Tuesday, November 22, 2011

YSDN Renewal

I realize it has been fully two months since YSDN met at Liberty Cafe, but I have finally put together my notes. I am sorry for the delay, I am a horrible secretary, but they do keep us busy...

I have divided the comments made into categories, as the discussion was wide-ranging and informative. Where to go from here? I have no idea what use or changes the program might be encouraged to make from all this, but I will pursue it -- primarily through the curriculum committee, but outside of that busy body as seems helpful.

Brian Donnelly

Meeting at Victory Café
2011.SEPT.30 — Issues raised at the Renewal meeting

The meeting was held in a crowded and noisy bar in Mirvish Village, with approximately 30 people, plus Brian D and Ed as faculty. There was a large number of recent grads in attendance (possibly one-third to half of the total), as well as representative of all levels except first year.

Cultural issues
Move the program into a shared space downtown; York and Sheridan are
very distinct and separate cultures
Four years not unified, don’t share activities, DSA can’t bridge them
Speaker series; program-wide exhibitions, assemblies, parties, events;
            DesignThinking is good for mixing different years
Bring alumni back into program more

Sharing Information
Crowdsourcing useful information from students on all related topics, such as events and supplies, notice of critique sessions etc., and circulating via a student website
Serve DSA website on YSDN site; use work studies to build these
Links to available scholarships, more outside links needed
More shared critiques outside of class: show work, talk design in social atmosphere,
            Share goals, not just work

Administrative issues
Administration, Executive Committee available for meetings; most students don’t know who they are or what they do: “What does the Chair do? Who is it?”
“Does YSDN have policies?”
No one feels involved or consulted, or that they can have input into any changes
Webpage only consulted for tracking credits; handbook not useful, not read
Need for transparency, consultation on changes and processes
Little communication: profs in classes not the best way to disseminate information;
            Too many central e-mails (office distribution) often ignored
Paying for a mandatory 36 credits “screws over students;”
many take year off to raise money
Can’t take Sheridan courses as elective; York Visual Art courses always full
Not fully prepared for business, need very practical understanding of use of marketing, psychology, behavioural economics, and research in professional context

Curriculum issues
Course descriptions are terrible, inaccurate, confusing; need to really sell the courses
Who is teaching which course? Need to know in advance
Survey of students re: desired courses for next year had to be printed out and handed in (vs. online response); results not announced, no feedback on effectiveness
Expand skills taught / delivery, use charrettes, contract projects in real world, etc.
Workshop could be better linked to second year (Research, i.e.?)
Internship should have part-time option, 100 hours over summer;
3 weeks full-time blocks enrolment in summer courses
Internship rules being subverted by some students, not equal requirements
Students not sure whether to be specialists or generalists; program pushes both
Grad show useful? Or a “slave market;” putting it together only useful thing about it
A final year conference, smaller exhibition venues; more dispersed promotion
Grad show branding is the main identity for grads: “I was in the ‘Splice’ year”

The following is a list of issues previously identified by students, which was handed out and served as an ‘agenda’ of sorts for the Sept. 230 meeting:

Summary of key themes:
• Two campuses, travel, scheduling, cost are problems / move downtown Toronto
• Need a heart, center, free area for the program (a local bar?)
• Too sterile, need stimulating environment (and more outlets in labs)
• Laptop-based program, labs more humanely functional

• Too busy, “your life is officially over”
• Richness outside classes / speakers, trips, exhibitions
• Events for entire program: to start the school year, know each other, staff and faculty

Course content
• Student workload too heavy, controlled / time to develop independently, freedom
• More work by hand, off-computer
• Software support (‘Adobe 101’)

• Student reps, liaison on committees / actively seek greater input
• Student counselor: peer mentor, RGD and alumni contact
• Interactive YSDN website, 2-way communication
• Resources list for YSDN, including materials, events, entertainment, media 


  1. Hi! 2nd year YSDN student here,
    I didn't get a chance to attend the renewal discussion this year, but I'm really glad it happened and I really hope something positive comes out of it. I think a lot of what was said can be encompassed by one central idea: we're not getting enough for the tuition we pay, which is too high. And as for the tuition itself, the transparency idea with administration becomes crucial when talking about money. To be paying almost $3000 more than the average university tuition should warrant a complete cost breakdown, in a pretty info graphic chart if you want to get all designer-y about it. As an administration presiding over hundreds of students, much like the government, you cannot charge undisclosed taxes and not have an annual report of where the money is being spent. To be fair, every Canadian will still say they don't know what they're paying taxes for, but with us, I want to know exactly where that extra $3000 is going. Is it because we have all the expensive Macs in the lab? But wait, those were bought how many years ago? Shouldn't the overheard cost be going down over the years, not up? Is it because we are a special school onto itself and need to set up all our own infrastructure? Oh wait, we have all of York's infrastructure at our disposal, we're not OCAD who does it all on their own and has a $6000 tuition. Is it because we assured jobs out of the program? Only by rumour, and the supposed benefits of the grad show. I want answers, I want someone to be honest and tell it how it is. We're already paying it without knowing what it's for, what's the worst that could happen from us knowing? Also a downtown building would be AMAZING. York is not a pleasurable experience by any means, being one of the worst rated universities in the country.

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  3. (re-posted, wrong link)

    I would like to second the idea for greater transparency, although I suspect it would be unreasonable to ask for a tuition breakdown. Unfortunately universities receive funding from a number of different sources, including government subsidies, investments, etc. and it's pretty tough to directly correlate tuition dollars with a department's expenses. However, it might be possible to get access to financial statements relating to the program that would shed some light on total operating costs and tuition revenue. The department is integrated into the Fine Arts department at York, so I'm not sure how it all works -- or who, if anyone, would be willing to discuss that information.

    That being said, if you are really interested in pursuing this, you should look at Ontario's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90f31_e.htm). In 2006, the Ontario government decided to require educational institutions, including colleges and universities, to make records available to the public. This means that it's not really up to the university to decide what to make public, but rather Ontario’s Information and Privacy

    Budgetary departments may be exempt from the FIPPA, but it's worth a try, or at least a bit of research. For an example of such a request (unfortunately this is a British university which is subject to different laws, but it might be helpful) see: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/departmental_budgets_3

  4. I could not relate more to the problems addressed above. Almost every single problems the YSDN students are having were mentioned and the list is truly a solid one. I think i could speak for myself and for many others in YSDN that if these issues do get solved, the program would be a much stronger one where we could enjoy our education and expand on our creativity rather than being hassled by time and restrictions. Since I did not make it to the meeting, I felt strongly about commenting in support of solving the issues to make this program a better one for current and future students. After all, we are suppose to be the problem solvers, right? :)