As an educator, I’m approached by students, alumni, colleagues, administration and outside parties through email…a ton. In fact, a big part of my after hours is spent on replying to all sorts of issues. Some big. Some small. Never anything in between, interestingly enough. But, the big ones are the ones I’m really proud of because it’s usually a moment where I can address a significant issue that relates to the professional development of my students…
…emails that provide a teachable moment that happens out of class, out of the designed curriculum and with no current place in my class itinerary: teaching in real-time, as I like to say.
I put a lot of care into every thing I do and, although trying to be informative, my secondary intention with these well considered emails is to impress upon my students the power of words and the value in articulating thought through written form.
EMAILS THAT KICK ASS are a collection of such correspondence…cut and pasted directly from my Outlook box, but with names changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty!
*NETIQUETTE* is an example of the kind of diplomatic negotiation I sometimes have with individuals and/or entities who want to gain access to our studios for non-RIT related educational opportunities involving glass. There have been times when I’ve been approached with a humble inquiry from an outside party; there have been others when the approach is quite forceful and demanding. Sometimes a proposed project or class or workshop has piqued my interest; there are others that I had known immediately I wanted our program to have nothing to do with or be associated with. Regardless of the tone of the proposal or the nature of what’s being proposed, I’m tasked with the job of gracefully informing my non-RIT correspondent that we cannot be of help for various Institute-based policies.
NETIQUETTE is an extremely thorough and frank example of this sort of email conversation; a special case where an organization had based an upcoming annual symposium within the Western New York region with the intention of hosting an educational opportunity in conjunction with that symposium within various studios of RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences (CIAS). Unfortunately, the chosen venue of the symposium was agreed upon the organization’s board of directors (and formally announced to its membership base) long before gaining permission to utilize RIT’s resources for a coinciding workshop ...let alone asking for permission in the first place. In turn, the symposium organizers connected to the Western New York region were working hard to figure out a way to sway my colleagues and I at RIT Glass to accommodate their workshop needs for a couple of months during the Spring of 2016.
Before sending the email below, I was to meet one of the symposium’s organizers a few days before to discuss why we wouldn’t be able to accommodate their request of using our glass facilities for one of their symposium-based workshops. There was a miscommunication and the meeting did not happen. In turn, I reached out to fully lay out our reasoning with hopes of putting the whole situation to bed...
It’s not a problem about [not meeting up the other day]. I hope you had a great time!
Before we talk about making further plans to meet, I think it would be helpful to map out why the faculty are unable to provide the Glass Studio for your [annual event] workshop:
If we had the opportunity to have met I would have led with the fact that RIT-CIAS policy holds that no non-employee of RIT can access and work within any facility within the College...especially during the summer term. We can't even have our own students access the facility unless we hire them for department purposes...and even that clause has specific stipulations. RIT is very sensitive about issues of liability and this policy is the first and main reason why the faculty cannot make the Glass Studio available for any [future event-based] workshops: none of the instructors or students within such a workshop would be employees of CIAS, SAC, or the Glass Program.
Even if that policy weren't in place, there are several additional issues that make the RIT Glass studios unavailable:
First, the studios would be 'off' and our technician would be conducting his end of the year maintenance...furnaces in the hot shop would be cold and equipment in the cold shop potentially disassembled.
Secondly, faculty and students will be away. As of now, I have dates following the 2017 GAS Conference in negotiation that will have me traveling and teaching; as does Michael... and his plans on an international scope. And although we still consider Robin a part of the team, her primary obligations are related to her duties as Associate Dean and, therefore, unavailable (...and she may very well be traveling and teaching then, too). Without a faculty presence to monitor or oversee the nature of these [event-based] classes (or have a responsible graduate student in our place to do so), we cannot make the Glass Studio available for any of your proposed workshops.
In having a wide variety of people we don't know coming in to learn and to teach within our facilities is also a significant concern to the faculty: Issues of studio security concern us. Issues of competent usage of our equipment concern us. Issues of competent usage of our space concern us. Issues of use-and-abuse and wear-and-tear concern us. Issues of safety - along with matters of liability - concern us. Issues of financial impact on equipment usage (or possibly damage) concern us.
On the other hand, in the absence of the faculty, the [event-based] workshop teachers/students would not have a CIAS employee who comprehends these glass studios available to conduct studio orientations, conduct mandatory safety training, or approve mandatory safety testing...let alone the many other legal concerns and logistics that I'm missing here that the CIAS Facilities Management group has to abide by in accordance to OSHA standards and procedure.
Then there are smaller issues of concern that affect a non-RIT workshop to take place in RIT Glass studios without faculty around: just getting in the door would be problematic. Our studios are locked 24-7 and can only be accessed with an RIT granted ID card. We have card swipes that activate our doors for Glass employees and students who are majoring in Glass. The only way to acquire one of those ID cards - without having someone on hand who has one already - is to either enroll within a summer course offered by RIT or be employed by RIT.
Perhaps it's something you would've disclosed if we met to discuss this, but we're not even sure if RIT Glass would be paid for allowing our studios to be used; we're not even sure if, had faculty been available for this, we would've been compensated for our efforts. We're not even sure if any of those figures would make it worth our while. We're not even sure what we personally and professionally would get out of this opportunity. Most importantly, we're not even sure what benefit our Program would get out of it...
I know it's not news you'd like to hear, but I think it's important that I, on behalf of all Glass faculty, make it clear that we cannot provide our studios and our space for a workshop during the [organized event] based on all the above. These are all issues of conflict that I was going to address at our meeting [the other day] had we had the opportunity...which, again, is no problem. I just want this information to be put forward sooner rather than later (as I know planning/organizing for events like this are very time-sensitive).
If you still think getting together to meet would be helpful let me know. I'll be traveling to Penland next week and will be out of state until mid-July.