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Dean's word for the monthly FAMU News to teachers and other employees.

OCTOBER 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the new academic year. Let us go to school again. A seemingly banal wish or invitation has an entirely new meaning and urgency now, in the context of the past one and a half years. One year ago, we started school with stringent sanitary and safety precautions, yet also with cautious optimism. Ten days later, we were compelled to switch to distance instruction and almost completely quit hands-on classes. In addition to many other things, the past period has taught us that however justified or firm our assumptions – and the resultant expectations of the future – may be, our position in relation to the planned reality is unstable. We are now starting school with a keen awareness of how fragile the current status and opportunities are.

The lockdown times allowed us to explore the less exposed or realised parts of ourselves – the focused, independent or even solitary sides of ourselves, which are more aware of immersion into private, intimate worlds. The beginning of the academic year is again opening the room for you to open up those sides of yourselves to a more intensive dialogue, to everyday sharing in space and time with people who have the same passion for audiovisual or visual expression, for creative thinking, and also for learning about the world the way it is presented to us and to those with whom we will experience everyday school. May this shared experience be a source of stimulation and development for you.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

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OCTOBER 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back to school. September is a difficult month, mainly for teachers and also for the workers of the FAMU Studio because the clausura and state final exams are in progress under a dense schedule. Despite the time-consuming activities that are in progress at all Departments in September, I would like to ask you to visit the exams at other Departments as well, in addition to yours, if and as much as you can considering your time and space limits. The clausura exams have started and, for my part, I can say that they are immensely inspiring and enriching also thanks to the discussions that take place during them. I would be happy if you could use the opportunity to experience the output and the thinking at the other Departments with regard to the specific and shared exercises, and also take part in the discussions. I believe that such interdisciplinary dialogue can improve our mutual understanding and develop our insights into the various professions and their perspective among our students.

This year, we will try shared clausura screenings of shared exercises in a pilot mode for the first time, specifically in two cases: the screenings of the films from the 2nd year students of the Department of Documentary Film and from the 2nd year students of the Department of Directing will involve cooperating students from the Departments of Cinematography, Sound Design, Editing, and Production and also their workshop guides (and/or other students and teachers from cooperating Departments). Once such screenings and the involved discussions have been assessed, the Dean’s Collegium will think about potential changes in the form of clausura screenings.

I wish to extend my thanks to those of you who offered consultations to students on their year-end and graduation works during the holidays! I want to thank the workers and leaders of FAMU Studio for their immense effort in assisting students with completing their works and in preparation, and also during the exam screenings in September. It has truly been exceptionally difficult this year – I am proud of how excellently all the Departments and the Studio have managed to tackle the difficult logistics, dense schedule and a plethora of films. A huge job excellently well done!

I wish you a lot of strength and joy of your students’ results!

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Many of you are on your holidays during the summer, and this is the primary time for you to recover, regain your energy and open up to different types of impulses. We at the Dean’s office encourage the type of holidays where nothing job-related reaches you – no e-mails or telephone calls. Being able to immerse yourselves in experiences, experience different environments, books and films, and enjoy the uninterrupted sense of being intrigued that is difficult to attain in your tightly divided working hours: I wish you all of that, and I am looking forward to meeting you relaxed, calm, and energised with new perceptions in early September.

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and stay healthy.

Yours sincerely,
Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

The exhibition of the year’s works from the Centre for Audiovisual Studies made me happy last week. We are experiencing a difficult academic year, and it has been difficult primarily for our students. The gravity of the fluid uncertainty all around us is reflected in the content of many of the works, yet I admired many ingenious, multi-layered and aesthetically diverse works of art. The students of the Department of Photography have also presented some of their year’s work. I am happy to see that the creative visions, which many of the works show, are clear, well thought-out and resolute. Perhaps they have become the proverbial firm places for them to stand on. I would like to thank the teachers who encouraged and motivated the students during the entire year and made the teaching process happen fully despite the unusual situation.

