BFA students feel program suspension imminent

Calls for program redepartmentalization continue

Image by: Herbert Wang
Fine arts studios located in Ontario Hall.

The waiting game continues. Claire Dobbie, BFA ’23, and co-president of the Fine Arts DSC, said there’s a general feeling of tiredness and burnout for current BFA students who continue to advocate for the program to continue without suspension.

Consultations are being held with students to determine the next course of action for the program. Suspension of admissions is an option on the table to ensure the program meets the goals of the cyclical program review, according to the University. 

A decision on suspension has not been made, and is expected around Feb. 17, as discussed at Senate on Jan. 31.

“We’re at the whim of Barbara Crow [Dean Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS)], and we can’t really do much anymore; we’re existing,” Dobbie said in an interview with The Journal. 

For Dobbie, advocacy efforts have taken up a lot of time for her and her fellow co-president. She said consultations have taken up significant proportions of students’ time, and it feels their voices aren’t being heard. 

The consultation, for many BFA students including Dobbie, has felt like FAS gathering evidence to support a predetermined conclusion.

“The whole consultation process has felt like looking for evidence of their vision of how the BFA should go. Which the language has been pausing admissions. 

They’re getting our opinions to support their ownideas of what we need,” Dobbie said. 

“We’re asking for promises, resources, and written out guidelines of what we’re going to do. They’re not meeting usthere—they’re taking this information in to seemingly support what their vision for the process is.” 

In 2011, Queen’s suspended BFA program admissions citing concerns around the budget and retiring staff. This time, Dobbie said students along with faculty members are asking for alternatives to suspension, such as re-departmentalizing the Fine Arts under the Department of Art History. 

Both Fine Arts DSC co-presidents signed a letter in conjunction with faculty in the Department of Art History urging Crow to not suspend theprogram and re-departmentalize it under the Departmentof Art History. 

“I think the goal for everybody is for us to be re-departmentalized […] We haven’t heard anything back from [Crow]. I don’t know where they see [the letter] as part of the process. Where we’re going, feels as though it’s at the whim of [FAS],” Dobbie said. 

Norman Vorano, head of the Department of Art History, agreed about the request to re-departmentalizeand its backing fromfaculty and students. 

“This joint letter was supported by an overwhelming majority of BFA/AHAC faculty, then endorsed by the DSC and GVCA, and expresses clearly where our respective units are heading,” Vorano told The Journal.

“I have subsequently sent the Dean a comprehensive re-departmentalization proposal, written with the BFA Chair after consultation with BFA faculty, that would allow us to avoid a program suspension.”

Suspending admissions to the BFA program sends a poor message about Queen’s support of the visual arts and arts-driven diversity and equity initiatives, according to Vorano. He said a suspension would mean the greatest university art collection in Canada would have no fine arts students to study it. 

“This year, the Koener Artist-in-Residence, a program organized by the BFA faculty and students, was the Sri Lankan-Canadian artist Ranji Perera. Before that, it was the Mi’kmaq artist Ursula Johnson,” Vorano said. “We are currently working with our BFA peers to bring Rosana Paulino, an important Afro-Brazilian artist, to Queen’s as a visiting artist.”

Dobbie said in-progress applications for the BFA and BFA/Con-ed program—numbering around 250 applications—are facing the possibility of a potential suspension. She said the Undergraduate Admission Office has been in contact. 

The Journal reached out to the University for an interview with the FAS administration on the matter. FAS provided a statement discussing the steps taken by the Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment office. 

“A communication from Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment was sent to all applicants to the BFA. It provided information on the current process that considers the question of temporarily suspending admissionsto the BFA,” Jenn Stephenson, associate dean (academic), said in the statement. 

“[The communication] noted that no decision had been made yet and that a decision was expected in February. Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment also offered advising services to applicants.” 

A key issue in the process, according to Dobbie, has been the feeling of a lack of a “democratic process” anda lack of transparency. 

“The core of why we’re all so distraught isbecause we don’t have access to the information of what’sgoing on,” she said. 

Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) President Yara Hussein sent a statement on behalf of the Society to The Journal. It outlined ASUS’s advocacy efforts to ensure transparency

from the Dean’s office to students and faculty in the BFA. 

“The fine arts play an integral role in [FAS], in the Queen’s Community, and more broadly to our greater society. We are committed to ensuring that the fine arts remain at Queen’s as an academically valued,justly funded, and structurally sought creative space that allows for the prosperity of students and faculty,” Hussein said.


Art, Bachelor Fine Arts, Painting, suspension

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