Decadent Design: II
(This is the second of a series of editorials on the Design School. The first editorial dealt generally with the Design problem as a whole. This editorial will present specific suggestions.)
The Corporation and its Visiting Committee have been correctly diagnosing the Design School's ailments for two years now, but all of the many panaceas prescribed depend upon a forceful dean to administer them. We have suggested that Design needs a conservative dean, who will first tie the loose threads of his three divisions into a tight knot, then meticulously begin the process of raising endowments. The school must also have an academic pioneer on its faculty, an artistic inventor who will initiate new theories of design and unique courses of education. Perhaps, there is a man who fits both sets of characteristics; but the University has searched for two years without finding him. And now that Design threatens to crumble without the support of a new dean, the University must compromise and select two men, an administrative dean and a fiery department chairman.
A combination like this is easily inflammable. The brilliant academician may buck under the reins of a lesser known dean, just as the Hudnut-Gropius arrangement flared up into an interdepartmental conflagration. But it is a risk well worth taking. Without a conservative dean, the school will never mend its financial foundations; without an original artist, it will never be worth maintaining as a graduate school. It will be another vocational school, grinding out competent architects instead of a theoritical fountainhead, enlarging knowledge in the fields of architecture and planning.
President Conant, who carries the main responsibility for selecting a dean, has delayed for two years in his search for a perfect administrator-artist. Burned once by the Gropius-Hudnut clash, he has shied from trying a similar combination. For many years, however, Design's faculty worked together smoothly, and the school led its field. It broke down, not basically because of personalities, but mainly because of a mounting deficit which forced Hudnut to slash Gropius' teaching program.
All the trouble might not have begun in the first place, if the College had contributed to undergraduate instruction in the school. Of course, inflation crippled Design's endowment, but it was this large undergraduate program which eventually shoved it into the red. There are now seventy-five undergraduates majoring in architectural sciences. The Design School provides their academic program and pays for their instructors. Besides this, a few Design School professors teach College courses, predominantly attended by undergraduates. The College, which receives all of the undergraduate tuition money, should subsidize the program, for it is harvesting free gain at the expense of a financially starving school.
If the school were to cut its undergraduate instruction, it could move out of Hunt Hall and concentrate its departments in Robinson Hall, saving approximately $12,000, enough to cover its deficit. We would recommend this only if the College refuses to pay its own way in the school, since the move would deprive Design of a better qualified entering, class and undergraduates of a popular major. But without support by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, this is a logical step, It could remodel Design into a smaller, advanced graduate department, staffed by leading professors, and this is far preferable to a mediocre trade school.
In any event, Design can bolster its prestige and sow the seeds for educational endowments by expanding its research program. It has had the opportunities, refusing thousands of research dollars because President Conant wanted no unfinished projects burdening an incoming dean. But a school which is not experimenting becomes stagnant, and its faculty is soon working with superannuated tools. An objection raised by the University to a large temporary research program is the fact that it cannot provide tenure for instructors. If industries will begin donating the endowments which can assure a permanent, non-transient faculty.
This, then, is a basic blueprint for a rejuvenated Design School; a conservative dean, an artistic architectural chairman, and a researching faculty. From this foundation, Design can become financially sound and academically vigorous.