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Entire Class of First-Year MFA Students Dropping Out of USC

Rossi School of Art and Design. COURTESY USC

Roski School of Art and Design.

COURTESY USC

All seven first-year MFA students at the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design have released a statement detailing the multiple grievances that led to their collective decision to drop out in protest. “We seven students lost time, money, and trust in a classic bait-and-switch,” they write, citing reduced tuition subsidization, a lack of emphasis on teaching experience, and a total program revamp. Below, a summary of their letter, in quotes.

On expectations:

“The Roski MFA Program that attracted us was intimate and exceptionally well­funded; all students graduated with two years of teaching experience and very little to no debt.

“However, a different funding model was presented to us upon acceptance to the Program by the Roski administration: we would receive a scholarship for some of our first-­year tuition, and would have a Teaching Assistantship with fully-­funded tuition, a stipend, and benefits for the entirety of our second year upon completion of our first-­year coursework. We, the incoming class of 2014, were the first students since 2011 to take on debt to attend, and the first students since 2006 to gain no teaching experience during our first-­year in the program.”

On the administration:

“The Dean of the Roski School of Art and Design was appointed by the University in May 2013, despite having no experience in the visual arts field.

“In a slew of unproductive, confounding and contradictory meetings with the Dean and other assorted members of the Roski administration in early 2015, we were told that we would now have to apply for, and compete with a larger pool of students for the same TAships promised to us during recruitment. We were presented with a different curriculum, one in which entire semesters would occur without studio visits, a bizarre choice for a studio-­art MFA.

“We were then told by the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs that the communication we received during recruitment clearly stating our funding packages was an ‘unfortunate mistake,’ and that if the Program wasn’t right for us, we ‘should leave.'”

On a larger system of inequality:

“USC tuition has increased an astounding 92% since 2001, compensation for USC’s top 8 executives has more than tripled since 2001, and Department of Education data shows that “administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009.”

On the bright side:

“The MFA Program we entered in August 2014 did one great thing: it threw us all together…We invite everyone to reach out to us with dreams not of creating a ‘better’ institution, but devising new spaces for collective weirdness and joy.”

The document is signed by Julie Beaufils, Sid Duenas, George Egerton-­Warburton, Edie Fake, Lauren Davis Fisher, Lee Relvas and Ellen Schafer. You may read their statement in full on Hyperallergic.

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