Li Edelkoort Responds to the DAE Situation
With an extremely critical open letter about the current management of the Design Academy Eindhoven, Li Edelkoort, who was the chairwoman of the academy until 2008, has entered the debate. Currently she is setting up the curriculum for a new design school in Poland – the School of Form.
This all began two weeks ago with the collective resignation of the three heads of the Master’s programme. Below are several quotes from her letter originally published in Dutch:
“Since my departure in 2008 as chairwoman of the DAE, Annemieke Eggenkamp has followed a policy of listen but do not act (on people’s advice). As a perfect example of her generation she has tried to come to grips with the situation via mapping and control, motivated by an underlying universal fear of the future. Nourished by society, the government and the Supervisory Board, the academy has given in and undermined a well-functioning system, replacing it with a rigid system of control and market forces.
“By now the school has degenerated into a confused culture without any mutual trust or respect. The chaotic and destructive policies have caused unrest, leading to the resignation of the three incoming heads of the Master’s Programme. This is only the beginning of an exodus of talent and inspiration.
“Since my departure in October 2008, after a decade as chairwoman of the board, I have had to watch how the school and the system have been dismantled, all things that made the Design Academy the design academy were closed or changed one by one, mercilessly and ruthlessly.
"It has been four years since my departure and we’ve reached the stage where they’re cutting down the basic structure of the institute. It’s the deconstruction of a system that was designed by head teacher Ulf Moritz and implemented by the board in 1985. It was a brilliant system that allowed for change, adaptation and control without ever having to wonder whether it will continue functioning. A system that has given generations of graduates an education to which they owe their present functioning in society.
"Disguised as change for a changed society, specialists were called in to set up a complicated system in which administrators and education specialists will control the design heads of departments. To pay for this, budgets for design education were slashed, while design education is what the academy is all about.
"It’s self-evident that this system won’t work, even when looking at the system on paper. Taking away the autonomy of head teachers will lead to an exodus of the best people, which will mean the decay of the academy as an important institute for design. In time this could be very disadvantageous for Dutch Design Week and the city of Eindhoven. And most of all it is inhospitable for the students who, at that age, still need a warm and humane structure.
"By the way, not once is the word 'student' mentioned in the entire document explaining the new structure.
A vibrant system with superior results and awarded the title ‘Dutch top-institute’ in 2008 is being destroyed while we’re all just looking on, dumbfounded.
"An educational system built around people and concerned about people is the best guarantee for overcoming new and difficult times. This was and is the backbone of the academy and functions as such – flexible and at the same time with structure. The more the system moves, the better it functions. When there is a need for reflection, it’s possible to look deeper into a problem, when there’s a need for control, a corset can support the backbone temporarily, when different parts are in each other’s way, it’s possible to make a department smaller, change it, or eliminate it … A department can be given a new definition or departments can look for synergy.
"It should be clear there is nothing wrong with the old system.
"So something else is wrong, and intervention is now unavoidable.
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