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Rendering the future of design education

May 1, 2018

Environmental design students unveil plans in first-ever partnership with Phoenix Art Museum

If you had the opportunity to build your ideal career path at a pace and in a space tailor-made just for you — what would it look like?

That was the question design students at Arizona State University put to the test in the spring of 2018. The result: a creative-response showcase that will be unveiled at the Phoenix Art Museum on Friday.

Dubbed “The Experimental Room,” the semester-long project tasked students in the Environmental Design programAlmost 100 students from ASU's Bachelor's of Environmental Design program participated in the project to present the future of design education. in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to grapple with what it means to design for an increasingly uncertain future in our human-made surroundings — and then come up with solutions.

“This year we started with something full of potential,” said the program’s coordinator, Elena Rocchi. “We’re seeking to teach lifelong learners who dream intensively, who want a hand in creating their own future.”

That future could mean a significant reduction in recidivism and a more educated prison population, according to the students behind one of the design concepts featured in “The Experimental Room.” In tackling the complex issue of how to create a system that keeps people in our free society, the group entered into a multi-step process that involved some self-reflection in the form of self-portrait collages, ethnography research, community engagement and creativity.

Under Rocchi’s guidance, students and their instructors built a hybrid classroom into the galleries of the Phoenix Art Museum, which also granted them access to texts and other materials. The articulation of their efforts manifested in a multimedia exhibit of wire-frame modules, illustrations, renderings and companion booklets that will be on display in the museum’s Cummings Great Hall.

The night of the exhibition, which falls on downtown Phoenix’s culturally imbued First Fridays Art Walk, will also include diverse performances from the students from 6 to 10 p.m., as well as unique and individual chairs — a lot of them.

Student designers will bring an object of personal significance to sit on while channeling the idea of putting down roots and getting comfortable in the environmental space they have designed for themselves and the community in which they live.

“We are invited to Phoenix Art Museum during First Friday to present students' dreams of their careers as a special exhibit,” Rocchi said. “We seek to weave ourselves and ASU more deeply into the fabric of the community.”

The debut of “The Experimental Room” at the Phoenix Art Museum marks ASU Design School’s first-ever exhibition partnership with the museum. It comes in the midst of an intentional redesign of the school under the directorship of design industry leader Jason Schupbach and the restructuring of the Environmental Design program. The program seeks to create a deep awareness and knowledge of issues that influence the design of built environments and the design of artifacts with focus on sustainability, innovation and technology.

If you go: 'The Experimental Room'

Where: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave.

When: 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 4.

Admission: Free, as part of the museum's participation in First Fridays.

Top photo: A self-portrait collage by Environmental Design student Georgiana Costinean. Photo courtesy of Vincent Malouf 

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Searching for the truth: Are memos a reliable form of evidence?

May 1, 2018

ASU law professor explains the hierarchy of evidence and how contemporaneous notes would — or wouldn't — hold up in court

Former FBI Director James Comey has said he thought President Donald Trump might lie about the nature of their meetings, so he kept meticulous notes. Those notes — the infamous memos — are now the basis of a best-selling book and high-profile material in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation.

While these memos have garnered massive media attention, how reliable are they? Indeed, how much stock should be put in contemporaneous notes produced to document a conversation, meeting or other event?

To answer this, ASU Now reached out to Bob Dauber, a clinical professor of law and the Charles Brewer Professor of Trial Advocacy at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU, who teaches courses relating to civil procedure, evidence and dispute-resolution process.

Man in beard smiling
Bob Dauber

Question: A lot of attention has been paid to James Comey’s memos regarding his conversations with President Donald Trump. Is note-taking considered a reliable source in a court of law for an incident that might have occurred?

Answer: In court, the information that is presented to a trier-of-fact is regulated by rules of evidence, which are often (but not always) based on presumptions of reliability. One of the more well-known rules is a general ban on “hearsay,” which prohibits the use of out-of-court statements as evidence when they are offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The hearsay ban, however, has many exceptions. 

As a general proposition, Comey’s notes are out-of-court statements; therefore, they would seem to fall under the hearsay ban. However, they might be admissible in a court of law, depending on how they are being used. For example, one of the exceptions to the hearsay ban is a rule that allows prior consistent statements to be used as evidence if the declarant has testified, is subject to cross-examination, and the statement is used to rebut “an express or implied charge that the declarant recently fabricated it.” If, for example, Comey were to testify in a federal court about President Trump’s alleged direction to curtail an investigation, and if the opposing party took the position that Comey made up that conversation after he was fired, he would be able to offer his prior consistent notes written before he was fired to rebut the charge that he fabricated the allegation.

Q: President Trump has already given a lot of weight to these notes by claiming they are classified documents, thus implying they are damaging and truthful. Does his proclamation hold any weight in court?  

A: I doubt a court would agree that any decision to “classify” a document implies that the document is either truthful or damaging.

Q: Is there a hierarchy of evidence in court?

A: Once evidence is admitted, it is up to the trier-of-fact to determine how much weight the evidence deserves. That said, courts generally prefer evidence in the form of live testimony over out-of-court statements (hence the general ban on hearsay) because the opposing party has an opportunity to cross-examine the witness and the jury has the opportunity to judge the credibility of the witness based on the witness’s demeanor. A sweating, shifty-eyed witness might not be believed as readily as a congenial witness in clerical garb, for example. 

With respect to physical evidence (including documents), there are certain presumptions of reliability, based on the source of the document. Business records and government records, for example, are more easily admitted into evidence than personal notes because they presumably were created for the purposes of operating the organization, and therefore deserve a presumption of reliability.

Q: Why do we rely so much on notes when it’s possible the notetaker could have the facts wrong or could have skewed them in his or her favor?

A: James Comey is a trial lawyer by training, and it is very common for lawyers to make contemporaneous notes or “memos to the file” of conversations they have had with parties or witnesses. The reason is to make sure the conversation is documented at a time when the memory is the freshest. What I write about a conversation immediately after the conversation is likely to be much more accurate than my memory of the conversation months or years later. 

For this reason, I was not surprised that Comey had written memos of his meetings during the period in question. Whether those memos should be given much weight depends more on people’s perception of the credibility of the parties than on rules of evidence. If you think Comey is a liar, it is easy to conclude that the notes are not accurate. If you think President Trump is a liar, it’s much easier to view the notes as being accurate, contemporaneous records of what was said.

Top photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Reporter , ASU Now

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