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USC's Only MFA Art Student Drops Out Of 'Fractured' Program

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On campus at USC (Photo by Michael Locke via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Last year, the entire class of USC Roski's MFA art program dropped out. They painted a dreary picture of their experience, saying that administrators had rescinded funding for their tuition, prompted valued faculty members to quit, and left the curriculum in disarray.

"We feel betrayed, exhausted, disrespected and cheated by USC of our time, focus and investment," the group of students said in a joint open letter.

It looks like the problems haven't been fixed, as artnet reports that the sole MFA art student at USC has just dropped out.

HaeAhn Kwon, who earned her BFA from Cooper Union in 2009, was the only person to accept an offer from USC's graduate art program last year. Kwon arrived at the school with an International Artist Fellowship. According to the Daily Trojan, Kwon had accepted her offer two weeks before the news broke out that the class was dropping out. She said that, due to the news, she was hesitant in enrolling, but she couldn't pass up on the free tuition and boarding that her fellowship afforded her.

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She now says that she regrets the decision to enroll. In an open letter directed at USC provost Michael Quick, Kwon said that she is "perplexed that the administration of a renowned educational institution would allow anyone to attend such a dismantled and disorganized program."

Chief among her complaints is the perceived lack of structure and direction:


I had no functioning "Group Critique" class, the central component of an MFA degree, for which I was registered to meet twice a week for three hours each session. Instead, there was a single one-and-a-half-hour session in November, hastily put together with a 1st year MA student with a BFA background, and one of the new faculty members. [...]

Further, the fall term entirely lacked the studio component of the program. In short, it did NOT exist—there was no midterm, no finals, nor any review of any kind for my studio practice, which is the essential purpose of an MFA degree in visual art.

Furthermore, Kwon felt that she was deceived by USC's offer of enrollment:
I must hold your office partly responsible and remind you that it is predatory to invite young artists to such a fractured program, with the Vice Dean of Art and the Vice Dean of Critical Studies falsifying the status and contents of the school in their own students' and the public's eye.

And if her feelings weren't clear enough, she also said that the program's "only option seems to be to burn itself to the ground in hopes that some phoenix may eventually rise." Yikes.

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Kwon added that faculty members were "silenced" on the topic of forming a union. This January, faculty members at Roski (many of them being adjuct professors) voted to unionize and join the Service Employees International Union Local 721, Los Angeles County's largest employee union, the L.A. Times reported. Faculty at USC's Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences voted against joining the union. The National Labor Relations Board later accused USC of influencing the Dornsife decision by giving some non-tenure track faculty members pay raises right before the vote was set to take place.