Between a prof and a hard place

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By Matt Kwong

Fighting between architecture faculty members is so bad that it’s affecting academic performance, students in the program claim.

“[The arguing] does get in the way of learning,” said Jeff Sarko, a third-year architecture student. Another student — one of many who felt the fighting was a problem, but was afraid to provide a name — said relations between professors have soured so much that he has considered transferring to a different program.

Sarko said the feuds and general division between professors has made it difficult to satisfy conflicting expectations on projects.

“One of our professors was kind of bashing another,” he said. “He gave us a project and one of our profs was bashing it, saying, ‘this is not detailed enough, I don’t know how you’ll compete this.’ It just makes things confusing.”

The confusion has hurt students academically — specifically during presentations, when they are being evaluated by two feuding profs.

“You don’t know what to go by,” Sarko said. “It’s one person against another.”

Students say there have been incidents when marks have dropped by a full letter-grade on assignments because senior professors have disagreed with newer professors’ marking schemes.

While most arguments occur outside the classroom, some have boiled over in the presence of students.

“one [professor] just flipped out,” a first-year student said. “We [were] up in the studio working and the profs [were] having their own meeting…every other word was ‘fucking!’”

the bickering has escalated to the point that some students are losing respect for their instructors.

“A lot of the faculty act like children,” said a recent graduate of the program. “I’ve watched thesis presentations and one professor will tell another to ‘shut up.’”

A member of last year’s architecture course union said the feud become more apparent as he became more involved in the program.

“I think they argue just for the sake of winning the battle, not for the betterment of the program,” he said.

It has been speculated that the tension between instructors is the result of a difference in teaching philosophies.

“[In architecture] you have practitioners versus people who are, let’s say, ‘chatting’ about architecture,” said Edward Wojs, the first-year coordinator for the program. “[But] you really can’t learn architecture by reading books and that may be where the bickering is [coming from].”

Wojs said the architecture school should be primatily studio-based, but admits not everyone in his faculty agrees.

He said there is a rift between the faculty who have a background in architecture and those who have a background in engineering.

“Some of [the instructors] have no relation to architecture at all — they’re engineers,” Wojs said. “I mean there’s respect there, but it makes things quite different.”

Eric Shelton, a 2003 architecture grad, said faculty arguments often interfered with time that could have been spent improving the program.

“It’s apparent to me that they’re fucking over the whole program to get back at each other,” Shelton said.

He said one of the most contentious issues among faculty at the last departmental council meeting was over the improvement of the school facilities.

Professors argued over the faculty’s workshop, which is the area in the architecture building where students work on model structures.

“There’s a camp that believes there should be a workshop and another that believes there shouldn’t be a workshop, but you can tell [the arguments] pertains to just getting back at someone else,” he said.

Bob Greenberg, a former architecture professor, said this practical-theoretical debate was going on when he instructed at Ryerson from 1971 to 1999, but nothing ever escalated to the degree students are describing now.

George Kapelos, the chair of the school of architecture decline to comment on the situation.

— With files from Allison Jones

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