We are all overwhelmed by multitude of information every day. Critical thinking provides useful navigation in the deluge. An approach that takes into consideration multiple possible views of an issue also allows for understanding the context of information or opinion. The source from which a message comes is substantial – who says it, where, when, and under what circumstances. However, it is also important to what they respond with their message. If it is a personal Facebook status, albeit widely shared, was it a response to another message or to media content? If such a text contains information that disturbs you, verify it. Often, it is not very difficult to find a reliable open source to confront personal or emotional statements with and obtain information or context as the foundation for one’s own critical thinking.

Many of you will relax and gather strength this summer, following a difficult academic year. I wish you many beautiful summer experiences, a lot of new stimuli and space to relax.

Andrea Slováková
Dean 

Dear Colleagues,

You may have happened to find more focused time, and to use it for reading, during the ‘closed times’ of the different stages of lockdown. So, you could be pleased with the way that the FAMU Library is developing. You may have noted a month ago that the Library has launched a system for lending e-books. If you are working on texts or written output for your grants, you can find the latest database addition to our library useful: when you seek resources, books and texts relevant for your topic, reference services may prove a useful tool. One of the best, which also covers the audiovisual field and various theme areas within it, is Oxford Reference, which our library has prepaid for you. You can read more in the library’s article in the current newsletter. I wish you that you find reading that provides a source of inspiration and joy to you directly in our library.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

I am happy to note that the majority of exercises and films can finally be produced now. Let me thank the teachers who have tirelessly motivated the students to thoroughly prepare their projects and think them over, now that they can enter the production phase.

We worked on certain documents during the past weeks that involved various statistics; let me share one of the stats with you: FAMU has 23 associate professors, of whom just two are female, and 18 professors, of whom just one is female. Even though I did notice that it is mostly men who submit applications for associate professorship and professorship procedures, the ratio of this disproportion surprised me. I remembered speaking to three of our great female teachers and artists and asking them if they were considering associate professorship. They explained that there were various issues, in particular regarding time, that prevented them from doing so, even though they would like to. I also remembered how I wanted to staff certain councils and panels ensuring a better gender balance earlier during my tenure, and I struggled with a shortage of women with higher academic degrees (and not only in-house at FAMU). This phenomenon is well-known and common in academia. I would like to use this opportunity to convey the following message: whether you are a male or female teacher, if you would like to become associate professors with your art work but are short of time for preparing for the procedure, speak to us about the obstacles you have to tackle: speak to the head of your Department or to the Dean’s office. We will be happy to encourage you, for example by means of a creative sabbatical (the terms and conditions of which are described in the collective bargaining agreement), by reconsidering the current structure of your other obligations, and so on. With such a dialogue, you will help us to continue working on the preparation of systemic measures geared towards giving more consistent assistance to people who foster children. I am sure your colleagues will be happy to encourage you too.

I wish you strength and good health.
Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

We are approaching the mid-point mark of this non-standard semester. Allow me one personal note – I am proud of how we all cope with organising all the work and classes despite the limits of virtual operation. Let me thank the Bursar and the Head of the Dean’s Secretariat for having organised the covid testing station at FAMU, and all the office workers for coping with taking turns working in the offices for several months. We are still teaching in a distance mode. The Faculty headquarters, Departments and FAMU Studio also keep doing everything we can in order to launch hands-on assignments for crews – in a specific mode, this will happen next week. Let me thank all the teachers who have patiently given advice to students, including as part of individual assignments – and especially where the assignments had to be altered creatively in order to allow students to gain the requisite skills without having to work on team assignments. The support that you provide to students, encouraging them to work individually on creative assignments, is immensely important for their motivation. Let me also thank everyone who contributed towards rescheduling the summer semester classes and concentrating theory classes in the first six weeks of the semester in order to leave as much room for hands-on work in the latter half of the semester.

Beginning with next week, I will hold ‘open door’ sessions every Thursday from 9 to 10 am, should you need to discuss any topic, which does not require a dedicated meeting, on an ad-hoc occasion. For the time being, the sessions will be held online under this link.

