Fashion students, faculty further discuss curricular changes


Maria Cardona

Students and faculty of the Fashion Studies Department met Sept. 30 to discuss the program’s proposed new curriculum, despite an email from chair Jeff Schiff asking faculty to not discuss changes with students

By Campus Reporter

Following weeks of tense meetings and discussions, fashion studies students and full-and part-time faculty unofficially met Sept. 30 to discuss changes in curriculum, with plans to prevent these changes from moving forward.

As reported Sept. 19 by The Chronicle, Columbia’s Fashion Studies Department is undergoing a proposed curricular change, which would result in the removal of the BFA program and a name change to “Fashion Next.” During the Sept. 30 meeting, students and faculty voiced opinions on proposed changes. 

Jeff Schiff, interim chair of the Fashion Studies Department, sent an email Sept. 29 discouraging faculty discussion about the changes with students, according to Diana Vallera, president of the part-time faculty union and adjunct professor in the Photography Department.

“It is our job to keep confusion to a minimum, so our students can focus on learning,” Schiff stated in the email. “It is also the job of full-time faculty to participate professionally and fully in curriculum review processes—including, at times, rigorous debate and difference of opinion—without involving students and upsetting them and their educational experiences.”

Vallera said the email blames faculty for providing students with the communication they have been asking for.

 “Instead of having that transparency [and] welcoming dialogue that faculty should have with students, we get an email [advising] us to not speak with students,” Vallera said.

After multiple attempts by The Chronicle, Shiff was not made available for comment.

Rachel Hentrich, a senior fashion studies major who helped organize the meeting, said she was outraged about the email and called it an “intimidation tactic.”

“If [the administration] thinks that’s going to make us be quiet, this is not going away,” Hentrich said. “Students are angry about the curriculum changes, [the administration] not giving information and people beating around the bush.”

According to a Sept. 30 email, Dean of Fine and Performing Arts Onye Ozuzu will be holding an open forum with students, separate from faculty, on Oct. 4. A memo informing students the BFA application is now open was attached to the email.

Many students and faculty are willing to gather the research and data necessary to stop the proposed curriculum from moving forward, according to Vallera.

“There’s going to be a petition and, hopefully, a quick response from the provost, [Stan Wearden], saying, ‘Yes, let’s agree to stop this,” Vallera said. “If not, we’ll take the next steps.”

Hentrich said the meeting provided students the clarification needed to push action like a petition forward, since many students and faculty in the department appear to be upset.

She added that students will draft a list of questions and requests for administration, including what their degrees will be worth after graduation and what research the administration has to show the curriculum change is needed.

Sophomore fashion studies major Kirin Ng said she left the meeting feeling confident on how to move forward.

 “It gives me hope for trying to change things,” Ng said.