Hello, I Must Be Going 

What's behind the abrupt departure of School of the Art Institute prez Duke Reiter?

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Neither Reiter nor any other senior SAIC official was available to be interviewed for this story, and most faculty declined to be quoted. But professor emeritus Tony Phillips, a retired former chair of the painting and drawing department who now teaches a single course at the school, said that Reiter is a "top-down individual and the school's always been a faculty-run institution, at least as far as the curriculum is concerned. He was a corporate dude trying to grab onto things with a limited understanding. He wanted a top-heavy administration and he fought for that. And he wanted to have grades. That works when you have a definitive body of information. But can you go to a museum and grade one piece of art against another? Our students are exploring, inventing themselves every day. SAIC became a leading school because of its embrace of complexity."

As part of SAIC's program for change, a committee of faculty, staff, and students had been formed to develop a list of core values for the school. The results were posted on SAIC's internal network and were presented, along with a related list of strategic plans, at the April 6 meeting. Faculty members say the values list, which was concise—only five points—turned out to be comfortingly familiar. Two points affirm the school's relationship with the Art Institute and the city; the other three affirm its commitment to breadth of offerings, academic independence, and barrier-free interdisciplinary education. The committee calls for "a wide range of media and processes" and a faculty-driven curriculum.

So much for top-down administration.

The official announcement of Reiter's departure assured the SAIC community that a transition "team of senior administrators and faculty" would see to it that "operations continue uninterrupted." But as this academic year concludes, the school's top three positions are all in play. Candidates for the dean's slot—open since Carol Becker left for Columbia University nearly three years ago—were expected to be interviewing on campus in May, but that search has now been postponed for at least another school year; acting dean Lisa Wainwright will continue in the job. The search for the provost Reiter wanted is down to a short list, with on-site interviews coming up and an appointment expected shortly, according to an SAIC spokesperson. That's fortunate, since the "international search" for Reiter's successor will take a couple months just to gear up, and the president's seat is likely to be vacant for at least a full school year. The provost who would've been Reiter's right hand will now help fill his shoes.    

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