I wish you a beautiful spring.
Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

The summer semester has begun with modified schedules, distance instruction and limited possibilities for hands-on work. The purpose of the structure of instruction in this semester is to ensure that as many subjects without hands-on activities as possible are taught during the first six weeks, so that, starting from mid-April, we are ready to enable the students to spend as much time as possible filming, provided that it is permitted. At the same time, individual hands-on work is still possible – smaller or modified hands-on assignments.

During the past months, we focused a lot on the methodology for online instruction. We are offering you, teachers, individual consultations to discuss the possible forms of the subjects that you teach, if you are interested. Online course platforms that have been in existence for many years also provide various sources of inspiration. Things are really very difficult for you and you have been really brave in enduring this altered mode of working and teaching for many months – one year ago, we all hoped that the non-standard situation would be over soon, yet here we are, teaching the third semester online. Let us try to turn some of those obstacles into advantages, at least in part – you and your students have more space for concentration and introspection, for the perception of and deeper reflection on works of art, texts and films. Students will certainly be grateful to you if you debate in your classes and organise your subjects on a more participative basis. Remember our online St. Nicolas Party – how much fun the online quiz was: you can make similar ones in classes, interconnect platforms and be inventive. If you have ideas and good experience, share them. Do not hesitate to share them with us at the Dean’s Office – so that we can seek and find various forms of distance learning together to make them enriching and functional as well as intriguing and pleasing for both students and yourselves.

I wish you a lot of strength and good health.

Yours sincerely,
Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear colleagues,

We are closing a difficult winter semester. I would like to appreciate the work of the teachers who were faced with a difficult task of transferring their subjects to the online environment (you fared excellently in this respect in many cases, with subjects gaining various new qualities: I wish to thank you for your thinking and regular contact with the students); the excellent and extremely difficult work of the Departments that organised the admission procedures in January; and the work of our office colleagues who remain stalwarts for the operation of the school despite the changed mode of operation. We all believe in and try to contribute towards reversing the epidemic developments through widely shared efforts and acting responsibly, so that hands-on instruction in groups can be renewed as soon as possible. We are also in contact with the Ministry of Education regarding the specificities of our instruction, trying to obtain reasonable exemptions.

As the semester is coming to a close, student evaluation was launched in the KOS for every subject. The questionnaires have been in existence in the KOS for many years, but have not been updated for some time. Following the information given to the Heads of Departments during a Collegium meeting in December and a meeting with student ambassadors in January, an extended anonymous questionnaire was opened, and the results will serve the teachers as well as the Departments and the school management with a view to developing study programmes together as best we can.

We have encountered more frequent occurrences of disinformation during the past month. Disinformation is powerful. It works a bit like gossip – misleading or incorrect information can resonate if it is set cleverly in a seemingly logical narrative, and it spreads on. Eradication of the disinformation, however credible or supported, sill not reach many of those who received the initial disinformation, so the original or even evolving disinformation survives in the conscience. Your opinion is important for the life of the school and for the development of study programmes! It matters to us to ensure that you have free and safe space to express it. This is why I wish to encourage you to verify your information. Confront multiple reliable sources, ask multiple people actively including outside your bubble, and seek context and circumstances.

If you are going through difficult times or not feeling well, you can consult our faculty psychologist, the amazing Ms Hedvika Boukarová. In addition, an ombudswoman will work here from February. This position is not very common in the Czech Republic (it exists at the Palacký University and the University of South Bohemia), but it is a common way of offering support to students and employees abroad. I believe that Ms Klára Laurenčíková will contribute towards better internal culture, calm, fairness and security in our school environment.

I wish you and your loved ones a lot of strength and good health,

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

I wish you all the best in the new year. First and foremost, I wish good health to you and your loved ones. I observe every day how you deal with the obstacles posed by the current situation around us. I am happy to note small improvements and adjustments in the procedures – the digitalisation of agendas; colleagues considerately standing in for those absent due to illness or care for their loved ones; regular and more frequent meetings of teachers at certain Departments where they share experience and help each other with tackling the non-standard situations resulting from online instruction. I thank you for this. We at the Dean’s office will be happy to continue offering you help in all types of situations where we can. In your shared work, you (we) also inevitably disagree sometimes. Each of you are a unique personality and it is obvious that you are not always “in tune” with each other about everything. Every disagreement can bring benefits, though, as it lets us view issues from various perspectives and take into consideration different types of thinking about and reflecting on matters. Let us be open-minded and full of understanding during these difficult times, and perhaps a little bit more helpful in every situation than we would be under normal conditions.

