Summer Reading – Entire First-Year MFA Class Drops Out in Protest at the University of Southern California
Today’s selection for our Summer Reading series comes from DS West Coast regional editor Vivian Sming, who notes: “It’s back-to-school season, and Matt Stromberg’s coverage of USC’s en masse MFA drop out remains a topical discussion, as academic institutions increasingly restructure their focus toward administration.” This article was originally published on Hyperallergic on May 15, 2015.
Citing “the University’s unethical treatment of its students,” the entire class of first year MFA students at USC’s Roski School of Art has decided to leave the school, according to a statement they released today. The seven students list a number of grievances leading to their decision, beginning with a significant decrease to the generous tuition subsidization that they had expected before their acceptance to the program. They also criticize the school’s administration that “did not value the Program’s faculty structure, pedagogy, or standing in the arts community.” As a result, they say, the Program Director left in December 2014, followed by the resignation of tenured professor Frances Stark.
After numerous meeting with the administration, they write:
[W]e have no idea what MFA faculty we’d be working with for the coming year; we have no idea what the curriculum would be, other than that it will be different from what it was when we enrolled and is currently being implemented by administrators outside of our field of study; and finally, we have no idea whether we’d graduate with twice the amount of debt we thought we would graduate with.
In the midst of this upheaval, the university was eagerly celebrating the arrival of the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy, which came with a $70 million gift from the music industry giants. Focused on art, technology, and entrepreneurship, the undergraduate program is also headed by Erica Muhl, the newly appointed Dean of Roski. The Academy’s tagline, “The Degree is in Disruption,” employs a favorite techie term, which the student statement addresses:
[F]aculty voices are silenced and adjunct faculty expands, affecting their overall ability to advocate for students. We seven students lost time, money, and trust in a classic bait-and-switch, and the larger community lost an exemplary funding model that attempted to rectify at least some of these economic disparities. What we experienced is the true ‘disruption’ of this accelerating trend.