25 April, 2009

I Fought the Law, and the Law Won... I think? Or wait, did I?

Well, the meeting with the dean did not go how I expected. In fact, he calmed me down. It took me by surprise that talking with him in his dimly lit office would make me feel so satisfied. He was the first person at the school who stopped to listen to me, and agreed that the policies were crazy. Though he knew of no way to work around the policies, or go about changing them in time for them to affect me.

When I addressed the massive number of students failing, he told me it wasn't uncommon at CSM (though I've heard otherwise from 3rd year students). When I discussed the need for in-depth feedback he explained how difficult it is to give feedback and concrete success criteria when each student is encouraged to find their own style. I told him I understood that, but that a tutor's job is to recognize each student's style and work with them to develop it. And that is when the whole meeting changed.... he asked if he could see my sketchbook.

In five minutes, the dean gave me more constructive, mind-blowing feedback than I have gotten from my tutors in the last six months. He told me what was good, he told me what was crap (he apologized and said, "not to be too blunt, but this drawing is utter crap. Why did you draw this when you can draw like this?" and pointed to another sketch.) He looked at my research and pointed out exactly what I've been missing, and suddenly it seemed so obvious. It made sense. He showed me what I was lacking and suggested I approach research and sketchbooks in a different way.

I was shocked. I was inspired. I felt like I could do these four projects and enjoy them. It was hard to hear him tear my work apart, but it was also incredible and inspiring. When he pointed out my shortcomings it was as if they were so grossly obvious I couldn't believe I'd never seen them before.

When he finished I said, "if any tutor had EVER given me that kind of feedback in the last two terms, I would not be sitting across from you now." He chuckled, and told me that he was going to speak with the Evil Tutor about this issue. I expressed my nervousness about him confronting Evil Tutor because I was worried that his ego would be bruised, resulting in anger directed towards me and my grades. The dean assured me that the issue of feedback is a larger issue, and it is something that needs to be addressed. He also said that if Evil Tutor gets at all uppity, that I am to meet with him again so he can have words with the tutor.

He advised me to do all my work while continuing with the appeal process, and that he would assist me with it. He also said that if I pass this Retrieval project and all the other projects this term, my chances of moving onto 2nd year are good.

I left his office feeling strangely accomplished , though in the end I guess nothing really changed. I found that the fight I was entering would be a round against the entire university, and almost assuredly one I would lose. I suppose I gave in to the five projects I have to do. But I also feel as though I have the dean on my side now. He is one of the people who decides who goes on to 2nd year. And now, despite my low grades, I am more than just numbers to him. I am a girl who voiced her concerns and who wanted more feedback, and the opportunity to do better. And when he speaks to the Evil Tutor, perhaps things will change. Perhaps I will get more feedback from now on. Perhaps not. If not, the dean told me I can come speak with him again.

Am I backing down? I don't feel like it. I just feel that my time would be better spent trying to put his feedback to good use, and improving my grades this term. If I don't fail any projects, then this whole "being kicked out" drama goes away, you see.

I didn't really get to enter the ring. I was fully prepared to start one hell of an epic fight with CSM. But the dean's attitude, his empathy for my situation, his honest feedback and critique of my work, and his offer to speak with the tutor satisfied me for now.

And now that I think about it, entering the ring was never the point. The point was to make my concerns heard, and ensure that I had the opportunity to improve and grow as a designer and student. Hopefully I got that. So maybe The Law didn't win.

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