The contest asks students to “channel their inner designer” and create a seal that will be used on “official TMU documents such as graduation parchments, certificates and more.” The winner will receive a $2,000 tuition voucher.
In response to the contest, the RGD and DesCan crafted a joint letter to TMU's President to share our concerns and advocate for an ethical alternative.
We shared the letter on LinkedIn, which has accumulated more than 200 likes.
“Design contests are always frustrating, but it’s really disheartening to see them aimed at students,” says Nicola Hamilton RGD, the Association's President. “There’s often a sentiment that students are learning and should take every chance they have to get their work out there, but that’s a harmful way of thinking. A student’s time has value, and a post-secondary institution should know that. Instead of soliciting free work from students, TMU should pull this contest and create the seal design in-house or in collaboration with a paid designer.”
Anyone interested in amplifying the RGD's efforts can repost our LinkedIn post and tag Toronto Metropolitan University. You may also wish to yourself with your own thoughts about the contest. There is strength in numbers when we advocate against spec work.
The RGD received the following response from President Lachemi.
Thank you for the letter you sent on behalf of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) and Design Professionals of Canada (DesCan) and for expressing your concern with our student design contest.
At TMU, we strongly believe in student engagement, in working with our community, and in encouraging our students to enhance what they learn in the classroom by gaining real-world knowledge and experience. While I appreciate the concerns and issues you raised, I also believe this project supports our values and our goal of creating a culture of action where education and experience goes hand-in-hand.
I am happy to share that, to date, we have had a strong positive response to this project from our students and we are very pleased with the quality of work they are submitting. I also believe it would be unfair to the students to stop the design contest at this stage. Should we undertake further branding work or other graphic design projects, we will certainly keep your concerns top of mind.
Thank you again for taking the time to write.
We responded with the following:
Thank you for your reply.
We understand TMU’s desire to strengthen student engagement and enhance the skills they are learning in the classroom, but we’re failing to understand how they are gaining real-world knowledge and experience by participating in this contest. Is each student receiving feedback on their submitted work, as they would at a job? If they’re not, it doesn't seem like an opportunity that will advance their learning.
You also state that this contest speaks to TMU’s culture of action, but we’re again failing to understand this connection due to the fact that all students, except for one, will have their efforts go to waste. How is it creating a culture of action when the action students are taking will be redundant? Surely there are better ways to couple education and experience than this.
Please let us know how TMU is planning to support all students in their learning through this contest, whether it be through feedback on their work or another avenue.
Unfortunately, Dr. Lachemi and TMU was uninterested in continuing the conversation, responding with an email stating: “Thank you for your follow-up letter, your concerns have been noted.”