I realize there is a huge budget crisis at the school: It faces a deficit of $4.5 million over two years. But we in the art and design department are already working harder than ever before. I myself am retiring at the end of this year, and three other teachers who will leave or move to other institutions will not be replaced. In 2012, my department numbered 26 employees (faculty, staff, and academic staff). This fall, we will only number 12. We are doing way more with less. Prior to the announcement of the cuts, we agreed to increase faculty course load from three classes per semester to four starting in the fall of 2018—not a popular decision, but I thought the administration needed to see our willingness to help reduce the budget issues.
Under the proposal, students would still be able to take classes in the arts, but not major in them. Currently, there are roughly 130 students who have declared art majors outside of graphic design. They have been assured they can complete their majors, but eventually, those options will be eliminated.
Regardless, I fear that the quality of education is going down by attrition as faculty retire or leave. After this semester, only two faculty members will be responsible for teaching every level of classes in printmaking, painting, photography, illustration, graphic narration, and advanced drawing. Other faculty normally responsible for the 3-D arts will pick up areas outside of their typical duties, including drawing, life drawing, and 2-D design.
I have shed many tears about this proposal and had numerous sleepless nights. This is certainly not how I thought my career here would end. It has been an honor to work at this university and to positively affect so many students. I have loved teaching here. Many of my students are first-generation college educated, as I was. The UW–SP that I have devoted myself to is an institution that serves student and community needs. The institution that announced this proposal is not one I recognize anymore.
As a state employee, I am not allowed to mix my politics with my position. However, I am trying to convey what is happening from the perspective of the chair of a department where the proposed cuts would be so substantial. Those of us who support the arts sometimes have blinders on. Because we know so well how art has positively affected us and the people around us, we do not speak up and demand that art is valued by society at large.
But imagine a world without artists. As the former U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities into existence in 1965, once said, “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”