USC MFA Class of 2015 Calls for Resignation of Fine Arts Dean

by Corinna Kirsch on July 16, 2015 Newswire

10/25/13 Los Angeles, CA USC Roski School of Fine Art Trojan Family Weekend Photo by:  Steve Cohn

USC Roski School of Art and Design Dean Erica Muhl, who the MFA class of 2015 has called on to resign. Photo: 2013 USC Roski School of Fine Art Trojan Family Weekend (courtesy of photographer Steve Cohn).

The movement to spur changes at the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Fine Arts continues to gain momentum. Today, Art F City received notice from the 2015 MFA graduates that they have created a petition to oust Roski School of Fine Arts Dean Erica Muhl. In an open letter, they describe how, under her tenure, the program has suffered a “systematic downward trajectory.”

Calls for alarm were heard across the nation, beginning with the May 15, 2015 resignation of the entire class of 2016. These students, who we dubbed the “USC Seven,” stood up against unexpected changes during their first-year, including the loss of core faculty members A.L. Steiner and Frances Stark, as well as major structural changes to program funding, resulting in increased student debt through a reduced teaching load. These same problems are the ones noted by the 2015 graduates. From their letter:

USC is sheltering a highly paid administrator who has operated unethically by breaking funding and curricular promises to its students. In continuing to allow Dean Muhl to maintain her position, USC is demonstrating that it does not honor its commitments to its students.

What is the bigger picture, here, that the USC Seven have brought to bear on the state of higher education? Artist Roger White writes plain and simple in the New Yorker, that so many of the changes, including the ones happening at USC, have been taking place simultaneously at art schools across the country:

The U.S.C. Seven’s decision to drop out is a vote of no confidence in the administration of one particular school—which, until the recent overhauls, had been among the most well-regarded graduate art programs in the United States. But is it also a rejection of what art school has become?

Answer: Probably. Though it’s gonna be hard to turn that “probably” into a “yes” until we see other students stand up across the country—an act that starts with signing the petition.

USC has not yet returned our response for comment.

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