as usual.

It means job security for faculty—knowing when and what we will teach, with enough notice to plan our lives and curricula. It means not having to worry that our classes may suddenly disappear.

It means transparency—a consistent process for performance reviews, promotions, and discipline; and pay that puts ArtCenter faculty (both full and part-time) on par with the other leading colleges of art and design institutions.

And it means fairness—a clear and consistent process for determining faculty titles and teaching appointments, and seniority for faculty with successful teaching records.

Management’s refusal to agree to a schedule and to participate in negotiations at a rate that is consistent with getting a timely contract is not only compromising their relationship with faculty and students, it potentially puts them in legal jeopardy. The longer management delays at the bargaining table, the more damage they are doing to our school, this incredible community that deserves to be cultivated and nurtured, not disrespected and ignored.

Students and alumni are responding with shock and anger. They know how much ArtCenter means both professionally and personally. Just like faculty, they aren’t going to sit idly by as management deliberately, methodically and strategically dismantles this special place.

Now it’s time for ArtCenter’s President, Karen Hofmann and for the ArtCenter Board Of Trustees to make a decision—will they do the right thing and direct Management to negotiate a fair contract? Or will they sit this one out and watch the college that they too love and believe in suffer?

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