No Student Left Behind...except for Comm Arts students “You guys still exist?” By Natalia Chancafe
It’s been almost two years since NY Tech announced the termination of the Communication Arts department. So where are the Comm Arts students now?
As a student that joined NYIT in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, I never knew what was happening on the 10th floor at 16 W 61st. I remember touring the floor in 2018 as a junior in high school and I was blown away! The flashy cameras, the TriCaster, the greenscreen; it was all so inspiring. I never would've thought that I would rarely use these resources once becoming a student at NY Tech. With so many changes over the last two years, students and I came to realize that we will never know what it's like to be a true Comm Arts student at NY Tech.
Since the announcement was made, no one has reached out to students to check in on how we’re doing with the discontinuance of the program. Several emails were sent in January 2021 from Daniel Quigley, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Don Fizzinoglia, chair of the Communication Arts department. Most of the emails suggested our “experience will be exactly as it would be prior to this move” and the decision would not affect the “opportunities [students] have been enjoying, such as internships and guided projects, advising, and mentoring”.
Despite efforts made by staff to update students on creative projects, two years have passed and still, no one is motivated. While we are grateful for those who have lent a helping hand the reality is, we have been deeply affected, academically and professionally.
As for the tenth floor? Most describe it being a ghost town. Most classes have shifted to remote learning, so students are never on the 10th floor. Several professors have left. Those who remain have to take on multiple classes to teach us. So with staff gone and no one to fight for the 10th floor, the students are struggling to find motivation in their final months in this department. Why is no one talking about it?
It’s embarrassingly clear that a lot of the students and faculty don't even know what the Communication Arts department is. But if you ask the Class of 2023 and earlier graduation classes, the tenth floor at 16 W 61st was the home and creative space for Comm Arts students to shine. After talking to several students, Comm Arts students expressed that they don't see the program this way anymore. Peers and friends sometimes recall what the department was like pre-covid and before its termination.
Students become wide-eyed and disheartened all at once when they tell their stories. Flavia Banu, an international student from Romania, reflects on the abrupt change she and other students felt. “I was upset and hurt. I still am. It felt like the school didn’t care about us anymore, only focusing on the other majors. We barely have any professors left and the floor is always empty”. Flavia joined the NY Techs Communication Arts department because of the “exciting location”. Recalling her classes during freshman year in the Fall of 2019 as “fun with amazing professors”, she goes on to say “I loved it…so many people everywhere…everything was very new and exciting at the time”.
I received similar answers from Trevon Colbert, a Digital Film & Television production student graduating in 2023. Trevon recalls his first year as a Comm arts student to be a “refreshing experience”. He adds, “it excited me being able to see so many like-minded people [possessing] the same creative drive that I did at first”. He also recalls the 10th floor to be “full of life, classes full of students with at least 15+ in attendance, professors in every office…students filming and chatting in the halls.” It's crazy and hopeless thought to think the tenth floor would ever be like this again.
Students were also reminiscent of the professors that have left since the department shut down.
Flavia considers Professor Youjeong Kim her “ all-time favorite.” She goes on to say “she’s not at our school anymore, which is a shame really. Hands down, the most amazing professor I ever had the pleasure of having.”
Colbert’s favorite professors have also gone. “My favorite teacher is a 3-way tie between professors Youjeong, Sherwin, and Demonte. They were all exceptional teachers. After the shutdown, the CA department has become pretty much a cemetery of empty halls and offices with low energy and unmotivated students and continues to get worse as we all kinda just countdown the days to graduation.”
It's obvious that the students left in the Comm Arts department are making a connection between unmotivated students and professors who left abruptly. We still think about these professors that have left an impact on our education. Naturally, we can't help but think about what could have been; if they stayed and the department hadn’t closed. Regarding repeat professors, I decided to scout for Paul Demonte, an adjunct professor that taught Comm Arts classes for seventeen years. CA students, including myself, wanted to hear from him and his perspective on the department closing.
