Special Snowflakes

…gotta be part of the blizzard. That’s the opening lament of a collection of graduate pupils in the University of California’s Master of Arts program in Art and Design. These Magnificent Seven, an entire class of the program and who have completed a year of it, wrote a letter explaining their decision to withdraw en masse from the program and posted it on the Art&Education Web site.

Some high points of their letter follow.

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.

No, Dears. No one, including USC, stuck a gun in your ears. You made this decision all by yourselves.

We were fully aware of the scarcity of, and the paucity of compensation for, most teaching jobs…. However, a different funding model was presented to us by the Roski administration upon our acceptance to the program: we would receive a scholarship for some of our first-year tuition; and for the entirety of our second year we would have a teaching assistantship with fully-funded tuition, a stipend, and benefits, 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 Roski, and the first students since 2006 to gain no teaching experience during our first-year in the program.

So, before you signed accepting Art and Design’s appointments of you to their program, you knew the funding parameters which would apply to you, and you knew the nature of the changes made from the status quo ante. And you knew a priori the limited employment opportunities following graduation. Now you’re complaining because after a three year (three whole years) interregnum, reality intruded into the program and the monies available to support it, and you can’t get a free ride for both years—you only get benefits and a “fully-funded tuition, a stipend” for the second year, assuming your scholarship was enough up to snuff for the school to continue you.

Oh! The impermanence of Life! How will you get on in the real world, where change is reality, plans don’t match the world forever, or even for very long?

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.

Having to mingle with the unwashed, actually to compete with those not as good as you for scarce resources? The ignominy of it. Whatever to do? Oh, wait—you’ve decided that. Quit, and run away.

We will continue to hold crits ourselves and be involved in each other’s work. We will be staging a series of readings, talks, shows, and events at multiple sites throughout the next year, and will follow with seven weeks of “thesis” shows beginning in April of 2016. Our collective and interdependent force….

That’s what initiative is all about. That’s what you should have been doing right along during your year in the program. You shouldn’t need—as you’re belatedly discovering—to wait on someone else to tell you what you should do; faculty in a graduate program guides and critiques, they don’t tell or spoon-feed like a first grade teacher must.

RTWT. It’s sad and a tired, played out complaint.

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