Last week, Education Management Corp. (the umbrella company that owns the national chain of Art Institutes, including the Portland chapter) began enacting drastic layoffs in a move to restructure staffing. Reports indicate that about 800 jobs nationally were lost, while just over 300 new job listings were added.
A source at the Portland Ai says that many of the cuts appear to be an attempt to consolidate the jobs of several people into single positions, and at least two high profile staffers in the school's fashion program—Sue Bonde, Academic Director for the Apparel Department and Melanie Risner, Assistant Director of the Fashion & Design Management Programs—have been included in the cuts. This has potential ramifications for the survival of the annual graduate fashion show, which is not only the public debut of Ai apparel design students, but the school's largest fundraiser for scholarship money across all departments.
This would have all been alarming enough news, but as it has unfolded at Ais across the country, an apparent failure of communication at the Portland school has left students out of the loop. According to a source on staff, an email was sent out to the faculty, informing them that an email communication had been sent out to the entire student body. The problem, though, is that nobody appears to have actually received it, leaving the students reliant on whatever information they can glean from hearsay. As one student, Mercury Fashion Intern Toby Robboy, points out, this has created a certain level of panic among the students, who often plan their next year of classes around programs specific to certain professors who may or may not be included in the layoffs, potentially throwing their planned academic track into question.
On Monday, Portland Ai President Tim Moscato posted on the school's Facebook page, "Attention AI Students-I sent all students an email to your school email addresses explaining the changes that have been made here at AI Portland. If you have yet to receive that email or would like to talk with me, please feel free to call my cell," followed by his phone number and email. This was followed by several comments from students saying that they had "yet to receive any e-mails and am only getting bits and pieces of the story."
A copy of the email that was attempted to be sent is behind the cut. in the meantime I have messages out to both Moscato and Bonde for more clarification.
As you know, The Art Institutes of Portland announced a reorganization of academic departments earlier this week.
Some students have expressed concerns about the individuals who have been impacted. We share those concerns and know that the individuals affected are great teachers and administrators who brought their experience and knowledge to the classroom. They care about students and work hard to nurture them. Our more senior faculty, who are not affected by this action, also are great, experienced teachers who care about our students.
The reorganization of academic departments means that we typically will have fewer administrators in academic affairs, and those who remain likely will teach more courses than they did previously. This change has been made so that academic administrators remain connected to the day-to-day experience in the classroom and maintain a deep appreciation of the hard work of both our faculty and students. We are confident that having administrators focus more on the classroom will enhance the student experience.
We have taken these steps with significant deliberation and with the intention of minimizing the impact on students while also maintaining the quality of the educational experience at The Art Institutes. Unfortunately, these are difficult times in American higher education, and many colleges and universities have or will take similar steps. While we have maintained our tuition and actually reduced the overall cost of pursuing a degree with the Art Institutes, many other organizations have increased fees and tuition.
We believe that we will emerge from this period with a stronger school, better equipped to serve our students.
As always - please contact me directly with any questions or concerns.