“Reflecting on my experiences, I can see how the department had a downhill trajectory over time. There's no one person to blame, but rather, I believe it was a mix of factors that contributed to its closing”. He further explained the changes our department went through. “The bureaucratic side of academia is a problematic combination of veteran professors with knowledge of what works and what doesn't as well as constant new hires in positions of power with their own ideas of what works and doesn't….Our department had folks who worked there for 25, 30, and 35 years, which was great because of their knowledge and experience in filmmaking and broadcasting. However, the pressures of shifting from the stable nature of analog to the rapid evolution of digital changed what was required for Comm Arts to thrive.”
After sharing this explanation with some of my peers, we all feel understood and agreed when Demonte stated “I know the decision to close Comm Arts wasn't made lightly or overnight. Instead, I believe it was the result of years of particular dynamics and circumstances.”
We also understand the difficult decision to close the CA department and we understand why professors wanted to leave. Demonte states “As classes were shrinking during the Spring 2021 semester, it personally felt like the right time for me to leave. NYIT became my home away from home starting in 2003 and that was abruptly taken away because of circumstances outside of our control… what many students may not realize is that many veteran professors were forced into retirement. Imagine working at a place for most of your career, doing the best you can, and unceremoniously being told you were finished. Bye.”
Like most students, Professor Demonte can't help but reminisce about the “small community vibes that the 10th floor gave off”. He adds “I will miss kicking off classes with hearing about what movies everyone watched in the last week; I will miss seeing my editing class fill up quickly thus leading to a waitlist and squeezing in as many people as I could (sorry, Luba); I will miss seeing students' work evolve over time and hearing about their paths after graduating. For any students reading, always remember to have a backup of your backup!”
Now, with professors that are long gone, students are learning to be more independent. Some are even moving on from their original CA major because they feel disconnected from it.
Flavia says “at the time [of the announcement] I was back home in Romania. It makes me feel forgotten.” She goes on to explain a tough decision she had to make. “ I decided to just pull through this. It made me lose my interest in media production, which is why I decided to get a minor in graphic design. When I told a professor graphic design department what my major is, she actually asked ‘oh, you guys still exist?’ Honestly, this is how it feels. Do we still exist up there on the 10th floor? That question stood out to me. Students feel like no one knows they exist on the 10th floor.
While speaking to other students I noticed something Trevon said that a lot of us could relate to. “I think I’ve adapted as best as I can since the announcement. I was already pretty independent before the closing and so after it closed it just pushed me to become independent and learn things on my own. It has kinda crushed all the energy and passion I had to try venturing into film.”
Students long for the Communication Arts department to be restored to its former glory, but we all know that's not happening. We have silently come to terms with the situation we were put in. Besides, who can blame us for becoming unmotivated? My peers also mentioned Professor Doughty. We note him as one of the “good ones”. It's hard to connect to professors teaching in a dying department - which is no easy task itself - but Professor Doughty has made it easier. We also wanted to hear from him.
I asked how the cessation of the department has affected him as an educator. “It definitely has affected our relationships [with] the students. As a professor, it's our obligation to make sure the students have what they need to succeed when they graduate, but with the news of the department closing, it feels like our last desperate, dying mission. It adds an extra layer of pressure.”
Doughty can't help but mention the emptiness of the 10th floor as well. “As we get closer to the program's termination, the classes get smaller and smaller in size because there are only so many students left. It seems paradoxical, but the smaller the classes get, the harder it is to connect with the students - and I think it's because we all know that the end is near.”
Like Demonte, Professor Doughty left words of advice for the students that are left. “Learning is an ongoing process - you never stop doing it. Even as a professor, I'm always learning something new, especially in fields where new technologies are developing and old techniques are getting applied in exciting ways. Be patient and kind to yourself, because the journey to success, whatever that definition is for you, can be unpredictable. So, as a good friend of mine says, ‘keep fighting for your dreams and your dreams will fight for you.”
If I've learned anything after speaking with current Comm Arts students, current professors, and past professors it’s that we're not alone. No one is talking about what is happening to our department but we can be! Although the department is closing it is clear we have people rooting for us and we can root for each other.
If you are a Comm Arts student and want to share your experience, favorite memories, or any other thoughts please comment down below!