The rules of the telephone game are simple.
Everyone sits in a circle. You whisper a message to your neighbor, they whisper it forward. The message becomes diluted and convoluted, changing as it goes. It becomes a game of “he said,” “she said,” “they said.”
It’s a game Max Shangle doesn’t want Ball State University’s School of Art to keep playing.
“I can’t play telephone, I don’t want you to either,” Shangle, the interim director of the School of Art, said to a group of students March 27 during a meeting addressing coming changes to the program.
The meeting, hosted by professors of the College of Fine Arts, took place in room 225 in the Arts and Journalism building. A change has been confirmed and will be implemented starting with class registration for the fall 2023 semester.
Stacked classes will no longer be offered by the College of Fine Arts.
The strategy behind stacked classes, also called “taught with” courses, is to provide a semester of education to multiple classes.
The Ball State Daily News reached out to Academic Advising and the office of the College of Fine Arts to clarify what a stacked class is and the university policy surrounding it. Both offices directed The Daily News to Shangle. The Daily News visited Shangle’s office twice in person, as well as sent additional emails. Shangle said he could not provide answers to The Daily News’ questions by deadline.
Some students in the crowd voiced their fear this could affect their four year graduation plan, lead to a “watered-down education” and a decrease in the quality of their degree.
“Stagnant curriculum is unhealthy,” Shangle said when asked about the choice to change the current course set up.
“Change is inevitable,” Michael Lorsung, a sculpture professor, said. However, he “feels the changes are not in the best interest of students.”
During Monday’s meeting, Shangle began answering student questions and addressing concerns. In response to criticism about the dissolution of stacked classes, Shangle suggested a substitution during the meeting and gathering; independent studies will now take the place of stacked classes.
“The plan to reduce the number of instances of taught with courses is to bring the unit into Faculty Professional and Personnel Handbook policy alignment and to honor both the intention and widely held institutional practice of taught with courses,” Shangle said in an emailed statement addressing students. “Utilizing taught with courses as a means to address under-enrolled undergraduate courses in a single unit is NOT in alignment with the policy, nor is it in alignment with the intention or the widely held institutional practice. For reference, the School of Art is the only unit on campus that consistently utilizes taught with courses for these purposes.”
The Daily News reached out to Academic Advising and the office of the College of Fine Arts to clarify what an independent study class is and ask how frequently they are used as a course. Both offices directed us to Shangle, who said he could not answer The Daily News’ questions by deadline.
"It's basically not the same quality [of education] ... It's like they don't want to admit they're understaffed,” Hannah Schneider, third-year visual communications major, said about her understanding of independent study courses.
Schneider is also a representative of the David Owsley Museum of Art (DOMA) on the Dean’s Advisory Council. The Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Fine Arts brings together two representatives from theatre, fine arts and DOMA departments. They help make decisions in the College of Fine Arts that affect students.
Schneider said she never received any information as a representative on any of the changes in the School of Fine Arts that have been proposed, especially the choice to remove stacked classes.
“I think these changes stunt the growth of current and future students,” Hana Spradlin, third-year intermedia arts major, said in response to interview questions over email. “As for substitutes for classes I think that it is unfair for us students to have to choose a class that wasn’t designed for the content that was intended in the classes we were actually supposed to take. I feel as though it is an excuse for the loss of credits, not necessarily the loss of experience that alumni or upperclassmen have gotten, or even that other institutions could offer.”
The Daily News reached out to representatives from the dean of the College of Fine Arts, Seth Beckman, to ask why the Dean’s Advisory Council was not included in the conversation. The representative referred the DN to the statements Shangle made the day prior, which did not address the matter. The DN also reached out to Shangle, but he said he could not answer The Daily News’ questions by deadline.
At the March 27 meeting, staff informed students of a proposal Shangle created.
The proposal would categorize two options, 2D and 3D art, instead of seven concentrations in the major. The proposal went to the College Curriculum Committee and School Curriculum Committee regarding Ball State’s School of Art.
The proposal was not approved. It had been in the works on and off since November 2022, Shangle said over a phone call.
“I want to affirm that we have not eliminated any courses or areas of study in the School of Art. Rather what you see are some changes in course schedule for the fall 2023 semester, including deviations from when courses have been taught in academic years,” Shangle said in an email statement to students of the School of Art.
On March 28, a gathering took place in front of the administrative offices of the School of Art, organized by Spradlin.
Originally, Spradlin set up a small meeting with Shangle to address concerns, hoping other students would come to offer support, but once news circulated through social media, the meeting became much bigger than anticipated.
Students came with questions, comments and concerns for the administration. Some students brought signs saying, “You can’t reduce the tradition” and “Remember your roots,” referring to the current concentrations of the school.
Shangle addressed the concerns of those in attendance, as did the associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and associate professor of Dance, Christie Zimmerman.
A major concern to those who participated was the lack of communication from the administration to teaching faculty and students in the school. Students proposed the idea of creating a Canvas page for the school where announcements like the choice to remove stacked classes could be shared. Shangle said he will look into the idea.
Students and faculty present at both the March 27 town hall and the March 28 gathering asked about creating a student advisory committee for the School of Art. Student advisory committees exist for other schools, such as Theatre and within the College of Science and Humanities.
A student advisory committee did exist in the School of Art at one point, however, Shangle has said multiple times the advisory committee has never existed since he took on the position in July 2022.
Shangle said he is open to starting one again if students are interested.
Students in attendance at both events were also concerned about the lack of clarity in scheduling for the upcoming semester, as well as the continuation of their academic career. Shangle and Zimmerman urged students to discuss these concerns with their advisers.
Students also voiced interest that their academic advisers were not well-versed in the educational plan of art students.
“To be clear, advisors are not assigned by unit, they are assigned by caseload,” Zimmerman said during the gathering. “What you all have the benefit of is one academic adviser who only advises School of Art students, and because of the number of School of Art students, there are other advisors who can pick up some of that case[load].”
Shangle and Zimmerman told students they will be having meetings in the coming days with each concentration to ask for input on what classes are needed and how they can support the concentrations.
“We hope to offer some continued conversations by student cohort and/or concentration in the coming days and weeks, and once I have had a chance to organize these with our School of Art advising team, I will be back in touch to let you know the details,” Shangle said in an email statement to students.
Shangle and Zimmerman told students with additional concerns to reach out to them for one-on-one meetings.
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