Unrest at RISD: Faculty Vote ‘No-Confidence’ in President John Maeda

In light of recent events at the Rhode Island School of Design, we’re not sure what to make of the latest tweet from John Maeda, the school’s president. Last week, the charismatic designer, author, and prophet of simplicity was tweeting morsels of wisdom from the TED conference—including Antonio Damasio‘s “Consciousness is what we regain when we awake from deep sleep” and Jason Mraz‘s praise of gratitude as “what gets us to the next level.” This afternoon, he took a stand on standing—and walking: “When you know your standing and know your stand,” wrote Maeda, “it’s time to walk.” This provocative koan comes in the wake of a faculty-wide “no-confidence” vote in Maeda and provost Jessie Shefrin. The motion passed 194 to 32 in a two-hour session held last Wednesday. According to Providence Journal reporter Gina Macris, “Criticism has heated up in recent months against what [RISD English professor and Faculty Steering Committee chair Mark] Sherman and others have described as Maeda’s autocratic style.” The vote of no-confidence follows the administration’s announcement of a controversial reorganization plan to combine RISD’s Division of Architecture and Design and Division of Fine Arts into a single Division of Undergraduate Studies. Meanwhile, Dean of Architecture and Design Dawn Barrett has announced that she is decamping to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Barrett will succeed Kay Sloan as president of the Boston institution at the end of the academic year.

UPDATE: RISD President John Maeda has deleted the aforementioned tweet and replaced it with the following: