Less than 100 days after his arrival, the new dean of the College of the Arts, Royce W. Smith, has reached out to students to tackle issues head-on.
Smith arrived at Long Beach State in July 2023 with an intent to build a strong community at the College of the Arts through engagement with students and faculty about their concerns.
The College of the Arts has faced issues because of the lack of air conditioning in the Fine Arts 4 building, and in September of 2022, students walked out of class in protest.
“If you want to make a change, put money into the fine arts building,” said Francisco Valdez, arts major. “Improve not only the AC units but spend funds on a new building. Give us more resources that will benefit us.”
For many art students, the condition of the Fine Arts 4 building has been a major ongoing issue.
“I’ll be here for another three years,” said Esmeralda Blanco, a second-year art student. “I pay to be here and want to be here. It’d be nice to know that my health is accounted for. Take our needs seriously…Personally, after being in these buildings for a while, I feel dizzy and unwell.”
Smith plans to address these issues and tackle the infrastructure challenges at the College of the Arts.
Currently, the improvements to the Fine Arts buildings are set to be completed by December 2024.
“There are things that we can’t fix overnight,” said Smith. “It isn’t like going to Costco and being able to buy 15 window units. In solving the problem, it is a challenge with infrastructure.”
To combat the heat, reflective film was installed on windows, art galleries were used as cooling areas and a misting hose was installed outside Fine Arts 4. The Heat Relief Plan also provides students and staff with a protocol to follow when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
To show support, Smith personally helped install the reflective film, provided Otter Pops popsicles to students and attended lectures on warmer days.
“First, students are my community,” said Smith. “So, their struggles are my struggles and if it’s a hot day, I want to see what they’re having to deal with as they try to focus on their studies as amazing artists. And you can’t get that perspective if you’re staying in your office.”
Dean Smith has been using his Instagram to engage with students through “100 Days of Listening,” where he posts his interactions with students, staff and faculty. He has also been hosting events on campus called “Donuts with the Dean” as another opportunity to engage with the community at the College of the Arts.
“In the art world, Instagram is a necessary tool to be able to share and disseminate your work,” said Smith. “So for me, it becomes a tool to be able to listen and engage with the people that I serve.”
Since his arrival, Smith has received positive responses from his interactions with staff and students.
“One of the things I really like about him that I’ve seen consistently in different areas is that he always ends a conversation with you by thanking you for your time by saying, ‘You know, I really appreciate what you do,’ I think that can sound glib but he does it all the time. After a while, you notice it. It makes a difference,” said Laurie Gatlin, Director of the School of Art.
Smith has made it a priority to coordinate with the various College of the Arts departments to strategize plans to address their needs and wants. He believes that having a more unified college identity is important.
“What we can do to elevate the experience for everybody in the college is a really important process. That’s what strategic planning is all about. It also helps the college better understand what our relationship to the university is, because we have the Beach 2030 strategic plan,” said Smith.