Architectural Association (AA) director Brett Steele has asked for his new contract to be ‘torn up’ and redrafted following protests by students and staff
Steele – who was recently appointed ‘director of school’ and ‘director of association’ – has reportedly pledged to relinquish his contract during a staff meeting last Friday (25 February), which was swamped by angry students.
Discord erupted at the London architecture school two weeks ago after Steele signed a new contract with his employers, the AA Council, aimed at continuing his leadership of the school which began in 2005.
A flurry of protest letters from students and staff accused the council of failing to consult the school over the contract, claiming the appointment was part of a bid by the council to make the school ‘subservient’ to the association’s corporate interests.
According to student reports, Steele said he would lobby his employers to draw up a new contract based on the ‘terms under which he was elected’.
The reports suggested this new contract could be based on a document called the ‘Declaration of Needs’, which started out as part of a student campaign for his re-election in November 2009.
According to the reports, ‘[The] director, faced by an imposing audience unconvinced by his words, eventually agreed to lobby the council this weekend (26-27 February) to ensure that his new contract be overturned and that the terms under which he was elected be reinstated, after which a membership-wide debate about the association’s governance and future would begin.’
A member of the school community added: ‘On Friday the Director of the School stated at the public meeting that he would tear up the new contract and re-sign the old one.
‘[However it] would be a pleasant surprise if he keeps this promise. I fear that other influences will prevail and that [today] he will begin the refutation of that promise.’
Past AA presidents Marina Adams, Michael Foster and Michael Pearson, plus 11 other signatories, have called a special general meeting scheduled to take place this Thursday (3 March) with the aim of debating the appointment. A vote of no confidence in the AA council has been tabled for the meeting.
Last week a letter by Mike Weinstock, AA director research and development and director emergent technologies and design, was published in the Ghost Dance Times and argued that ‘significant changes – of constitutional and legal importance for the school community’ had taken place at the school.
Steele’s initial five-year contract to run the school ended last year and was renewed on an ongoing basis until earlier this month, when a second five-year contract was signed. AA students endorsed Steele’s continued leadership of the school a year ago.
In a letter sent to the school community on 15 February, AA president Alex Lifschutz, said: ‘Although redrafted to be more logical, the duties and responsibilities in Brett’s new contract are the same as they were in his previous contract.
‘Rather than consulting first about alternative possibilities for the strategic leadership of the AA and its various parts and leaving the director’s post open, the council preferred to sign a new contract with Brett that reflects his current duties and then to begin a discussion across the school and the AA.’
The AA school was unavailable for comment.