Objections to the Pratt Show Cancellation
The Pratt Show, since its creation over 30 years ago, has been a crucial part of the Pratt experience. One of the reasons many individuals choose to attend Pratt is due to the successful nature of the Pratt Show and its ability to offer opportunities for each senior class to connect with the design community throughout New York. These opportunities include: exposure to potential employers, freelance work, and even a place for parents to observe the hard work of students across multiple departments and finally reap the benefits of tuition costs. As a juried exhibition, the Pratt Show offers a prime example of the prestigious and talented work produced by its students school-wide in an appropriate environment for those attending the event to enjoy. Such attendants include individuals who donate money to the school, industry professionals, and prospective students.
In late January, an email was sent out by the Provost to the student body canceling the 2015 Pratt Show.
At this time, the undersigned call attention to the following arguments.
1) By not providing a show for the graduating class, other competing schools who offer senior shows have an advantage over Pratt’s graduating students in networking, employment, freelance opportunities, and even recruiting future design students who attend these shows in order to decide on their future place of study.
2) Pratt has recently introduced a Strategic Plan for 2012-2017 available to the public on their website. While many of the goals mentioned in the Strategic Plan fall directly in-line with the needs and desires of the Pratt student body, Pratt’s decision to cancel the Pratt Show deliberately contradicts the claims Pratt has made in writing. Specifically the goals to:
- “Link faculty and students to research, internship, and service opportunities”
- “Increase interaction and academic opportunities within Pratt and beyond its gates”
- “Educate for a global future, raise Pratt’s profile, enhance professional development, and embrace new ideas”
- As well as promote “inter-disciplinary collaboration.”
3) The last day for students to obtain a 100% tuition refund was scheduled for January 20, 2015. However, the email from the Provost announcing the cancellation of the Pratt Show was sent to the student body the following day, January 21. The reason these dates are important is a matter of time and intent. It is reasonable to assume that such an impactful decision as the cancellation of the Pratt Show would have taken time to make. At this time there is enough suspicion around this set of dates to warrant an investigation to determine when exactly this decision was finalized. If such an investigation takes place and evidence is gathered to support intent to wait and publish the announcement after students were no longer given the opportunity to react accordingly, Pratt Institute may risk a charge in some form of intentional fraud and intentional deception to minimize loss and get gain. All of which is a crime in New York and other states where Pratt Institute’s students reside.
4) Pratt Institute did not consult with students, faculty or department offices before making this decision and has only given each department an alarmingly short period of time to organize such a show (on top of accreditation responsibilities this spring), leaving the few departments willing to take on such a challenge a small window to complete a wide range of planning and coordination.
5) A show sponsored by a single department does not hold the same credibility, nor does it attract the same crowd as a show curated and sponsored by Pratt Institute as a whole.
6) It is our understanding that the Pratt Bulletin is the legal document by which Pratt Institute is bound to its students, and the terms and policies contained therein may therefore be interpreted as legally binding agreements made between Pratt Institute and the student body. On page 350 of the “Pratt Institute Undergraduate Bulletin 2014-2015” it clearly states the following:
“Pratt Institute hosts numerous portfolio reviews and thesis exhibitions of current and graduating student work, including the end-of-year Pratt Show highlighting the best work of the graduating class.”
Taking these quotes into consideration, Pratt’s decision to cancel the Pratt Show can be interpreted as a direct breach of contract.
7) While the Communications Design department continues to pursue a stand alone show and secure a venue, at this time other department offices have not expressed the same desire to do so. In the case of students within these departments who want a show and have expected the opportunity to participate in one since first enrolling at Pratt, these students now find themselves in a situation where their interests are no longer represented by their department. At this time it is advised that those students contact their department offices at once and voice their opinions and concerns directly to the individuals responsible for their major’s representation.
In the Provost’s initial email to the school, he stated the following:
“Beginning in 2015, the Institute will not organize this annual event and instead will encourage departments to present work from graduating students on the campus (Brooklyn and Manhattan) or in off-site venues of their choice..... With this decision, I intend to work with each of the affected departments to provide support for a new vision of outreach and inclusive exposure for the excellent work of their scholars.” - Peter Barna, Provost
With this new information in hand, the Communications Design Chair Kathleen Creighton took it upon herself to find a venue for her department’s senior class show. She secured dates with the Metropolitan Pavilion, at the recommendation of the Dean, and provided a proposal to the Provost. However, the Provost denied her proposal and suggested that she hold her department’s show in the Pratt gymnasium instead of a proper venue. Such a suggestion has been quoted as “laughable” and the students do not expect distinguished professionals to appreciate a view of the school’s locker rooms on their way to the showcase.
One of the reasons this proposal was denied was due to the cost of the venue and other funds required to arrange an event there. However, it is understood from reliable sources that the cost was estimated well under the cost of past shows.
A few days before the publication date of this letter, a group of 5 students requested to make an appointment with the Provost in order to understand the reasons why the Communications Design department’s proposal was denied so that they might create a new proposal to accommodate for the parameters of the Pratt Administration. However, the Provost refused to set up a meeting with these students in a reasonable time and the office of the Provost advised them to attend an open forum regarding the Pratt Show scheduled for weeks into the future. As time speeds on, there remains fewer and fewer weeks for the students and the ComD department in particular to organize a respectable show. Fewer and fewer venues remain available, and the administration has yet to answer pressing questions that the student body needs answered in order to proceed accordingly.
In light of these arguments, the individuals signed below agree that this decision was poorly managed and the administration has severely underestimated the importance of the show for its students. We the undersigned unite in our discontent for the manner in which Pratt Institute has unethically handled this decision, and call attention to the arguments above in order to urge Pratt Institute to implement proper amenities to reconcile for their actions against the best interest of the student body.
We the undersigned require the following amenities:
- This year’s budget explaining in detail how the student’s tuition money was spent, particularly the funds routinely set aside for the annual Pratt Show
- Approval for the department(s) who wish to pursue a Pratt show in a respectable venue
- Clerical assistance from the administration’s office in order to make up for lost time and a lack of resources within participating department(s) to file all paperwork necessary for the organization of a show
- A written apology to the senior class for the manner in which this situation has been handled so far, and the lack of communication between the administration and the student body
- Parameters for the future to ensure that such events as this do not reoccur without consequences for those responsible
** The Pratt Show Letter of Discontent was arranged by undergraduate senior student Nichole Jackman on behalf of the “Bring Back Pratt Show” group and campaign #bringbackprattshow. A special “Thank you” is extended to fellow students Maeve Norton, Kristen Cenci, Allison Steen, and Brianna Livesay along with everyone else who has been instrumental in the formation of this letter and contributed support to this cause. **
- Pratt Institute Administration
- President of Pratt Institute
Thomas F. Schutte
- Dean of the School of Design
- Executive Assistant
- Academic Senate
- Office of Communications and Marketing
- Government and Community Relations
- PR and Communications
Objection to the Pratt Show Cancellation
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