Entire 2016 Class of USC Art and Design School Drops Out

USC Trojan Protest (Neon Tommy / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
(Neon Tommy / Flickr / CC / Cropped)

On Friday, all seven members of the graduate class of 2016 at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design withdrew from the program to protest changes the administration made in the faculty, curriculum and funding. The students were also upset because they had been guaranteed teaching assistant positions, but halfway through the 2014-15 school year they were told to submit applications with writing samples and references, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In a joint letter the students posted on the website website Art & Education, they wrote, “We were told that we would have to apply for, and compete with a larger pool of students for the same TA-ships promised to us during recruitment.”

The students also complained about entire semesters occurring without studio visits.

The letter began, “We are a group of seven artists who made the decision to attend USC Roski School of Art & Design’s MFA program based on faculty, curriculum, program structure and funding packages….We are a group of seven artists who have been forced by the school’s dismantling of each of these elements, to dissolve our MFA candidacies…..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.”

Roski School dean Erica Muhl responded to the letter by emailing the Los Angeles Times, “I regret that several of our MFA students have stated they will leave the program over issues that were presented to us, and that we considered to have been resolved, specifically having to do with financial aid and curriculum. The school honored all the terms in the students’ offer letters.”

The visual arts MFA program at Roski boasts alumni such as Paul McCarthy, installationist Amanda Ross-Ho, and multimedia artist Elad Lassry.

Muhl became the dean of the school in 2013, but also runs USC’s Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy, which debuted last fall, funded by Interscope Records co-founder Iovine and Young (better known as rapper Dr. Dre).

DeWitt Godfrey, president of the College Art Assn., tried to explain USC’s change in the Roski program, telling the Times, “In the case of USC, 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.'”

Stark responded to an email from the Times by saying, “The students are correct in terms of funding, curriculum, and faculty structure. All changed in relation to the program they agreed to enter.” Moser echoed that he exited to “gain some distance from institutional politics.”