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Entire Class Of USC Art Students Drop Out Over 'Unethical Treatment'
USC's entire first-year class of MFA art students has decided to drop out, citing a lengthy list of grievances including a lack of promised funding and "unethical treatment" by administrators.
On Friday, the seven students released a statement on MFA NO MFA, which opens:
We are a group of seven artists who made the decision to attend USC Roski School of Art and Design's MFA program based on the faculty, curriculum, program structure and funding packages. We are a group of seven artists who have been forced by the School's actions dismantling each of these elements to dissolve our MFA candidacies. In short, due to the University's unethical treatment of its students, we, the entire incoming class of 2014, are dropping out of school and dropping back into our expanded communities at large.
Chief among their complaints was what they allege was the pulling of money from under their feet, that Roski officials were "attempting to retroactively dismantle the already diminished funding model that was promised to us." An administrator told the students that the funding promised during recruitment was an "unfortunate mistake" and that they "should leave" if it wasn't going to work out for them.
The statement also cites the Roski administration's inability to "value the Program's faculty structure, pedagogy or standing in the arts community," leading to the resignation of an administrator and Frances Stark, who taught in the program.
As Hyperallergic points out, the statement also alludes to the creation of the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy, happening concurrently with the demise of the MFA program. The creation of the Academy came with a $70 million gift form the namesake music giants (a former exec and rapper Dr. Dre), a symptom of "the corporatization of higher education."
Despite their best efforts to work out the situation with the administration, the students decided to walk away, saying they had "no idea what MFA faculty [they'd] be working with for the coming year," what the curriculum would be, and whether or not they'd be saddled with twice as much debt as they expected to graduate with.
We each made life-changing decisions to leave jobs and homes in other parts of the country and the world to work with inspiring faculty and, most of all, have the time and space to grow as artists. We trusted the institution to follow through on its promises. Instead, we became devalued pawns in the University's administrative games. We feel betrayed, exhausted, disrespected and cheated by USC of our time, focus and investment. Whatever artistic work we created this spring semester was achieved in spite of, not because of, the institution. Because the University refused to honor its promises to us, we are returning to the workforce degree-less and debt-full.
In a statement to ARTINFO, Roski dean Erica Muhl says officials considered the matters "resolved" and says the school "honored all the terms in the students offer letters," with the students expected to receive "a financial package worth at least 90 percent of tuition costs."Despite walking away, the seven students vow to will continue to work together independently of USC. Various art events will be held through the coming year, and it will all wrap up with seven weeks of "thesis" shows in April of 2016.