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Art program suffers a mass walkout--accusations of bait and switch, destruction of the program

DustyfeathersDustyfeathers 3321 replies75 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,396 Senior Member
Even though this is for the MFA program, it's a possible indication of where this school is headed. Of concern mentioned in the article for undergrads are the accusations by students of 1) more corporate ideas of how to monetize the program at the expense of learning 2) doubling of the debt for MFA students; 3) a program that's being organized by people outside of the field.

It seems as though there are more adjuncts, higher costs for the students, poorer program, if the students (all seven in the program) are to be believed.

http://hyperallergic.com/207235/entire-first-year-mfa-class-drops-out-in-protest-at-the-university-of-southern-california/
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Replies to: Art program suffers a mass walkout--accusations of bait and switch, destruction of the program

  • USCAlum05USCAlum05 337 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 341 Member
    This is something that every USC person should be keeping a keen eye on, for better and for worse. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out against the opening of the dance school in the next year or two as well.
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  • simba9simba9 3241 replies20 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,261 Senior Member
    I was surprised there were only seven first-year students in the MFA program. How does it survive with so few students?
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  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers 3321 replies75 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,396 Senior Member
    edited May 2015
    Many high-level programs have very few students. Top programs in various fields can have hundreds of applications for a handful of slots. This is because the top level programs offer mentoring that's unprecedented to the top candidates. If it were not unprecedented, and the candidates were not the best, by definition it would not be a top program. It would devolve into what many programs have become because the institution wants to raise more money through tution: It would become a degree mill. The students pay money, go through the paces, and come out with a piece of paper and no job--because there are too many degrees granted and what's granted is poor quality because poor quality students come in, poor quality education is bestowed on them, poor quality in great quantity goes out.

    USC's program, if it is indeed relying on adjuncts now, will die a slow death--maybe a fast one. The reputation will likely sink. Adjuncts can teach a class but they don't have the rest of the package. Their employment status keeps them from doing all of the other things that professors do. USC needs to wise up and fast.

    Graduate students at the better schools are often supported by grants won by the faculty. This will no longer be possible at USC. Funding grad students is preferable for all involved because the Ph.D. program (and I'm equating the MFA program here with a Ph.D. program in other fields because this is the predominant terminal degree and because the students at USC are now being asked to pay double their earlier amount in a seemingly boneheaded move by USC administration; law likewise has higher level graduate degrees beyond JD and research programs that most people just don't hear about and the story for the highest-level degree is similar at fine law schools, etc). Well-funding grad students allows the students to focus on the research they are doing and to complete the work well and more quickly. They do their own work plus they further the mission of the lab/ art program they are in as an apprentice. The student receives a tuition grant as part of their payment for this work, all while they learn.

    Competition for the grants can be devastatingly difficult, with funding rates as low as 3%-6%. Because funding rates are so low, the professors with the more rigorous research training and programs, it stands to reason, get the funding. Schools such as Yale and the better Ph.D. programs charge no tuition to virtually all of the grad students (outside of the professional schools such as business) because the faculty have competed for these grants. I've known professors at Ivy schools to submit 14 or more grants before being awarded one, and each grant takes a huge effort to write and submit. This is one of the all-but-invisible things that professors do that enhance students' experiences and for which the professors are given little credit by the lay public. People who complain about what professors do often see only the number of classes they teach and not their other many duties such as this burden of grant writing. The school itself can take 50%-70% of the total grant received as "overhead". Think about all of those pretty buildings on campuses and what they cost to maintain . . . .

    Professors also seek funding for students through donations from foundations and alumni. As faculty are the models of learning and leadership for a school, the Development Office often brings the star professors to events to remind the potential donors why the Institution is "great". This takes time. Great professors manage to teach classes well, mentor grad students well, mentor students into their first and often subsequent jobs well (years of networking for students), write grants well, do PR work with alumni well (getting to know individual alumni and inviting them into their own homes for dinners, for example; sending cards and letters and emails to people/ donors), and these amazing professors also do their own research. Many also have families and kids of their own to raise. What many outside of academia don't realize is at least at the top level of schools and programs, being an effective professor means 100 hour per week job--and this means working during the summer. Research programs and labs do not close for the summer. Professors at the top level go to other facilities and create new programming abroad for students, create research collaborations for students; run their ongoing labs, etc.

    Again, this is a lot of work for professors that's invisible, but which is vital to students' experience. Students want to do their art, how will they pay for it, the technologies involved, the facilties, the materials? Students want research labs. Where do they think the money comes from? These are expensive facilities to run. Students want well-developed art and research programs. Those are built painstakingly over time through the leadership and expertise of devoted faculty with a vision. The vision doesn't just appear; it's a perspective built on years of expertise. Students want jobs afterwards, making those connections for students means the professor is out in the world meeting people and making their mark, so to ease their students' passage into the working world.

    This sort of educational experience is threatened by administrators who hire cheaper adjuncts to teach courses. However, because of their employment status they offer no research or design programs, have no time to write grants and do this legwork behind the scenes that makes for a great program.

    USC with adjuncts will not be a great school. It's impossible.
    edited May 2015
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  • prospect1prospect1 1391 replies41 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,432 Senior Member
    @dustyfeathers, what an insightful post. Thank you. It seems to me that professors are even more important in departments such as Art, where future prospects for students are so dependent upon the funding and connections provided by respected, full professors.
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