Well, it seems that trouble has been brewing in Yale-land. If you have been following Thomas's blog, then you know that he was pretty upset about a certain class he's taking. Unfortunately, word got around that someone was badmouthing the program and the entire first year class got a talking to.
In defense of the administration, it isn't appropriate to post such vehement spew on a public site like archinect. It belongs in a journal, to be looked back upon with the wisdom of hindsight many years form now. The "talking to" I just mentioned was actually more of an open forum; the TA asked everyone to just let it all out so that the school could gage the depth and seriousness of the complaints. The faculty actually does value our opinion, and are quick to organize meetings if contention boils over. They tweak and reshuffle the core curriculum pretty often, based on the needs and desires of the previous class. It's not a perfect system, but as a grad student at Yale I do feel exponentially more valued and respected than I did at my undergraduate institution.
Peter Eisenman is a great teacher. In fact, he's the most dedicated teacher in the advanced studio series, arriving for every class, and insisting that his students talk about their work with him over lunch. He and Emmanuel Petit (Mr. Uber Theory) are really phenomenal. They like to push their students to go beyond the call, and a lot of innovative work comes out as a result. Peter is very opinionated; it's a fact, and everyone knows what they're signing up for when they elect to take his studio.
Now, however one feels about Eisenman and his pedagogy, I think Thomas's pain deserves to be recognized. Everyone in this profession knows that school is a grind. Not only is the work load enormous, but critics seem to take pleasure in verbally slashing your project to bits. We all accept this. No one ever says, "Um, excuse me, you really shouldn't use the F-word to describe my model," or, "Saying that I don't deserve to be in this school because my section isn't shaded correctly is going a bit too far, don't you think?"
I recently told a friend about my current semester. I said that it was going really well; my critic is great and I seem to have a manageable work load for once in my academic life. She asked, what makes a critic great? I told her, well, it's someone who's whip-smart and can draw your best ideas out of you and not impose their own will over your work. It's also someone who's nice. She asked, you mean some of them are mean? Yeah. Mean how? I said, well, they'll tell you that your work is a waste of your time and theirs, that they have nothing to say to you, that you obviously don't "get it," that you need to start all over again, etc. She said, oh, you mean really mean.
That's right, folks, really mean.
Is this okay? It is constructive to have a review wherein the critics talk more to each other than to you, when they're trying to impress each other and could care less about your pathetic crap? When they purposefully obfuscate their criticism with jargon in order to amplify their own status in the eyes of their peers? Or when they're simply mean to you?
Architecture is a profession, and Yale is a professional school. I think, then, that everyone who teaches here should be asked to teach in a professional manner. That means being polite, being respectful, and doing your damn job -- which is to help me, not to further your own career. (Though if you can do both, huzzah for you!) I'm paying gobs of cash to be here, and I want to get something out of it. I want to get a lot out of it. I want to learn everything my teachers know. I do not want to listen to them squabble amongst themselves.
Overall, my experiences here have been good. Very good. My section critics have all been attentive and helpful, and my reviews have been like all reviews, hit and miss. There's no crisis here, but a pervading culture of one-up-man-ship and self-involvement that hurts students, wherever they may be. It's time to talk about it.