AIP officials sweep interior design coercion under the [designer] rug.
In a letter responding to multiple requests from the Interior Design Protection Council (IDPC) requesting action on an inappropriate assignment, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP) has indicated that they consider the matter resolved and are not open to further discussion.
At issue is instructor Laura Musulin’s extra credit assignment entitled “IDLCPA Support” in which she offered to award students 20 extra points if they provided proof that they’d lobbied legislators to support Pennsylvania HB 1521, a bill to license interior designers that is currently before the House. “It is totally unethical for a teacher to use such heavy-handed intimidation to influence impressionable students into supporting their own personal political agenda, in this case to support licensure proposed by the Interior Design Legislative Coalition of Pennsylvania on whose board Musulin sits.” said Patti Morrow, executive director of IDPC, “especially since no alternatives were offered, nor any information provided on the negative implication such legislation could have.”
Morrow, who first broke the story on June 11th, has made repeated attempts to persuade AIP administration that swift and corrective action to educate students about the improper assignment should be initiated by the school. Under pressure from Morrow and others, AIP President George Pry finally admitted the “nature of the extra-credit assignment offered is inappropriate,” but according to students, not a word on this issue has been mentioned to them. “It is of paramount importance that these students be issued an apology and an explanation of exactly why Ms. Musulin’s actions were inappropriate,” added Morrow.
Public reaction has been nothing short of outrage. “This represents a gross perversion of the education system, the students’ grading process, and general tenets of intellectual freedom,” commented Bill Barrett, executive director of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. “Whether you support or oppose such legislation, no one should be using students’ grades to generate support for a proposed law. Students should be encouraged to investigate the issue from all sides and make up their own minds. In this case, they were not. They were bribed.”
Kelly Spewock, AIP Interior Design Department Chair, initially responded to the complaint, stating, “Students had the opportunity to research and evaluate opposing views.” However, according to Johnny Matia, a student in Musulin’s class, that assignment was only offered a week after the controversy exploded, and was never formally announced by Musulin, but just quietly posted on the school’s student server a few days before the semester ended. “At the very least, this certainly gives the appearance of a cover-up,” claimed Morrow.
President Pry contends that the matter has been “sufficiently investigated, addressed and resolved.” Morrow disagrees. “Since the students have not been addressed, and until such time as they are made aware of Ms. Musulin’s impropriety, the matter is most definitely not resolved.”
A request has been made for Barrett and Morrow to jointly address AIP students on October 14th. To-date, AIP has not responded.
“We’ve known for a while that student indoctrination was occurring,” added Morrow. “We are just beginning to see how blatant and widespread it is, and we are considering launching a major nationwide investigation. This could prove to be the proverbial Pandora’s box of interior design regulation.”
IDPC Letter to AIP 06-15-09: http://www.idpcinfo.org/IDPC_to_Pry-AIP_061509.pdf
IDPC Letter to AIP 06-17-09: http://www.idpcinfo.org/IDPC_to_Pry-Spewock_061709.pdf
IDPC Letter to AIP 06-19-09: http://www.idpcinfo.org/IDPC_to_Pry-Spewock_061909.pdf
AIP Unethical Assignment: http://www.idpcinfo.org/AIP_Extra_Credit.pdf