In the extraordinary article on the chairwoman of the UCLA architecture program, Sylvia Lavin is praised for recruiting extraordinary and elite faculty, embracing cutting-edge theory and technology, setting high performance standards, and maintaining a posture of toughness and intellectual rigor ("Lab for Discontent?," April 13). Critics, some of whom are described as accomplished professionals in their own right, paint a picture that is a caricature of architectural education: an already exaggerated crucible of critical intensity, humiliation, emphasis on theory removed from "clinical" reality, nepotism, and coerced retirement.
As a medical educator, I am interested in virtually anything that involves preparation for a professional life. Last time I looked, architecture was one of the world's great professions -- a marriage of art, technology, and the social and behavioral disciplines. The classical notion of professionalism involves mastery of some fairly circumscribed body of knowledge, a commitment to advance that knowledge, and a service ethic in response to a personal and collective mandate to address problems, to help, to support social justice.