I appreciate your care for students and for the school, and I wish you a lot of strength, patience and joy of your everyday individual and collective work.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

The conversations that I had with you throughout last month gave me a perception of positive experience or the explored and discovered possibilities, which we may reflect in our conduct even after the restrictive measures are released. Some appreciate the fact that having to work partially in a home office mode has given them more time for working on difficult tasks with a focus and without disturbances; some appreciate having principally updated or restructured their subjects and created comprehensible presentations and other aids and visualisations as a result of having to transform the subject for the online environment; someone else finally cut out the relevant passages of films to show to students after years of searching for them using time codes. Someone told me the other day that discussions within subjects are highly beneficial even in the online environment, because everyone lets everyone else finish their thoughts, everyone listens with attention and the discussions can be moderated well. Others started exploring various creative options for working with content and communication in the online environment – which is quite logical considering that we are a school that focuses on audio-visual art. The aforementioned creative forms of working online in a good way make me happy; I really appreciate them as part of the teaching process, and I am thankful to the teachers for their ideas and energy invested into transforming their subjects.

As much as I understand the frustration over having to communicate remotely, I was happy to see that you can also find benefits for you and for students in the new forms of communication and learning. It is also of key importance that our students have always lived in touch with the school and remained close to it thanks to regular and scheduled classes. I thank you for that.

I wish you a lot of strength and joy of teaching, which will resume its presence form to a great extent with effect from Monday, 7 December.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear colleagues,

we have the first month of the winter semester behind us in pandemic conditions. You do a lot of work remotely. Staying at home as long as possible remains a priority - thank you for your energy and working from home; Thanks to this joint effort, everything at the faculty works, both in terms of operation and in terms of the teaching that can be done in these conditions.

In the first third of the month, the teaching took place according to the traffic light, then only remotely. It's not easy - for teachers and for our students. But it is also an opportunity - we are a film school and digital audiovisual expression is natural for us. Let's take a look at the teaching (about) of film in a virtual environment as a kind of genre, whether it is dominated by performative elements (by you, teachers and students), found footage procedures (fragments of audiovisual or other works which you debate about) or essay elements of informed and substantiated arguments. Let's add (self) reflexive moments to these procedures - if you have discovered ways to differentiate and develop meetings within individual subjects in genre, share the knowledge of good practices with each other.

If you would like a creative dialogue over the form of your subjects, we are preparing consultations for you in small groups - you have received information on how to apply by email. We all care that we meet students regularly to have continuous stimuli for thinking and deepening knowledge.

I wish you a lot of inner strength and a desire for a certain playfulness and constant discovery.
And good health for you and your loved ones.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Teachers and all FAMU employees,

Welcome to the new academic year. We are opening it under changed and variable circumstances that affect our personal, professional and study lives in many unprecedented ways. However, aside from the complications, these different modes of operation also offer us an opportunity to rethink the forms of sharing various types of knowledge and skills. And to invent modified or entirely new avenues. I know that this means more work for you in preparation – but I also believe that this way of thinking allows us to develop our instruction in many directions.

If your subject is rated ‘orange’, please think about the health of everyone involved in instruction – yours and that of your students – devising the form of your subjects. In distance teaching, use various forms of interactivity that platforms for distance learning offer; you can assign tasks to small groups on an ongoing basis or lead the instruction as a moderated debate rather than frontal instruction. The heads of your departments and us at the Dean’s office are here for you should you need an advice or want to share your experience – both problematic and examples of good practice. I am confident that despite the current situation we can offer our students high quality and enriching studies.

First and foremost, I wish you and your loved ones good health. I wish you a lot of strength and patience, and I wish for both you and your students to find the upcoming semester inspiring, albeit in entirely new and perhaps unexpected ways.

Andrea Slováková
Dean


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