More recently, Schools have become increasingly popular. Schools
are under the direction and supervision of Department Heads
or Directors and, infrequently, a Dean. At many universities,
Schools of Art, Design, Architecture, Planning, Music, Drama
and Performing Arts, etc. have replaced what formerly were
Departments. I can only speculate that Schools
has connotations of professional education and this is desirable
from the standpoint of recruitment. However, most state university
visual art programs are still grounded in Liberal Arts requirements
first encounter with the School type of administrative
organization was the School of Art at the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor during 1976. Dean Bayliss invited me to come
and give a lecture. Unknown to me, one of the teachers had
died during the year and the Dean was looking at me as a possible
replacement. After the lecture, Dean Bayliss invited me to
his office where he asked if I would consider taking the open
position in Graphic Design? At one point I inquired as to
how Graphic Design was organized and who was Department Head?
He then explained that the School had no Department Heads
and that he and the Assistant Dean oversaw all the various
programs of study. My immediate and spontaneous reaction was
to laugh. When he asked what was funny? I told him that I
had never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life as a
school without leadership for each program. I never received
a formal letter offering me the teaching position.
the day at the University of Michigan, I spoke with a number
of individual faculty members from a variety of programs.
They were as frustrated, cynical, angry, disgruntled and unhappy
as any group of faculty that I have ever met. They were uncommitted
to teaching and the institution. Their attitude was to concentrate
on personal work, do the minimum while going for the maximum,
it was only a job.
problem is not what roof is used for instruction in
visual arts, it is the organizational structure that is imposed
with the new label. Schools of Design might have two to six
disciplines under the singular leadership of a Director or
Department Head. Schools of Art might have six to twelve disparate
disciplines under singular leadership. This includes some
if not all of Foundations, Painting, Printmaking, Drawing,
Sculpture, Photography, Video, Ceramics, Fibers, Jewelry,
Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Art History and Art Education.
Within this array of programs there is an enormous diversity
of objectives, content, methodology and requirements.
it is credible for a Department, Division, Director or School
Head to administer to a unit composed of several different
programs in terms of records, budgets, services and maintenance,
it is blatantly preposterous to think they can provide educational
leadership. Each program has special leadership requirements
that are going to vary from one program to the next, and one
person cannot hope to fulfill all those needs.
most institutions, this weakness soon became apparent and
problems were dealt with in an ad hoc manner. The Director
or Head selected a person from each of the disciplines, or
logical grouping of disciplines, such as Fine Arts or Crafts.
The individuals were given a designation of Coordinator, Program
Head, Chair, Senior Professor or some other such title. The
designation is usually with the consent, and at the invitation
of, the Head. Occasionally, it is by election of faculty members
within the program. Positions are not part of the university
technical organization, there is no official description of
job duties, conditions for appointment, no authority, no remuneration
other than release time. It's an ill-conceived and thankless
position. Denial of program leadership by administration should
be unacceptable because of how it affects educational quality,
faculty interaction, program planning, curriculum, etc.
program I know of dealt with this situation through the faculty
members within a program declaring themselves to be a Committee
of the Whole which is an option under academic governance.
As a committee, they elected a chairperson from their number
to speak for them. The Division Head soon learned that life
was simpler to simply appoint the Chairperson of the Committee
of the Whole as Program Coordinator. I think this was good
strategy by that faculty.
can only speculate as to how and why this change in traditional
academic organization took place. It is true that there were
problems with the Department organizational concept. There
were tendencies to create small fiefs, to compete and bicker
among themselves, to be autocratic and sometimes abusive.
In almost every case, problems occurred because administration
did not take action to replace inept or abusive Department
Heads, or because there was no prescribed review system where
faculty could rid themselves of a Head who did not have the
confidence of faculty members. However, with strong leadership
and support of faculty, Departments can be incredibly effective
as instructional units.
for changing the organizational definition for Department
Head might be as simple as administrative paternalism, that
managers could do a better job. Eliminating Department Heads
greatly reduced the number of people working with Deans, it
eliminated rivalry between Departments. Generally, this means
a smoother administrative operation, administrative expediency.
Combining all departmental administrative duties into one
office eliminated duplication, administrative efficiency.
Reducing the number of Heads to one represents considerable
financial savings both in terms of salaries and payroll. It
also reduces the number of expensive searches for qualified
Department Heads, a bottom line dollar and cents decision.
While it can only be speculated why the change in educational
organization has occurred, the impact on education and faculty
interests is crystal clear. The motivation for change was
not based on improving educational quality. Eliminating program
leadership might be more efficient from a managerial standpoint,
however it is devastating to faculty and educational programs.
It eliminates educational leadership at the most important
level in terms of faculty and students. The Department Head
as a program head and teacher has been transformed into a
head of programs and administrator.
structured program leadership which is conducive to team effort,
faculty members within a discipline are more likely to work
separately. This affects the consistency and intensity of
instruction with detrimental effects on the overall educational
experience for students.
have taught at two university Schools of Art and my experiences
with faculty were about the same except one was more intense
than the other in terms of faculty discontent. I found older
faculty members to be divisive, disgruntled and focused on
their personal work. They put in the required time at school
and left as soon as possible. They were more concerned with
their welfare than they were with students. I rarely heard
any of them discussing students or education. There were always
some young faculty that were still enthusiastic about teaching
and students, but in time, this dissipated. This was totally
different from my experiences at independent schools of art
where faculty within strong Departments took pride in teaching,
they were concerned with students and almost constantly looking
for ways to improve the Department and educational experience.
believe this disillusionment and cynicism is due in part to
the School organizational structure which by its very nature
promotes every teacher going in separate ways. This is detrimental
to the development of team effort and common educational goals.
What is perhaps most unfortunate is that once these changes
are made,in time they become difficult if not impossible to
undo. A good example of this is what has happened when universities
relied on graduate assistants rather than creating additional
faculty lines. Once the weaknesses of over-reliance on graduate
assistants became apparent, it was impossible to establish
new faculty lines to correct the situation.