Save the gate student petition makes waves with college dean

The Dean of the College of Arts and Architecture Nancy Cronwell is considering eliminating the curriculum gate that requires art and architecture students to meet certain standards before advancing past their first year of study. Students recently created a petition with 206 supporters to oppose these possible changes. While no decisions have been made yet, Cronwell held a public forum at Cheever Hall on Tuesday Feb. 18 to address the petition and to hear student and faculty views on the curriculum gates.

Cronwell was quick to point out that the forum was not about getting rid of the gate completely: “I have not gotten rid of the gate. I have had conversations with faculty asking them, ‘Why do we have it? What purpose does it serve?’”

Each program within the College of Arts and Architecture (CAA) limits the number of students that continue after their first year of study. The admittance process is extremely competitive and closely evaluates each student’s GPA, portfolio and an audition/interview. Cronwell originally brought up eliminating the gate with CAA faculty in Oct. 2013.

During Tuesday’s forum, Cronwell pointed out that her main motivation for considering changes to the gate is to increase enrollment. “You may or may not be seeing it in your classes, but the numbers are smaller, and that worries me.” Students, on the other hand, fear that taking away the gate and increasing enrollment could reduce equipment availability, degree quality and faculty attention. Melissa Livingston, a studio arts and art history major, stated, “One of the reasons I came to this school was the student to professor ratio here: getting to have that connection with your professor, getting to know them, and in the future having them as a contact.”

Other students discussed the positives of the current curriculum gate. Film major Eric Aleksiewicz said that the gate “provides a higher quality of work, and it really challenges you to prove yourself in your first year as a college student.” Dean Cronwell was quick to agree and stated that her hope is not “to blow up class sizes” or diminish a degree. She hopes to hire more faculty so there can be more class sections and in turn more opportunities for more students.

While the future of the gate process in the CAA is not clear, Cronwell summed up her hopes for the school’s future: “When it comes to the gate, I think that we can all agree that some of us might have taken a course we didn’t do well in, or might have had a rough start to school, or we may just not have tested well. But you could be a heck of a good filmmaker or photographer. Why do we not want to give that student a chance when we are a land grant university and part of our mission is … accessibility?”

Cronwell is holding another open forum with students and faculty to discuss the curriculum gate on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. in Cheever 217.