New School of Art is Fair Dinkum

On Friday, the 31st of May a meeting was called at the School of Art (SOA).

The meeting was called because SOA is undergoing budget cuts. This is because of changes in the way funding is distributed within the ANU. It is not the only School within the ANU to have to manage such budget constraints. However, implying it may go the way of the School of Music is simply unjustified speculation.

For those who attended the meeting, they were witness to an animated Dr Denise Ferris, telling the world how it is.

Dr Ferris, the newly appointed Head of the SOA, explained the current budget situation. Responding to growing concerns and misinformation over the SOA’s future, Dr Ferris dislodged the dramatic flight of rumours with a bit of realism.

I have attended many meetings to do with the future of ANU. This meeting was a refreshing change from the last consultation with the hierarchy. The big wigs would sweep through to conciliate the faculty and students. During the library amalgamations, loss of staff and funding cuts, there was always a multitude of questions for them to address.

When Dr Ferris ended her delivery, she opened the floor up to questions.

The response she received was resounding silence.

We all took a moment to consider her words; decided we had no questions so instead answered with an ovation. We applauded that day as we were left with no doubts as to the intentions of our new Head. This meeting clearly demonstrated that Dr Ferris is a woman who knows the Art School, who knows the situation and will carry us into a future with measured changes at the School.

Dr Ferris reasonably told us how the perpetuations of an assumption, particularly a false one, could only further inflame an undesirable situation. We understand that the SOA budget is subject to constraints, just as other Schools are. The School does need to reduce spending on things such as the sessional lecturing budget. All the information regarding budget changes is accessible through the ANU’s intranet system; available for anyone in search of an informed opinion on the upcoming changes within ANU. (I accessed this information through the CASS homepage, find ‘Intranet,’ bottom left, and then find ‘College Budget’.)

Dr Ferris spoke of the budgets effects while highlighting the necessity of maintaining quality teaching and thus learning outcomes. She gave assurance that whilst there will be some adjustments, with possible changes to some course curriculums, the SOA will continue to provide excellent learning possibilities across all current areas of artistic endeavours. She ensured that we as students and staff would be informed about decisions that will affect the whole School.

Why do we treat the ideas of change with such disdain? What we strive for at the SOA is to create something new. ‘New’ does not necessarily mean original, but it does not mean derivative either. We wish to articulate our ideas artistically in order to communicate. What we need most in this university are peers who can express themselves to help each other strive for a better future. The SOA is not interested in déjà vu situations. Instead I would apply the Aussie declaration of ‘fair dinkum!’ to the new appointment of Dr Ferris as the Head of the SOA. Together we can face the challenges.

I urge you to discard and refute doubts fuelled by unsubstantiated rumours. Welcome the new intonations that Dr Ferris brings with her to the role of Head of the School of Art.

Caitlin Kozman is a Photomedia student currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Australian National University.

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