As you may already know, I graduated from Art Institute of California — Orange County with a degree in Media Arts & Animation. While attending AIOC, I had a few favorite instructors and Mike Tracy was one of them. I’d always try to sign up for his figure drawing or digital animation/painting classes. (Oh, and Mr. Ewing was my other favorite figure drawing and painting instructor!)
Mike Tracy is an amazing artist with a great passion for his students. If you have ever been in one of his classes, you probably know what I mean. He’s been teaching at Art Institute of California — Orange County for eleven years but was recently fired for refusing to sell students e-textbooks that he didn’t think were necessary for some of his classes.
Since my graduation, I’ve heard stories about how AIOC has become more of a corporate trying to make as much profit as possible rather than a school that genuinely cares about what’s best for their students…judging “teachers by another criteria: how many e-textbooks each teacher sells to their students (excerpt from Cartoon Brew).”
Tracy, who has taught drawing and digital painting for eleven years at AIC—Orange County, felt that his class didn’t require the textbooks he was suddenly being asked to sell and told the school that he would prefer to teach without them. Tracy’s reward for working in the best interest of his cash-strapped, loan-burdened students was a termination notice from the school.
Here’s what Mike Tracy wrote on his Facebook a few days before he got fired:
As many of you know, I have been in a dispute with our school, the Art Institutes, for some months now, over their policy of mandatory e-textbooks in classes where their inclusion seems arbitrary, inappropriate and completely motivated by profit. In July I asked the US Department of Education, the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education and WASC (our accrediting agency) to look into my concerns. Since that time, the school and its parent company EDMC have escalated the pressure on me to select a book for a class I teach that I don’t think requires one.
Today, the President of the school, Greg Marick, presented me with an ultimatum; either choose a book by Tuesday, Aug 14th or the company will terminate my employment for insubordination. My response, of course, is that I will not change my mind on this issue and that I’m determined to resist the policy however I can. I think this means that, as of this week, I will no longer be teaching at AI.
I want you, my students and colleagues to know that it has been my great honor and privilege to have worked with you over the last 11 years, and that I will miss the opportunity to work for you and with you. I have enjoyed my time as a teacher very much, but it appears as though it is now time to move on. Furthermore, you can count on me to continue the struggle that I have instigated on this issue, if only from the outside. Although it aint over till it’s over, it looks like a 99.5% deal, barring an 11th hour change of heart by the corporation, which would surprise me.
To me, the reason why AIOC fired Mike Tracy seems so unfair and ridiculous. AI students now have lost a very valuable instructor and Mike Tracy will be missed very much.
I do not regret going to AIOC. I’m glad that I received my Bacehelor of Science degree. I met many great people while attending AIOC and I still keep in touch with some of them. I also got to learn a lot of things I may not have learned if I didn’t attend art school.
If you’re thinking of receiving a degree in art or design, I highly encourage you to do a lot of research — research on AIOC and other art schools — before you make your final decision on which school to attend. Most of the instructors I’ve met at AIOC are great but I sometimes feel like the school cares more about their profit than their students. Also, you do not need to go to an expensive art school to be a successful artist or designer. I’ve met and known plenty of talented, successful artists and designers who are all or mostly self-taught. Well, I myself studied animation in art school but have never really utilized my major since graduation.