Community Rallies to Save Professor

American Violet

By Broadside Staff Writer Marian McLaughlin

For the past two semesters, students from a broad spectrum of majors have banded together to do one thing: Keep Kirby. Kirby Malone, an assistant art professor at George Mason University, is facing possible dismissal and job termination after this semester, and students want to know why. Malone works inside of the InterArts program, which bridges together all forms of art and media, from fine art to performance work. Through his classes, Malone not only helps integrate these different mediums, but he makes his students more aware of social and global issues.

Malone is known as a professor, friend, writer, director, multimedia designer and much more. The main courses that he teaches at Mason are “Writing for Artists,” a required editing class that helps art majors work on thesis statements; “Cyberpunk,” a hybrid and popular elective focusing on technology and society through films and various media; and “Critical Theory,” a required class for students seeking a Bachelor of Fine Arts, that focuses on the aesthetics of political and social issues worldwide through discussion. In addition, Malone has taught performance studio classes and senior project seminars.

In 1999, Malone and art and visual technology associate professor Gail Scott White co-founded the Multimedia Performance Studio, a Mason art program that combines new technologies with traditional art mediums to create performance pieces and other works. From 1999 to 2004, more than a hundred Mason students and faculty members were involved with MPS. In 2001, with help from Malone and White, MPS received a $125,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant helped fund the production of the book Live Movies.

Together, Malone and White edited Live Movies, which was published by MPS. According to their website, Live Movies not only documents the activities of MPS, but serves as a “field guide to new media for the performing arts.” Today, the book is used widely as a text in classes at schools including University of California San Diego, Yale School of Drama, Brown University, Arizona State, University of Quebec at Montreal and University of South Australia, bringing good international attention to Mason wherever it goes.

When professors are evaluated at Mason, their performance is judged in three categories: teaching, research and creative work, and service, mostly within communities outside of the university. Malone has excelled with high scores in all three areas.

After taking his classes, students tend to sign up for others that he offers. Some students, like art and visual technology major Mike Forster, take the same class over again just because they enjoy his teaching style.

“If I could, I’d stay in college forever to take his classes,” said Forster.
Danish Jamil, an art and visual technology graduate student in critical theory this semester, has seen how Malone uses all media in his classes.

“Students who have taken Malone’s classes have created insightful and strong works of art in the forms of paintings, sculptures, animations, documentary, song, graphic novel, short story, short film and video, among others,” said Jamil. “And this was just in one class for just one semester.”

Genesis Banzuelo, an art and visual technology major, expressed that the open discussion in Malone’s classes set them aside from other classes that he has taken in college.

“Outside in the world today, our generation may not have a lot of opportunity to speak out, but Malone’s classes remind us that although we may just be students, we still have a say and what we say matters,” said Banzuelo.

And students are speaking. For the past month, anonymous fliers have covered the walls of the Fine Arts Building, as well as various other places on campus, protesting Malone’s dismissal. Some of the students involved in the guerrilla tactics to fight for Malone’s rights are part of the on-campus group, Students for a Quality Education. Senior Rose Guterbock, an art and visual technology major and member of SQE, has worked all semester on collecting written and electronic signatures for a petition to keep Malone. There have been two petitions created in the past year. Last semester, there were over 200 signatures, and this semester, that mark has been reached again. This shows that a large amount of students and non-students are taking action against the possibility of losing Malone.

Faculty members have spoken out as well, by writing support letters or by merely expressing their concern for Malone.

“Malone’s words and actions indicate to me that he is deeply committed to upholding a fair and equitable working environment for the faculty,” said art and visual technology assistant professor Mark Cooley.

Assistant professor Chawky Frenn said that he not only felt “the personal sense of loss as a good colleague and friend departs, but also that the students have lost a wonderful teacher and a terrific artist.”

Students are already feeling the impact of Malone’s potential absence. Although the ideas and productions are being put on hold by the current matters at stake, Malone still offers his guidance and friendship to his students, faculty members, department and university.

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