Interior Design Protection Consulting

June 12, 2009

IDPC responds to AIP denial of heavy-handed influence

Thank you, Ms. Spewock, for your response (comment #10 posted with original article below) to the article “Coercion at a CIDA College”, clarifying that the Art Institute of Pittsburgh has not taken a position to support the latest proposed practice act in Pennsylvania and your commitment to informing students how to research so that they will be equipped to make informed decisions about important issues impacting their futures.  On that we agree.

However, it is clear that Ms. Musulin went far beyond inviting students to research this issue, and clearly did not adhere to your policy that “all extra-credit options are presented with equal consideration.”  Her extra credit assignment (click on this link to read: ) only offers the 20 additional points to those students who undertake lobbying in support of legislation.  In fact, the assignment is actually entitled “IDLCPA SUPPORT.” (emphasis added).  Nowhere on this assignment is there an opportunity to “research and evaluate opposing views” and according to the student in question, when Ms. Musulin was approached and asked for that opportunity, it was denied.  It is absolutely unethical to use this kind of intimidation and heavy-handed influence to push her personal political agenda!

I understand that subsequent to the publishing of our article, the concerned student has received an assignment to receive extra credit points.  Kindly provide the nature of the assignment, and whether or not the rest of the class also received an “equal opportunity” to do this assignment.  If this assignment was given only to the concerned student in a surreptitious manner, it would certainly give the appearance of impropriety – that of bribing his silence, which I’m sure you would not condone.  Unfortunately, under-the-radar techniques are the hallmark of the pro-regulation camp, and as the overseer of vulnerable students, you would obviously want to shield them from such tactics.

In addition, it is one thing for impressionable students to hear the facts about licensing (provided both sides are presented); it is totally another thing for them to be force-fed baseless propaganda.  The introductory section on the assignment in question contains the following inappropriate and blatantly false statements:

  • The bill now has a number and needs to move quickly through the House.  It is inappropriate to imply to students that a fair legislative procedure involves “shoving” a bill through the process.  Declaring it has to “move quickly” implies a deceptive practice whereby the other side will not have equal access to a fair hearing or due process.  Is that how we want our students to be first introduced to the legislature?  I think not.
  •  Only a registered design professional” may implement the IBC code.  This statement is absolutely false.  Again, students should hear the facts, not counterfeit propaganda.  Since Ms. Musulin is a board member of IDLCPA, she should certainly be aware that IDPC has written extensively on this issue, providing the actual language of the IBC, which contradicts Ms. Musulin’s and IDLCPA’s statements.  If Ms. Musulin wishes to cling to false information, that is her right, but allowing misinformation to be presented as fact certainly does not “present students with a clear understanding of the issue” in compliance with AIP’s mission. Click here for accurate information about the IBC:

Diametrically opposed to your statement of AIP’s position, Ms. Musulin DOES “wish to influence its students toward a particular “side” of the issue.” Manipulating her students and using them as pawns to accomplish her political objective is shameful and the national design community is outraged.   This information was sent out to approximately 30,000 designers throughout the country, which after the pass-through might well have exceeded 100,000 designers.  I’ve already received numerous emails from across the country about this situation and the AIP.  This is a serious matter, Ms. Spewock, that needs to be addressed head-on, and not with glossy platitudes about freedom of thought which don’t comport to the facts.  Ms. Musulin should be held accountable for her actions.

We appreciate your commitment to provide an excellent and fair learning environment at AIP and look forward to hearing that (1) this important issue has been resolved, and (2) it will not recur in the future.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me.  I would welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue on this issue.

Patti Morrow

Executive Director, IDPC


  1. Give them hell Patti from all of us who feel as you do.

    Comment by Michael — June 12, 2009 @ 3:55 pm |Reply

  2. Bravo to all who are standing firm I know how hard it is for those who do not follow the rest of the sheep but instead stand up for what is right.
    as a former AIP student many years ago I agree that everyone should have a choice. ASID has not done anything to provide tools or guidance or job searches for anyone in Arizona and our market is experiencing 44% layoffs in the A&D community.

    Comment by elizabeth Rosensteel — June 12, 2009 @ 3:59 pm |Reply

  3. I am a parent of two school/college age children. I am OUTRAGED to think our tuition or tax dollars are paying for this blatent abuse of aurthority for a political agenda. I am not naive, I understand subtle politics surfaces in lecture halls. This instructor wasn’t subtle. This is political/ academic extortion to students. A borderline student will certainly protect their GPA first! This instructor should be admonished!

