June 14, 2023

Commitment to Faculty as we Strengthen ArtCenter College of Design for the Future

The following opinion piece was published by Pasadena Now on June 14, 2023.

By Karen Hofmann, president, ArtCenter College of Design

During its nearly hundred-year history, ArtCenter College of Design has continued to grow and evolve as one of the country’s preeminent schools of art and design. This willingness to adapt and continually build upon our strengths has been key to our success. Our staff and faculty are at the very heart of the ongoing excellence that we offer our students at ArtCenter.

It is for this reason that we accepted the unionization of our faculty last year with a spirit of cooperation. When we began negotiations for our first-ever bargaining agreement in November it was with the mindset that these were our colleagues and friends and that we could work together to achieve a contract that would benefit our faculty while being fair and sustainable for our entire organization.

First contracts are no easy process. Every detail must be defined, discussed, negotiated, agreed upon and ultimately drafted in mutually agreeable language. Typically, first-time union contracts take a year or more to achieve. Our goal was, and is, to work as expeditiously as possible to achieve a Collective Bargaining Agreement and move forward together in the work we do every day. We meet approximately every other week, which gives us just enough time in between to review proposals and counterproposals, run numbers, consult our subject matter experts and more. It is a pace that keeps us working through weekends, which we are committed to doing, to bring us to resolution. Not once have we cancelled or refused to sit down with our faculty union.

It is worth noting that currently the College is waiting on the Union’s response to more than ten proposals or counterproposals. We agree that our faculty workloads and compensation should be on par with our peers and we have presented objective, data-driven comparisons that informed our offers to achieve this. We want to improve our faculty experience, and we aim do so in a way that benefits our students and educational programs and ensures a healthy future for the College.

Our ongoing commitment to our faculty includes numerous improvements created through shared governance to strengthen our Faculty Council, create an equitable salary grid, title process, and a more formalized review process, with direct faculty input. During the pandemic, we prioritized faculty jobs during a time when our staff had to be furloughed. In the last year, we made every effort to make up for pandemic-era delays in review procedures. And most recently, we have introduced a realignment that provides leadership opportunities for faculty that previously did not exist. We recognize the value of our faculty on every level.

Many assertions in the June 13 Guest Opinion about our ArtCenter union negotiations were not factual, nor did they reflect the leadership team’s ongoing commitment to our students, faculty and staff.

Our students and alumni, and indeed our entire community, can be assured that we will work tirelessly to achieve a fair contract as we provide the best possible education for our students and serve as responsible stewards of ArtCenter’s future.

As an alumnus, teacher, department chair, provost and now president, I’m deeply committed to shepherding and protecting the magic that is ArtCenter College of Design as we adapt to the challenges facing higher education.

Karen Hofmann, President, ArtCenter College of Design