Arts and Science Faculty Board discusses suspension of Fine Arts program

Professors call threat of suspension into question  

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
The meeting was moderated by outside consultant Larry Graham. 

Faculty members erupted with concerns over the suspension of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) at the Arts and Science Faculty Board meeting on Nov. 18.

The meeting was held online, over Zoom. The Faculty Board meets once a month to discuss issues and updates within the faculty. After a tense discussion and ‘consultation’ from third-party consultant Larry Graham, no consensus was reached on recommendations for the future of the BFA. 

“That was not a consultation,” Senator Jordan Morelli said as the meeting ended with no clear direction for the BFA program.   

The discussion was a result of the University’s recommended procedures for temporary suspension of admissions to academic programs. The Faculty of Arts and Science recently initiated a consultation into the temporary suspension of admissions to the BFA program.

According to the Temporary Suspension of Admissions Checklist, the Dean should “ensure that alternatives to temporarily suspending admissions to the program have been explored and explain to the affected individuals and groups, including Faculty Board[s] or equivalent[s] and Senate, the feasibility [or lack of feasibility] of these alternatives.”

Graham conducted the consultations with all the BFA stakeholders over the course of the semester and moderated the meeting. His questions for the Faculty Board were met with dissent from members who felt they were asked the wrong questions. 

“This feels like something that’s being done to say a consultation happened, but we can’t properly answer these questions without other knowledge,” Abby McLean, president of the Global Development Student Council (DSC), said at Board. 

The questions up for discussion revolved around how improvements can be made to curriculum and resources for the BFA. 

“I just have to echo a point that was right earlier about the utility of having a group of faculty heads who don’t particularly have expertise in in this area being invited to comment on that,” Norman Vorano, History department head, said. 

Within the BFA, staff and faculty are advocating to revitalize the program without implementing a temporary admissions suspension.

“I want to say that I absolutely, at this point in time, disagree with the need of any suspension and want to strengthen the program without suspension. [There’s] no promises of resources if BFA gets suspended,” Rebecca Anweiler, BFA professor, said a Board.

There are time pressures for Queen’s to move through the procedures outlined for temporary suspension of admissions, with two students having applied to the BFA for fall 2023.  

“From a student perspective, I have to say that I agree that suspension would not help towards assisting the program,” Lauren Russo, president of the Fine Arts DSC, said at Board. 

“We saw student participation at an all-time high at one of events last night. I would really hate for the rich community that we’ve managed to build in our program to be taken advantage of.”

Russo called the BFA a “safe haven” for BIPOC and LQBTQ+ students on Queen’s campus, positing a suspension to admissions would be harmful to marginalized groups.

BFA student Meenakashi Ghadial won the Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation’s grant for $17,000 for work she produced in the program. According to Ghadial’s artist statement, she explores her identity as a queer woman of colour through her art. 

Another BFA student, Jobelle Quijano, received the Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation’s grant this year. 

Despite the program’s success, BFA faculty member Alejandro Arauz said there’s room for growth, referencing the recommendations outlined in the BFA’s 2016 Cyclical Program Review.

The Cyclical Program Review (CPR) is a process that evaluates all academic programming at Queen’s to ensure programs’ quality and identity areas for improvement.

The CPR identified studio space, scheduling, isolation from the greater Queen’s community, and a lack of permanent faculty as problems confronting the BFA.

Specifically, the CPR recommended re-structuring the timetables for Fine Arts classes to allow students to participate in more electives. The CPA suggests increasing the number of Art History courses required in the BFA curriculum.

In its implementation plan, the CPR states the BFA program can no longer be provided with dedicated space. The BFA currently resides in Ontario Hall and CPR recommendations were supposed to be addressed in 2017.

To address the recommendations, Vicki Remenda was appointed as the interim BFA director from July 1, 2016 to August 30, 2017.

“It strikes me that there was insufficient formal theoretical underpinning to the program as a studio art program,” Remenda said at the Faculty Board meeting. “It wasn’t formally created or formally assessed, and I think that the program would benefit considerably if there were those opportunities.”

At the beginning of the faculty board meeting, Morelli’s motioned for the “Faculty Board to be given an opportunity to be consulted meaningfully, and to convey its collective wish to the Dean” beyond the Nov. 18 consultation.

The motion passed but did not go to vote at the end of the meeting due to time constraints.

“Checklist number two is to ensure that alternatives have been explored,” Claire Dobbie, Queen’s graduate and head docent at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, said at Board. “Clearly they have not been explored in this meeting.”

A decision on a temporary suspension of admissions is supposed to be made within the next month.


BFA, BFA Admissions suspension, BFA program, fine arts

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