NJIT criticizes Kean University for school of architecture plans

The supply of professionals exceeds the demand, says NJIT

UNION COUNTY — The fact that Kean University is launching a school of architecture within miles of another school has raised the ire of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Last week NJIT issued a statement questioning Kean’s intentions to open yet another public architecture program when there is a thriving one just six miles away.

Things came to head Oct. 25 when Kean President Dawood Farahi made the announcement at its new Green Lane building that it would be launching the Michael Graves School of Architecture, a program they expect will expand
to 500 students between the Union and Wenzhou, China campuses.

LocalSource broke this story in late September, and the news was not met with enthusiasm by Kean faculty and now NJIT has also expressed its opposition.

The university president expected that between 36 to 40 students will initially enroll in the program in the USA and China, but the school itself will only have one dean.

Farahi said the new architecture program, expected to start at the Union campus in 2015 and the China campus in 2016, fills a niche that other programs do not, focusing on design from the inside out. Although other colleges offer the same programs, such as in business and management, it was “sad,” Farahi said, that one college had to criticize another.

NJIT took exception to the fact that Kean made the announcement of the new school of architecture prior to getting the required state approvals. They also have approved $75,000 to Michael Graves’ Princeton firm to design the building in China, develop curriculum and hire an acting dean to head the school.

Kean, on the other hand, indicated they moved forward based on pending approvals from the New Jersey President’s Council, which reviews all new state college and university programs.

NJIT, though, does not think there is need for another state architecture program six miles away, especially when they currently have 500 students already enrolled and room for an additional 250.

Kean Federation of Teachers President James Castiglione said this would not be happening if the state had not abolished the Department of Higher Education 20 years ago and left state institutions to govern themselves. He also noted that there is no way it would have approved a program that is less than ten miles away from an existing one, remarking it was “redundant and costly.”
NJIT agreed.

“Currently, NJIT and Princeton University have fully accredited architecture programs and both universities are meeting the needs of New Jersey as well as the region,” said NJIT in a statement obtained by LocalSource.

Further, NJIT felt the timing was wrong for Kean to even consider an architecture program on two of its campuses.
“For a public university at this time to launch a program for which the supply of professionals exceeds the demand, regardless of the purported source of revenue or a sense of completion, is questionable decision making,” NJIT said in its statement, adding Kean’s proposal “presents major challenges for policymakers and taxpayers.

LocalSource reported in late September that Kean’s school of architecture was driven largely by the Chinese government, which wants the program at the university’s Wenzhou campus.

According to a memo circulated to the Kean Federation of Teachers union members, Farahi first brought the idea to the Kean Board of Trustees in September 2013 during executive session, which is closed to the public. The minutes of that meeting revealed Farahi supported the creation of a school of architecture at the Union campus because the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which has accreditation requirements, prohibits a branch campus from offering a program that is not on the university’s main campus.

“The board of trustees made it clear that the decision to create the School of Architecture at Kean University is being driven by the desires of the communist Chinese government,” said James Castiglione, President of the Kean Federation of Teachers union when news broke about the architecture school in early October.

Castiglione said that in order to provide an architecture program in China, Kean has to create one at the Union campus, which is like “the academic tail wagging the dog.”

“This arrangement raises a number of questions. First there is the specter of the Chinese government determining what academic programs the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey will be forced to support and what programs we will be offering our students here,” said the KFT president, adding that “the primary beneficiary is the China campus, not Kean USA.”