Interior Design Protection Consulting

June 23, 2009

Student coercion swept under the [designer] rug

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:

IDPC Letter to AIP 06-17-09:

IDPC Letter to AIP 06-19-09:

AIP Unethical Assignment:




    Comment by Pamela JF — June 23, 2009 @ 1:22 am |Reply

  2. Patti, I am always impressed at how diligent you are. I have been attending the Art Institutes online program and I often see subtle influences about being a “licensed designer.” Even our textbooks promote the subject. As an older student with my own business I am able to take these with a grain of salt. I’m sure the younger students don’t.

    Comment by Carol M Cyr — June 23, 2009 @ 12:09 pm |Reply

  3. Hi Patti – I have a recent graduate of Washington State University working for me – and she told me that she was always being told at school to push this bill through – because if you did not graduate a 4 year Interior Design program you were not a “real” designer. She was also told that they had payed a price for 4 yrs to get this education and that someone should not call themselves a designer if they hadn’t graduated. This, I might add, is coming from a graduate who knows nothing about fabric, windows,paint, carpet or spatial planning. Oh, by the way, she was an “A” student!……..

    Comment by mary — June 23, 2009 @ 4:15 pm |Reply

  4. Dear Ms. Morrow:

    You have uncovered something concrete I knew to be brewing within Academic circles and I thank you ( as do my students ) for your due diligence!

    The ASID/IIDA agenda is very active here at Florida State, Palm Beach Community College and The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. In my personal dialogue with facility, staff and students state wide, they admit privately that the “three E’s” sound like a worthy plan but, in the real world, there is little substance or support from the Florida “so-called” professional community.

    My graduated and intern students have reported back to me their daunting experiences ( AHHH, the chilling stories I could tell of some “prominent” licensed interior design firms/principals ) speaks volumes to the hypocrisy and unethical conduct running rampant here in Florida! Simply stated, the system is broken.

    The time has come for authentic and enlightened minds to lead with honor and integrity, becoming positive role models where mentorship replaces manipulation AND true apprenticeship is valued over aggressive agenda. I believe every student should have creative choice and viable options when navigating their interior design career. There are many respectful paths, one of which may include the NCIDQ exam. However, my observation of mandated examination and rigid licensing serve only to stifle the creative spirit, flooding our field with good test takers and technicians but, rendering few, inherently balanced skill or talent worthy of the title:
    Interior Designer.

    Sincerely, RAJ
    Adjunct Professor
    Miami, Florida

    Comment by Addie Smith — June 23, 2009 @ 9:16 pm |Reply

  5. Hello,

    I am a Feng Shui consultant, as well as a Redesigner and Home Stager. I don’t want my ability to work wonders in my client’s homes suppressed by legislation. And I will always defer or refer a qualified interior designer when the client needs more than I can provide, such as remodeling, or adding openings, windows, skylights, etc.

    As a redesigner, I feel that carting away all of your old things and replacing them with new, even ‘green’ materials is actually not green at all! Reuse is the best way to recycle. And we have too much waste as it is. So, if I am not allowed to use the word design in my work, my efforts to help the planet are also affected!

    Good work Patti and IDPC!

    Comment by Matthew Chapman — June 24, 2009 @ 1:33 am |Reply

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