By Savoula Stylianou, Queen’s Journal, 11 November 2011:
AMS Assembly voted to create a committee last night that will investigate the University’s decision to suspend admissions into the fine arts program.
On Wednesday, University administration sent an email to fine arts students informing them that the program wouldn’t accept any new students for the 2012-13 academic year.
In an interview with the Journal, 30 fine arts students gathered in the Polson Room of theJDUC to express their concerns.
Anicka Vrana-Godwin, BFA ’13, said she’s angry about the decision to suspend the program.
“It’s punishment because they haven’t done their research. No one knows about fine arts at Queen’s, yet graduates do great things … they have no idea what we can pull off,” she said.
Heather Smith, BFA ’12, said she’s glad she was in fourth year when this decision was made.
“If I was a first year, I would immediately be looking to transfer schools.”
The motion passed at the Nov. 10 AMS assembly was brought forth by Ebonnie Hollenbeck, BFA ’13.
It reads: “That AMS Assembly strike a committee composed of the AMS executive, [Arts and Science Undergraduate Society] executive, the rector and members of the society to investigate the suspension of the enrolment in the bachelor of fine arts program, the implications the suspension has on the future of the program, why students were not properly informed of the decision and how this will impact students currently enrolled in the program.”
The motion also states that where possible, the committee should work to restore enrolment to the program for next year.
AMS Vice President of Operations Ashley Eagan said she met with the director of the fine arts department, Kathleen Sellars, and Gordon Smith, the associate dean of Arts and Science on Thursday.
“They couldn’t answer important questions about if the arts program will still be a module system like it is now, which makes it so unique,” Eagan, BFA ’11, said in her address to assembly.
The module system allows students to specialize in specific areas of art for at least six weeks.
The decision to suspend fine arts admissions was made on Wednesday and was a result of budget constraints in the Faculty of Arts and Science, said Dean Alistair MacLean.
Faculty members within the department of Fine Arts were told of the suspension on Wednesday, shortly before the email was sent out to students in the program.
“Going through the budget process for Arts and Sciences, it became clear that there was a question about whether the program had sufficient resources to continue in the future,” he said.
Fine arts is one of the more expensive programs at Queen’s, MacLean said.
“They require particular space and particular resources to be able to teach appropriately.”
MacLean said the problem with the University’s budget is that it has a structural deficit that incurs severe costs for departments and faculties.
“In a normal year, the revenues for the faculty [of Arts and Science] go up by $1 million and our costs go up by $2 million. One of the things we’re also battling at this moment is the University deficit,” he said.
The $1 million revenue increase each year comes from increases in fees and student enrolment, while the $2 million deficit is a result of inflation, costs of materials, heating and lighting and increased salaries, benefits and pensions, MacLean said.
MacLean said the suspension won’t affect professors in the department.
“The professors will continue to teach their courses and will be involved in discussions about the future of Fine Arts.”
MacLean said the Faculty of Arts and Science has committed to working with the fine arts program to look at its options for the future.
“We don’t know what the economic environment is going to be and we’ll have to take that into account,” he said.
Five students have already applied to the program for admission next year.
“We will notify them about the decision and work with them to explore their options. They might wish to consider coming to Queen’s and taking fine arts courses as electives,” MacLean said.
There are currently 107 students enrolled in the fine arts program. The Faculty of Arts and Science told these students that their degrees will be completed without disruption.