    Comment by Barry Lane — June 12, 2009 @ 4:22 pm |Reply

  4. Patti–I must compliment you on your very articulate way of responding to the mis-statements and hazy “facts” presented by the people who are creating these issues. We are very fortunate to have a spokesperson like you who does such a great job of bringing the truth to light. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Cinda Borling — June 12, 2009 @ 4:23 pm |Reply

  5. It is wonderful to have someone like you fighting for this. I’m a young Interior “Decorator” (damn Florida) and cannot even get my business off the ground because of these laws. Just because we don’t want to throw away thousands of dollars doesn’t mean we aren’t as good as (or BETTER) than those who did. Clients seem to think that without the ASID letters on our resume, that we’re not as good- well we should make our own damn acronyms! Like, the NSIB- National Society of Interior Beautification, or ASBD- American Society of Better Designers…. Or something!
    Thanks again. Damn the man.

    Comment by Alix — June 12, 2009 @ 5:25 pm |Reply

  6. The allogations against this professor are concerning. If true, then this professor was rewarding students (clients of the school)with points, which would be used in determining a grade for that class, for lobbying for this specific poliitcal act. A student’s grade reflects their understanding of the subject matter. This extra credit does not necessary demonstrate a better understand of the material covered in class. Furthermore, students pay for credit hours, which means that income from the school was being used for lobbying efforts, which were being promoted by a paid faculty member of the school during regular work hours. In return for paying for the credit hours and taking on the lobbying efforts the students (client) were compensated with extra credit, which would influence their final grade. Students grades are used to discern their understanding of the subject matter and helps determine their ability to find employment. In this case the allegation is that part of the grade was influenced by the ability to receive a higher class score for partaking in political lobbying efforts. If this practice is allowed to happen in our educational system the value of the school and the education obtained at the school is greatly diminished.

    The allegations here are alarming not only in this particular case, but raises the concern that this is happening in all areas of higher education. It smacks of a typical pay-to-play scandal, just a smaller version.

    Additionally, if this is the type of behavior that is being encouraged in higher education it is no wonder we see scandals and corruption in our business and political worlds. The students learned how to play the game in college. Where are the ethics classes in these schools? What ethics does the faculty and the school inquestion have?

    This is a very concerning issue that I believe needs further investigation. The public needs to know whether or not this is a common occurance at this school and others.

    Comment by PMK — June 12, 2009 @ 6:21 pm |Reply

  7. It seems odd to see such “outrage” about encouraging students to support “raising the bar”. I’ve seen misleading statements on both sides of the argument.

    Comment by mike — June 13, 2009 @ 5:38 am |Reply

    • Factually speaking, Mike, your statement is the one that is misleading. Where do you find evidence to support your claim that anyone is outraged about students – or designers for that matter – who desire to “raise the bar?” If students want to work to enhance the profession, that is an admirable goal. But it is not a legitimate function of the legislature to provide government-sanctioned enhancement to a small handful of industry insiders while placing the majority of honest, hard-working designers at an unfair competitive disadvantage. They should consider adoption of a law only if the public health, welfare or safety compels it, which in this case, it clearly does not. The outrage originates from instructors who are coercing students to march in lock-step with their agenda to impose licensing on a profession that neither needs it or wants it. Licensing will be a detriment to students, but they are shielded from hearing those facts and bribed (through extra credits, etc.) to support a political agenda they really know little about. That, is outrageous.

      Would you kindly provide us with some of the misleading statements from the pro-freedom “side” that you refer to? IDPC has taken great pains to thoroughly research this issue, and if you feel we’ve published something that is factually, statistically or empirically inaccurate, please bring it to our attention so we can investigate it.

      Oh, and please don’t regurgitate the ridiculous false statements spewed by Susan Morgan, ASID President South Florida chapter, who said, “The Interior Design Protection Council [is] NOT interested in education and experience and [has] little regard for public safety.” She made that up. IDPC has always promoted our position as:

      • We fully support advanced education, good old-fashioned experience, AND private certification through organizations such NCIDQ, DSA, NKBA and others. Individually or collectively, those are all perfectly legitimate and effective avenues to becoming a better designer and can and should be used to gain a competitive marketing edge. What we do NOT support are government laws mandating the single-entry method into the field.

      • We have the highest regard for public safety. Licensing would add absolutely nothing to the protection of the public beyond that which is already in place (building inspectors, Certificate of Occupancy requirements, architects/engineers, fire marshals, construction code enforcement officials, consumer affairs actions, etc.). 12 government agencies have investigated the need for regulation of interior designers and all have concurred with our position, including the FTC.

      It’s clearly a sign of desperation when the pro-regulation faction, typified by Florida licensed designers, cannot come up with any real statements to rebut, and instead have to resort to fabricating information, or worse.

      I look forward to receiving your list of misleading statements made by IDPC or our allies.

