By Jada Butler
Assistant News Editor
The College of Arts, Communications, and Design is searching for a new dean to replace former Dean Noel Zahler, who left the university in August 2016, after four years in the position. Christine Kerr, a professor in the art department and the director of the art therapy program, has been acting as the interim dean of CACD since Zahler left.
The CACD search committee, composed of professors and administrators, has chosen four finalists for the permanent dean position. The four final candidates have visited campus over the past several weeks to interview and meet with faculty, students and administrators.
The candidates, Jeff Bellantoni, vice president of academic affairs at Ringling College of Art and Design; Steven Breese, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Southern Connecticut State University; Richard Karpen, Director of the School of Music at the University of Washington; and Christine Kerr, Interim Dean of CACD, professor in the art department and director of art therapy program at LIU Post, met with students to answer questions about some of the core issues students see within their programs.
At the student sessions, multiple students voiced concerns about accessibility, specifically pointing fingers at the Post academic advisors, or Promise Coaches, that place non-major students into the classes for major students.
“Their job is to know their students and know what to put them in,” Steven Breese said. “[I would] screen classes and boot out those who don’t need it.” Breese, if selected, would repair the lack of communication between advisors and specific colleges.
Another issue students raised is funding, or lack thereof, for mandatory programs and events such as dance performances, Broadway shows, and art exhibits. Even with student-organized fundraisers, students are still “paying out of pocket” an estimated extra $400, participants at the forums said.
Breese promised to find other ways to fund programs. Richard Karpen, however, said that he would take a different approach. “If there is not enough money to do everything, [then] we shouldn’t be doing everything,” Karpen said. Instead of spreading the opportunities thin, more attention, he said, should be paid to more important areas.
Students raised the issue of scholarship funding for upperclassmen, saying that they are scarce. Most of the money goes into recruitment for incoming freshmen, students said.
Bellantoni proposed a solution. If selected for the position, Bellantoni will attempt to secure a private donor and fundraise for grants and scholarships, rather than “pull from an existing budget that is already tight.”
A number of the buildings and facilities used by CACD students are old and outdated, students said. According the theater and music majors, the Little Theater and Fine Arts buildings have mold, pests, and heating problems. “There’s a list,” Kerr responded. “You have to make a wish list and a reality list and then take from what’s in between,” Kerr said. There is a plan to make the buildings more “open and user friendly’ by reconstructing the insides, she said.
Students in the art department raised the issue of the Steinberg Museum of Art, which relocated from Hillwood Commons to the basement of the library when the bookstore moved into its old space before the fall 2016 semester. Susan Kelly, Laura Sweeney, and Samantha Hofsiss, graduate students in fine arts, expressed their dissatisfaction with the move. “There is no space, [the space] is unfit, and the walls need to be painted a different color than orange,” Kelly said.
“Tell me what you need,” Kerr said. Kerr, who has been a professor at LIU Post for over 17 years, is confident that if given the position, she can get things done. “You just have to keep reminding them that you’re here,” she said.
Despite the considerable amount of issues students raised with the CACD dean candidates, they agreed that in each department, the faculty are the strongest points in keeping the balance between the pros and cons. Students were interested in how the Dean can make the arts at Post larger, but maintain the quality of the existing staff.
“[We have to] add faculty and add facilities to create a more diverse learning experience,” Breese said. There needs to be a balanced ratio between faculty and students. With a background as an actor, Breese explained that a “healthy competitiveness” is necessary to grow as actors, dancers, and artists.
Karpen, a composer who has taught artists of all genres, proposed students take a more “experimental” approach to expand the arts. Bellantoni agreed, advocating for students to feel “immersed in the arts,” by getting different departments to interact with one another.
The College of Arts, Communications, and Design students were pleased to have the opportunity to be heard and address their concerns with the prospective dean candidates. At each presentation, they stressed how important it is to let students be heard.