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SFAI Still Struggling Over Fired Faculty
by Tom Mayer
Student Organanizer Jeremy Menzies works a Bolex, in front of the iconic SFAI tower. photo: CineSource
"In early 2009, the San Francisco Art Institute [SFAI] administration announced plans to layoff about 25% of tenured faculty," student activist Jeremy Menzies said, (see CS Apr09) "The affected faculty had taught at SFAI between 10 and 31 years."
For most of a year, the SFAI student action group co-led by Menzies (now an alumnus), have been seeking the reinstatement of the dismissed faculty as well as working to protect tenure and academic freedom, in general, at SFAI. Alas, the SFAI administration is not playing ball - indeed, it is using student tuition money in their legal fight.
When the Administration announced its layoffs in the midst of a budget surplus and a push to build an expensive new School of Design, students and alumni organized to protest these questionable plans. In May 2009, at their final meeting of the academic year with the SFAI Board of Trustees, students presented a petition and made a statement in support of the professors and continuing quality education at SFAI.
''Our statement and presentation were met with an air of indifference and all but dismissal," continued Menzies. "In May 2009, a Grievance Review Committee determined that the plan to layoff faculty violated the faculty contract in multiple ways and recommended that the layoffs be rescinded. But the Administration refused the unanimous recommendation.''
The faculty layoffs took effect in August 2009, yet the struggle that the faculty members would face had barely begun. They must now pursue justice and their jobs at arbitration, which will begin this spring and needs your help. See the SFAI Student Action blog at
. There will also be a benefit screening of faculty work in LA, Thursday, May 6 at 8 pm, at Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N. Alvarado Street.
Although SFAI has seen fiduciary trouble over the years, and the current administration has admirably done much to alleviate that, the students don't think it should come at the price of violating the institution's traditions. Many of the tenured faculty have contributed greatly to the development of artists in the film and video. Many SFAI alums have gone on to become successful filmmakers, like Frazer Bradshaw writer/director of "Everything Strange and New," as well as artists, educators and curators.
Indeed, for many who studied at SFAI, Janis Crystal Lipzin became a strong mentor and role model. As an artist committed to alternative filmmaking, she has created work that explores personal, political and environmental issues. The Echo Park program features her newest work, a handmade Super-8/digital hybrid entitled "De Luce 1: Vegetare," as well as a decade's worth of material by SFAI alumni.
Proceeds from the program will be donated to the SFAI Faculty Union's defense fund to assist their struggle against unjust layoffs, including Ms. Lipzin. For more info, see:
Posted on May 11, 2010 - 12:20 AM