By: Sophie Casab
On March 23, a "round table" was held between students, teachers and some directors of the Sci-Arc architecture university, located in Los Angeles. We probably wouldn't have known about this little event if it weren't for some alarming comments from the teachers. They took control of the conversation to defend and justify jobs that “pay the bills” accompanied by long working weeks, all in order to gain experience before starting graduate school, finally reciting without shame that happiness lies in your work and your life practically become one. - and in theory, this idea where you enjoy your work is not unreasonable at all. In reality, what led the students to condemn this speech online was that these same teachers carry out a practice in which the students work for them for free. The only "compensation" they can promise is the well-known professional and personal growth, which is rarely fulfilled. In this way, they take advantage of the knowledge and time of their own students, noticing a lack of ethics in addition to the conflict of interest.-
All of us who have studied a career in design and architecture have been touched by the toxic discourse in which they threaten us that if you do not put up with long hours and a lot of work, you are NOT made for the career and consequently its pressures in "real" life. But it is evident that within our workshops in the faculty, the same teachers are those bosses who prepared us to tolerate injustices, the biggest being keeping their office based on work without financial remuneration. It becomes a situation where the boss and the master never lose, an endless loop.
I remember my thesis professor who exclaimed a thousand times that it was more expensive for him to go to teach than what he actually earned monetarily. However, he did not hesitate to "employ" two of his students during the summer with almost zero pay. So free then I don't think so.
Is it truly the love of art that drives them to apply to your faculty, or is it the desire to find someone worthy of their time and teaching? Or worse still, do they do it to maintain their signatures and offices? Those places where they carry out projects that, if it weren't for saving their salaries, would not be profitable. They have convinced us that unpaid workers are a necessary evil in the pursuit of art.
The online condemnation by Sci-Arc students opened a path to give voice to the injustices that are tolerated from universities in Canada and the United Kingdom where the same story is repeated. In these countries it is called "work integrated learning" where students are exposed to the work and projects necessary for their degree, regardless of the degree of study. Essentially, students pay tuition to work.
As a future within this system where we one day take the lead in a new generation with new rules, our responsibility lies in continuing to speak out and eventually change things from deep within. Like all movements we encounter in our daily lives, this age of immediacy must not be allowed to fade away. It is not about a bad teacher, an institution, a director, an office. The words and who exercises them must be questioned as the same norm that deserves a change. If as architects we take the definition of our work to another level, we can creatively seek and devise a different future and break rules. Finally, that is what we dedicate ourselves to, to look for alternatives where human beings can exercise their lives with freedom and a decent quality of life.