Fine Arts Students To Propose Reforms
After charges last spring of sex discrimination and inadequate advising in the department. Fine Arts graduate students meeting with faculty members this summer have developed a list of broad reforms to present to the department in the fall.
Members of a five-student ad hoc committee created to address the recent complaints yesterday refused to disclose any specific recommendations. But they said this summer's student-faculty discussions had opened lines of communication between previously isolated students and faculty members and had helped resolve other problems plaguing the department.
This summer's meetings mark the first time Fine Arts graduate students and faculty members have met formally to resolve a host of perennial problems, previously broached only in a volley of harsh, letters.
The five students on the committee met periodically with department representatives Oleg Grabar, Khan Professor of Islamic Art, and department Chairman Neil Levine Although charges of sex discrimination prompted the dialogue, the meetings focussed more on improving the graduate student advising system, fellowship program and other areas of student life than on the discrimination issue, said Robert Simon, a member of the graduate student committee.
The full department will have to approve the committee recommendations when it meets in the fall.
The committee was formed in May, shortly after one female junior faculty member resigned charging sex discrimination and 35 female Fine Arts graduate students presented senior faculty members with a list of 10 grievances of their own. The complaints primarily concerned poor advising and fellowship support for graduate students and unequal treatment of women in the department.
In a catalytic resignation letter Assistant Professor of Fine Arts patricia Mainardi wrote that "junior Faculty members [in the Department] are treated quite badly and women even worse than that."
Shortly--offer the 35 female graduate students submitted their grievance letter, a group of male Fine Arts graduate students submitted a letter to the department supporting them. The department then issued a 14-page letter replying to each of the grievances and acknowledging that many of them were valid.
After the exchange of letters, faculty members and graduate students agreed to conduct this summer's meetings.
Students and faculty members said the meetings have been successful, "Aside from the question of morale, we've accomplished a great deal and have set up certain mechanisms to improve relations between faculty and graduate students which must be discussed further," Levine said. "Although it began with a series of grievances, we soon realized that the grievance letter was really a result of some deep-seated problems," he added.
The letter submitted by the 35 graduate students and later obtained by The Crimson, charged, among other things, that there have been no tenured female faculty members appointed by the department; that "the faculty employs a language of disrespect toward female students, staff, faculty and scholars in the discipline;" and that the faculty makes no serious effort to get to know the female students.
The letters also charged that the graduate student advising system is inadequate; that fellowship support is not consistently awarded according to established University procedure; and that graduate students are not adequately informed of opportunities available to them.
Senior faculty members, however, were quick to point out that they knew of no overt cases of discrimination.
Although charges of discrimination prompted the dialogue, committee members said the issue of eliminating discrimination worked its way into the discussion of general topics like fellowship grant administration