On Friday May 15, 2015, the first-year MFA class at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design dropped out in direct protest of the University’s refusal to deliver the funding and curricular promises made to these students.
The students’ decision to take this important action did not come as a surprise. For years, the University has been following a nationwide trend, shifting resources and focus away from the execution of our core educational mission and towards bloated administrative salaries, lavish infrastructure projects, and a business model of education.
We believe the University should honor its commitments to its students.
In their public statement, the first-year MFA class references the low pay and instability faced by non-tenure track faculty as a key example of USC’s misplaced priorities, and we couldn’t agree more. With a reported $3.8 billion in endowment, and $8.8 billion in total assets, the institution has the resources and capacity to provide stable, decently-paid jobs to faculty. Unfortunately, over 75% of faculty at USC work in contingent, part-time positions, which offer low pay and no job security. These are the jobs awaiting qualified scholars and practitioners, as well as debt-laden graduates.
For months, we have been speaking out about the personal struggles that many of us face, not knowing if we will have jobs from one semester to the next. And all too often, we have no voice in the decisions that affect our students and our programs. This instability and lack of transparency affects not only faculty, but our entire educational community.
To be clear, the decision by the first-year MFA class to drop out of school represents a failure by USC to retain and to engage productively with the students it recruited, and thus to meet its pedagogical mission. The University’s glaring focus on profits over quality education shows an administration disconnected from its own mission, as well as the needs and realities of its students and faculty.
We share very serious concerns regarding the University’s efforts to drive down the cost of instruction at the expense of providing quality education to our students in their fields of study, and good jobs to faculty.
United, we share a vision for the future of higher education. We are part of a nationwide movement organizing for good jobs for faculty and quality education for students. Together, we will continue the fight, and hold large institutions like USC accountable. We call on our colleagues across the country to join us as we rise to protect the stability of our students’ education.
Current and Former Faculty, USC Roski School of Art and Design:
First-year MFA class, USC Roski School of Art and Design:
Lauren Davis Fisher