New RISD mission statement
Post #796 • May 24, 2006, 7:27 PM • 35 Comments
Everybody knows how much I love my alma mater. But when this showed up in the Inbox, I began to worry:
The Self-study Committee on Mission, composed of representatives from the various institutional stakeholders, developed a draft mission statement. Through a process that sought input from constituents at various points, a draft statement evolved, was endorsed by the faculty, and subsequently presented to the Board in February 2005.
Once I got to this part, my teeth were rattling:
In the process, the Committee recognized suggestions for emphasis, such as:
Several key words were added, such as: "critical thinking," "scholarship," and "global society," all of which in the aggregate were felt to be reflections of the entire institution.
- that the statement be only one sentence in length
- that it reflects that RISD "makes things"
- that RISD comprises both a college and museum, and
- that we include "the public" in our mission "to educate"
By the time I got to the punch line, smoke coming out of my ears set off the building's fire alarm.
The mission of the Rhode Island School of Design, through its college and museum, is to educate its students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation.
Gnr! Nrrr. Sorry. Almost bit through my tongue.
Let's compare that to the original, written in 1877:
The original by-laws set forth the following primary objectives for the school:
First. The instruction of artisans in drawing, painting, modeling, and designing, that they may successfully apply the principles of Art to the requirements of trade and manufacture.
Second. The systematic training of students in the practice of Art, in order that they may understand its principles, give instruction to others, or become artists.
Third. The general advancement of public Art Education, by the exhibition of works of Art and of Art school studies, and by lectures on Art.
Now, I can go out and train students in the practice of art. No problem. I did it for eleven years. I cannot, however, make lasting contributions to a global society. I don't know what a global society is. Seriously, what is that? Aliens could land in Providence, read the 1877 objectives, and glean a decently accurate idea about what the school was supposed to do that day. With the 2006 mission, they'd be looking at each other, saying, "What the hell? Are they trying to set up some kind of massive intranet? Do they want to discard ideas inapplicable to global thinking? Do they need easels, or something?"
I kid because I love, and I love because I got a great education at RISD, and in four years, nobody ever treated me like an abstraction. I don't recognize RISD in that mission statement. I see buzzwords and lawyers and guys in ties. Send that mess back and bring me a mission statement that smells like hot glue and sounds like real people doing tangible things.