      Comment by idpcinfo — June 13, 2009 @ 2:52 pm |Reply

  8. Reply to Mike – The outrage people are expressing has nothing to do with “raising the bar.” If teachers, students, or practitioners want better educated designers then we should all work to improve the quality of our high schools and colleges. Legislation does NOT raise the bar. Legislation comes after the fact. It is a certification and validation process. Legislation does not educate anyone.

    NO. The outrage here is because a teacher has coerced her students into supporting the PA legislation through an offer of extra credit. This was not a neutral offer – as in, investigate this issue and write about it. It was a simple proposition: support my political views and you’ll get extra credit. The teacher is clearly an advocate for this legislation and currently serves as a board member for the organization promoting the legislation.

    This represents a gross perversion of the education system, the students’ grading process, and general tenets of intellectual freedom. 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 form all sides and make up their own minds. In this case, they were not. They were bribed.

    Comment by Bill Barrett — June 13, 2009 @ 6:14 pm |Reply

  9. Cooruption is in many universities and at many levels. Ethics don’e seem to count any more when it comes to tentured administores at universities. I am a licenced interior designer with an MS and over 20 years experience. I am more qualified to teach in a design program than most tentured instructors. So, this issue with AIP does not suprise me in the least. There is no oversight to dept. chairs who hire instuctors. In my instance, the univeristy to which I applied, hired a person who does not have any design field experiece, nor are any of the degrees he has received in interior design, but was able to get NDICQ certified anyway. Doesn’t make any sense to me that the organizations and university programs that are supposed to be working for the betterment and professionalism of our field, do not care what the quality of education is for the students, they are just making sure they get their big paychecks.

    Comment by Starr Gobtop — June 13, 2009 @ 7:13 pm |Reply

  10. Interior Design Instructors are involved in this across the USA with ASID in support.

    ASID even gives out a Legislative Award to Students who get involved.

    In Massachusetts, the pro-legislation lobby is headed up by Rose Botti-Salitsky, head of the ID Department at Mount Ida College who always seems to have some of her students with her at the hearings to testify.

    This is totally self-serving by the ID Instructors. They feel that licensing will allow them to better market their schools thus enhancing their own careers. The only health, safety and welfare involved is the welfare of the ID Instructors.

    Comment by Designer 7 — June 13, 2009 @ 8:26 pm |Reply

  11. The more I read about this incident, the more I am infuriated. As a recent graduate, I was always given information supporting legislation, but not once did someone ever tell me what the cons were. In any issue, there are always some cons, but not with legislation. We were always told it would help our careers and distinguish us from the wanna-be designers. Luckily, I was able to form my own opinions, but when I raised them, my fellow students were in disbelief that I would speak out against the wonderful work of the IDLCPA. I am so glad there is now a voice that is fighting the legislature. The students need to know what the legislation will do because they will be affected by it most!

    Comment by Nicole Mitchell — June 15, 2009 @ 3:33 pm |Reply

  12. I can see how licensure could negatively affect those who can’t be licensed but I don’t see the negative impact on students. As a recent interior design graduate, I quickly got a job working with an NCIDQ certified designer and joined the IDEP program. I studied hard and passed my NCIDQ the first time around. NCIDQ was (and may still be) giving incentives to take the test, such as getting one part free if you take the other two at the same time. All in all, I paid a few hundred dollars for IDEP. Students, it’s really not that bad. There are lots of designers who have passed their NCIDQ and they are usually willing to help you do the same and some companies will pay for part of your exam. As for indentured servitude, I was not paid any less then than I am now. The hardest part in this economy is finding a job, but once you find a job, the certification process is not that bad. All I can go on is my personal experience, but I found certification to be important for me. Since Pennsylvania has adopted the International Building Code, I am not able to practice everything I learned to do in school.

    Comment by Aina — June 15, 2009 @ 9:43 pm |Reply

    • Congratulations, Aina, you are one of the lucky few who found a job working under one of the few licensed interior designers who could either afford to hire an intern, or who was willing to train a would-be competitor. You passed the NCIDQ and no one wants to diminish your accomplishments. You have every right to market yourself using these criteria, and if you get a job over someone who has entered the field through a different pathway, then kudos to you. You seem to have missed the entire point. Students should not be forced by the government to enter the field through ONE pathway. By eliminating all the other pathways to the field, you eliminate the majority of designers and/or students being able to practice. There is a ton of research in support of this fact. Please visit if you are interested in learning more.

      Your statement about the International Building Code prohibiting you from practicing is ABSOLUTLEY FALSE. IDLCPA has been using this as their new argument, since we’ve totally decimated their “health, safety and welfare” mantra. Click here for the truth about the IBC:

      Don’t believe everything IDLCPA tells you. Take the time to check out the facts for yourself. Good luck.

      Comment by idpcinfo — June 18, 2009 @ 10:59 pm |Reply

      • I have not missed the point – my point is that complaining about how hard the NCIDQ etc is, is silly because the process is not that bad and is similar for other professions. Why limit the potential of graduates and future graduates by discouraging them from this route? I have already read your article AND the International Building Code. Please reference Section 106.1, then carefully read the chapters pertaining to the interior envelope and note that since interior designers aren’t registered design professionals, we are not allowed to prepare construction documents and we are not allowed to practice the scope of services listed in the IBC. Interior design graduates of most programs are trained to practice part of that scope, of course excluding the building structural systems and exterior. As a student, why would I pay so much money for a bachelor’s degree only, knowing that I could only practice part of what I learned when I graduated? Had I known about this issue before starting school I might have taken a few decorating classes and called it a day! Why would anyone oppose legislation that enables us to actually practice what we’ve been trained to do? PS. Check out the NCIDQ website…there are plenty of routes to taking the exam, even for people that don’t have bachelor’s degrees.

        Comment by Aina — June 22, 2009 @ 5:36 pm |Reply

        • First, you DID miss the point of this article, which was about forcing students to support licensing.

          You obviously have your own agenda advocating the NCIDQ. These articles have not “complained” about the difficulty of the NCIDQ, but rather its relevance (or irrelevance in this case) and work experience criteria. Perhaps your views about the NCIDQ might be more germane in a blog discussion about the NCIDQ….

          Contrary to your assertion, it is licensing that limits the potential of graduates and practicing designers by imposing a single-entry method into field, not opposition to licensing. Regulations 101. I guess they don’t teach that at your school.

          Also, I would suggest that you re-read my article about the IBC, because you are quite mistaken in your analysis. The only services PA designers are not allowed to practice under the IBC are architectural services. If you desire to be an architect, then you should complete the schooling and examination required to be part of that field. Interior design is NOT interior architecture, no matter how much you or IDLCPA want to morph it into that.

          Lastly, to answer your question, the design community opposes legislation because it’s totally unnecessary. Interior designers are already able to fully practice interior design. If your school trained you to do interior architecture, then they should have prepared you to take the NCARB exam. We are not going to let a small interest group dictate how and if the majority practice, as you can see by all the bills we have defeated in recent years. If you are interested in learning more about the pro-freedom movement and all the factual, statistical and empirical reasons why we oppose regulation, please visit

          Comment by idpcinfo — June 22, 2009 @ 10:51 pm |Reply

  13. This article seems in itself totally one-sided. The institution seems to have reacted positively to the situation. No corporation or university is going to make public any admonishment of personnell. Maybe the best solution would be for someone here (I’m talking about you Patti) to make a speaking date at Ai Pittsburgh and give the cons of legislation. Ms. Spewock states she supports all sides of the argument. So, this seems like an open invitation. Who will rise to the challenge and actually do something!!! All we have here is whining by anonymous posters who have their own agendas. Now, if AiP denies this proposed guest lecture, then you have a real argument.

    Comment by Robert — June 16, 2009 @ 9:15 pm |Reply

    • Well, of course the article is one-sided, Robert! IDPC is totally committed to fighting interior design regulation and we make no effort to disguise it nor do we have a hidden agenda. Our point is that students should have equal access to both sides of such an important issue that will affect how (of if) they earn a living for the rest of their lives. They’ve not only been provided with one side, but it’s been presented in such a way that their grade was influenced by whether or not they chose to support their instructor’s personal agenda. That absolutely violates the basics of academic freedom and may even subject AIP to accreditation discipline.

      I disagree that the institution has reacted positively. What have they done to rectify the situation? As far as I know, nothing. I’ve written two fairly lengthy letters to President Pry, asking appropriate and legitimate questions, yet have received no answers, only platitudes.

      I do think your suggestion about seeking a speaking date at AIP is spot-on, and I intend to follow up on that.

      Comment by idpcinfo — June 18, 2009 @ 10:43 pm |Reply

  14. Tell me Ms. Gobtop or Ms. Morrow just how do you define “professionalism”?

    A perfect example of the anti-regulation’s self inflicted occupational conundrum. Professional status is not a birthright. You have to earn it and you have to prove it. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

    You also responded “We fully support advanced education…”
    Pray tell Ms. Morrow how do you define “advanced education”?

    You continue to denigrate the very systems that are in place to facilitate professional education and development because you are under the delusion that we are an evil cartel with the singular goal of world domination.

    That is hilarious. You eihter want to earn professional status and hence the right to call yourself a “professional interior designer” or you don’t. It’s a free country.

    Comment by Mike Dudek — June 22, 2009 @ 4:33 pm |Reply

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