Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2001

Students question program quality

October 28, 2001

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Visual communication students at Kansas University say they're worried about their program.

They've petitioned Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the School of Fine Arts, saying a lack of full-time faculty and sub-par classroom and computer labs are hurting their education.

"I've seen our program go downhill very rapidly," said Sarah Bray, a senior who organized the petition signed by 148 students.

Several students said their main concern was that the graphic design program which, along with the illustration program, makes up the visual communication department has only one full-time faculty member, associate professor Patrick Dooley. Four adjunct faculty members teach the remainder of classes.

A year ago, there were three full-time faculty, but there are four positions in the graphic design department. One left for another teaching job, and the other left on temporary leave for a job at Hallmark.

There are 180 graphic design students this fall.

"With one full-time professor right now, he's being pulled in a lot of different directions, and he can't help us prepare portfolios and be a mentor for us as we're preparing to go out and get jobs," said senior Dana Hill.

"I feel like if I'm prepared for the working world when I graduate in May, it'll be largely from what I've done on my own," senior Kurt Saberi said.

Organizers said more than 150 students attended a meeting with Montgomery Oct. 16 to express their views.

Several said the program's troubles began around the time she became dean in April 2000. Montgomery's background is as a concert pianist, and students said she seemed to play favorites to the department of music and dance. They cited the $10.3 million addition to Murphy Hall, which houses the music and dance department.

Montgomery denied the allegations Friday in an interview.

"They should know they have a chair (Lois Greene) that is their spokesperson and who sits in meetings with me every week and is able to relay information to me," Montgomery said. "That's not a valid concern."

Montgomery said she shared the students' concern about faculty.

"They need the professors to serve as mentors for their careers," she said.

She said two faculty searches earlier this year failed because the successful candidates turned down the jobs, and administrators opted not to offer the positions to other candidates. She said the candidates had better offers in the corporate world.

Greene said searches continue for the two faculty positions, and the professor who left for Hallmark plans to return in the spring. Montgomery decided last month to add a fifth faculty position in the graphic design program.

Greene said she hoped to review applications beginning in February.

"Honestly, we're all on the same page here," she said.

In transition

Dooley, the lone graphic arts faculty member, said luring an artist to KU was difficult when more money was available in the private sector. He said having full-time faculty would strengthen the program.

"We're looking forward to getting fully staffed and getting back to business," he said. "We're in a transitional phase right now."

The students also cited poor working conditions. They said there often are long lines for using computers, and some software is outdated.

They also said they could use new desks.

"Basically, you couldn't draw a straight line on them if you tried, they're so cut up," Bray said.

Greene said she considered software "fairly up-to-date." And she said she was waiting to hear from faculty members about what furniture should be purchased for classrooms.

Bray said students planned to form a committee to update administrators about their concerns. She was optimistic the problems would be solved.

Marc Shank, another senior, said the students involved in the petition mostly upper-classmen were concerned about the program's future.

"What most concerns me is the legacy of the program, really just making sure it continues to be a well-known, well-respected program," he said. "I'm one of the lucky ones who got through the big meaty part of the program before most of the problems started."

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