Ashley Brunetti transferred to California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) as a Visual Public Arts (VPA) major to pursue the arts as a painter. Now she’s not even sure if the university will offer the classes required to apply to graduate school.
The Visual Public Arts and Music programs have merged, and faculty and students came together to speak up about their frustrations and confusion at a town hall on Oct. 12.
Students wanted to know how resources are being allocated. The Visual Arts department is now being asked to “use donated corporate funds to pay for things that should be paid for by the state.” according to newly appointed Performing and Visual Arts Chair Angelica Muro. “If we did, the reserve would be depleted almost immediately,”
The merger was officially announced right before the semester began on Aug. 17, through an email from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS) dean. Students were shocked, as they had not been addressed while this decision was being made.
The email stated, “While this administrative structure now serves as the umbrella for both programs, your classes, class schedule and your degree does not change. The programs and supporting activities remain intact. The change is merely to the administrative reporting structure of the department to the Dean’s Office.”.
However, budgets have been cut, resulting in fewer classes being available than the roster advertises, and the visiting artist budget has been cut by more than half. “I wouldn’t have picked here if I had known what was offered,” said Brunetti. “We’re potentially looking at having no visiting artists this semester at all.”
Visiting artists are crucial to the culture on campus and the development of student artists, according to Brunetti. “Having visiting artists who are established exposes us to their own individual experience and how they moved from emerging to established. We’re essentially caterpillars; we need to grow and the connection with established artists really helps with that.”
“We’re being asked to do more work with less compensation,” said Muro. Muro accepted the position because she feels that the role of chair should be in the hands of someone who is familiar with her department and students.
Following the announcement of the merger, a small number of faculty members have already left CSUMB, and some remaining members expressed their apprehension from the start.
“It was very frustrating these decisions were made without asking the people they were impacting,” said sculptor and Professor Hector Mendoza Anguiano. “I was never opposed to the merger, and I’m glad that it was with music because there are parallels to what we do. The frustration there is about how the upper administration went about it. It was rushed.”
With no chance of reversion, students and faculty are continuing to work together to adapt to the sudden change.