Three out of five School of Design programs have released grievance letters


Samantha Schoenbauer

Architecture studio space inside the Chicoine Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering (AME) Hall.

Brina Sturm and Mara Wheaton

Two additional grievance letters from students of the School of Design (SoD) were issued this past week, outlining reasons why they believe their quality of education is being threatened.

Interior design students released their 16-page letter, Friday April 29. Graphic design students followed up with an eight-page letter Monday, May 2. Both letters came two weeks after the Department of Architecture (DoArch) program issued their nine-page letter.

The letters detail concerns such as lack of transparency, high faculty turnover rates, high student-to-faculty ratios, lack of budget transparency and a lack of confidence in the school’s director.

Each of the letters request that university officials address and resolve the student concerns by the start of the fall semester.

“The [interior design] student body admired what architecture did to bring awareness and to be able to talk about what is going on,” Ashton Smith, a fourth year interior design student body representative said. “We felt like the student body read that and gained inspiration from it and realized that we all need to talk about what’s going on.”

The School of Design is made up of five programs: architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and graphic design and studio art. Of those five, students from three of the programs have written letters. Those programs are: architecture, interior design and graphic design.

Gayle Hansen is a fourth year student who helped draft the letter for her program in the School of Graphic Design. 

“This was a big group effort. This [the letter] was the whole [graphic design] student body coming together and voicing their concerns, hoping for change,” Hansen said. “I really appreciate the professors that we do have. I just really hope to see the graphic design program continue to be as good as it has been, and hopefully even better. I just don’t want to see it fall apart.”

Each of the two newest letters are addressed to university officials and faculty members of their respective programs. Upon the release of both letters, physical copies were delivered to the addressed staff and posted in Wagner and Grove halls.

However, The Collegian cannot independently verify statements or numbers provided in the following letters. After reaching out to the university, officials redirected reporters to Mike Lockrem, Director of University Marketing and Communications.

Lockrem provided the following response: “The School of Design is home to several accredited programs that have educated and trained hundreds of students since 2015 when the school was formed. We are proud of the accomplishments of our alumni, the work of our faculty and the educational opportunities our students have experienced. We are sensitive to the issues recently raised and will use this as an opportunity to strengthen all our programs in the school… We continue to meet and work with the students in the School of Design to understand and address the issues they have shared. We are committed to finding solutions where possible,” Lockrem said in his statement.

Interior Design Letter

The 16-page grievance letter written by the interior design student body included four sections highlighting changes they would like to see made in the program. These sections include:

SECTION 01 – Transparency, Advocacy, and Authenticity

SECTION 02 – Faculty Position Fulfillment

Section 02.01 – Filling of Old Positions

Section 02.02 – Program Coordinator Resignation

Section 02.03 – Hiring Procedures

Section 02.04 – Faculty Retention

SECTION 03 – Future Student Enrollment

Section 03.01 – Curriculum Changes

Section 03.02 – Agency over Budget

SECTION 04 – Meeting with School of Design Director

Section 04.01 – Preliminary Action

Section 04.02 – Meeting Minute Abstract

The following requests were made:

  • An adequate educated leader to advocate and represent the interior design student body and faculty at large
  • Program coordinator position be fulfilled to satisfy requirements and qualifications set by Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) standards
  • Resolution to accreditation issues
  • Transparency towards the National Council of Interior Design Qualification committee (NCIDQ)
  • Plan of action to fulfill and maintain the required number of qualified faculty needed for accreditation
  • School of Design (SoD) director transparency with the student body regarding faculty suggestions
  • Transparency from SoD director, professional academic advisor and curriculum manager of SoD regarding curriculum changes
  • Transparency of the budget and financial management operations
  • Act in the best interest of the interior design program faculty and student body.

The interior design student body asks that these requests have finalized resolutions by August 22, the first day of the fall 2022 semester. 

The interior design student body is composed of first through fourth year students within the program. The entire student body met to express these concerns and later began forming a plan of action, Smith said. 

“We want people to understand that this letter is not an act of malicious activity or attack,” Evan Marquardt, fourth year interior design student body representative said. “We want to bring to light the issues and the concerns that we have experienced and/or uncovered over the course of three or four years. We would like to see change and resolution for our concerns.”

Graphic Design Letter

The eight page grievance letter written by the graphic design student body included three sections highlighting changes they would like to see made in the program. These sections include:

SECTION 01 – Transparency and Ease of Access

SECTION 1.01 – Budget Transparency

SECTION 1.02 – Student Body Public Knowledge

SECTION 1.03 – Hiring Transparency

SECTION 1.04 – Academic & Faculty Resource Handbook Access & Transparency

SECTION 02 – Supplies and Student Resources

SECTION 2.01 –  Quality of Student Resources

  • Printing
  • Power adapters & Furniture
  • Computer Adapters

SECTION 2.02 – Unnecessary Student Materials

  • Wacom Tablets

SECTION 03 – Faculty

SECTION 3.01 – Graphic Design Faculty Discipline Diversity

  • UX/UI

SECTION 3.02 – Removal of Essential Classes

  • Motion Graphics

SECTION 3.03 – Faculty Resignation & Qualification

SECTION 3.04 – Future Enrollment & Class Sizes

The following requests were made:

  • Convenient option to achieve the goal of budget transparency
  • The School of Design Director provides faculty-student numbers at the beginning of every semester and makes this information public
  • Present said information in an annual meeting that includes the student body
  • Full transparency and student involvement in the hiring process of facility 
  • Provide student body with materials regarding faculty’s conduct and guidelines and should not be blocked from viewing said materials
  • Accommodate what students pay out of pocket for printing into course discipline fees, as well as better access to quality printing within Grove Hall
  • A portion of the budget be allocated to invest in tables with outlets
  • List of the products as required for the program, or have provided adaptors in each classroom for student use
  • SoD hires a faculty with an in-depth understanding of the Wacom interface and Adobe software
  • SoD hires a quality UX/UI faculty member
  • SoD hires a quality motion graphic professor
  • SoD hires a qualified teaching staff within emergency hires, as students are not completely against the idea of emergency hires to hold a position until a qualified long term faculty is installed.

The graphic design student body asks that these requests have finalized resolutions by the fall 2022 semester. 

“We have no idea where our discipline fees or the salaries of the staff that have left are going,” Hansen said.

Graphic design students echo concerns of DoArch and interior design students regarding transparency of the budget, hiring processes and course changes.

“I want this to be something that is heard,” Jake Ayers, a third year graphic design student, said. “It just kind of felt like (student concerns) were just kind of pushed under the rug to be dealt with later [in previous circumstances].”