Speaking Out

The following letter, accompanied by a petition of 178 signatures, was sent to President Rodin and to Dean Gary Hack, and submitted to Almanac for publication. Dean Hack responds below.--Ed.

Petition in Fine Arts

We have been informed recently that Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair Julie Saecker Schneider has been denied further consideration for a tenure track at the University of Pennsylvania. We are writing on behalf of all students enrolled in fine arts classes, to express our support for the continued presence of Professor Schneider as both teacher and administrator in the department of fine arts.

In the past four years, we have watched a virtually non-existent undergraduate curriculum flourish into the vital, rigorous and nationally ranked fine arts program that it is today. Professor Schneider's leadership and foresight has been a driving force that continues to attract both prospective and current students to the department.

In the classroom, she has elevated basic studio curricula to an academically challenging and engaging level. Professor Schneider has brought a rigorous structure to the curriculum, informing formal concerns with historical context. Her classes are never an elective to be taken with ease. Her charismatic way, meticulous organization and demand for articulation has set a new standard for making art which was not expected of undergraduate students in the past. Professor Schneider motivates us to question and investigate our processes and intentions as students of art, and as artists. This has set the tone for students and faculty alike.

In her capacity as the Undergraduate Chair, Julie's attentiveness has won her the unanimous love and respect of the student body. When she is not teaching, you can always find Julie in her office, visited constantly by students and faculty seeking academic and personal advice. Whether for registration guidance or post-graduate and summer opportunities, Julie is the very first person we choose to consult for an honest and insightful critique.

Julie's work and philosophy as an artist have inspired us to pursue our ideas to their end. Her process and aesthetic have been exemplary models of determination, refinement and follow-through. Her continued dedication to follow her unique vision, despite current formal or philosophical trends in the art world, brings diversity to the department and reminds us to strive for our individual visions.

We believe that Julie Schneider is who we need to ensure the future growth of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Pennsylvania. We are certain that there is nothing more essential to the department than Julie's continued presence as an administrator, teacher and artist. Finally, attached please find signatures of students from various fine arts classes in support of this letter.

--Diana Falchuk, Fine Arts Minor , C '99

-- Hye Yong Min, Fine Arts Major, CGS

The Dean's Response [see letter above]

Dear Ms. Falchuk, Ms. Min, and other students,

I cannot agree more: Professor Julie Schneider has done a remarkable job of building the scope and quality of our undergraduate fine arts major. Being ranked in the top 10 nationally, for the first time, speaks to all she has accomplished. And she is a valued colleague and member of our faculty.

The tenure review committee found, however, that there was not sufficient agreement on the artistic merit and influence of her personal work to support a recommendation for permanent tenure. It is important that permanent faculty be seen as leaders in their field of work, as judged by their peers in the academic world and beyond.

Professor Schneider will be with us through next year, when we will dedicate new space for our undergraduate fine arts activities in Skinner Hall, a project which she has worked tirelessly to help us realize. We will be discussing over the next few months other ways that she might continue to provide leadership to our efforts beyond her current appointment.

--Gary Hack, Dean, Graduate School of Fine Arts

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated.--Ed.

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 29, April 20, 1999