May 17, 2015 – In my experience working in academia, the current MFA students dropping out at USC put the spotlight on a number of issues and changes universities nationwide are experiencing right now. Universities are reacting to the following:
Rise in student loan debt + Recession + Lousy job market + Stagnated income + Consumerism + Corporatism + List goes on.
Sometimes the changes are necessary (but not always pretty) and sometimes the changes are not always the best way; following the money and forgetting the importance of having a needed foundation at its core. A foundation that can offer skills and opportunities that sometimes technology cannot do such as hands on creativity and one on one (human!) collaboration and communication.
I read Carolina A. Miranda’s LA Times article, “Behind the Impasse that Led USC’s 2016 MFA Students to Withdraw in Protest.” A statement in her article summed up one set of changes (noted above) that is going on:
“…at a time when many parents and students question the utility of pricey university degrees, many universities are responding with programs that play up the possibility of future employment…In the case of USC,” he said, “they’re making a big push into an interdisciplinary arts school that has a lot to do with technology and uses a lot of Silicon Valley buzzwords like ‘disruption’. Soon after her arrival as dean, Muhl oversaw a name change: from the Roski School of Fine Arts to the Roski School of Art and Design. At many schools that feature both art and design, Godfrey says, “design gets more attention and often more funding.”
Bravo to these seven students for putting the spotlight on these issues and the rapid, night and day changes in the education system. It is not just in the art programs, but education as a whole. These students applied for an education they thought they were going to get based on the program’s excellent reputation and the funding it offered. Instead, the university did what the loan industry does: a bait and switch.
As I mentioned above, sometimes change is needed and sometimes change doesn’t always translate into something better and improved. For better or for worst, universities are reacting by enacting these changes. And doing so in a corporate mindset. When it comes down to it, it’s about the bottom line, surviving it and making oneself relevant.
What is unfortunate is that the students, faculty and staff are in the middle of it, are impacted and feeling the effects in both their education and livelihood such as the seven MFA USC students.
“Behind the Impasse That Led USC’s 2016 MFA Students to Withdraw in Protest” by Carolina A. Miranda, LA Times, May 15, 2015
“Entire First-Year MFA Class Drops Out in Protest at the University of Southern California” by Matt Stromberg, Hyperallergic, May 15, 2015
“Noam Chomsky: Corporate Business Models Are Hurting American Universities” by Noam Chomsky, Salon
“An Entire MFA Class Dropped Out to Protest the Changing Face of Arts Education” by Jared Keller, Pacific Standard, May 19, 2015