BFA suspension paints a cloudy picture

Image by: Katharine Sung

It’s a sad start to March for the Queen’s creative community.

The University officially suspended admissions to the Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) program in February after months of consideration. Current students won’t be affected by the admissions pause, and the Faculty of Arts and Science claims it plans to transform the program over the next two years before bringing it back better than ever.

Not everyone is optimistic, however. Some BFA students and faculty aren’t convinced Queen’s is being honest about its motivations for temporarily shuttering the program. Many felt consultations with the University on the matter were more of a formality than an opportunity for discourse.

If the University wants to be regarded as a place where art and artists are celebrated—as it should—it must deliver on this promise and show the suspension was justified. Even if that happens, campus culture will feel the loss of two BFA classes. 

We’re not just losing two cohorts worth of tuition. BFA students contribute significantly to the Queen’s and Kingston arts communities. Student arts clubs and publications like MUSE Magazine will feel their absence the most.

We can understand the University’s motivation to improve the program, but they’ve also had years to implement the recommended changes and didn’t. If they couldn’t fix the program’s issues in the 12 years since its last suspension, how can we trust them to do it in two?

Queen’s should think twice before taking its arts community for granted. The creative side of campus—both academic and extracurricular—is incredibly vibrant and deserves as much recognition as any Commerce or STEM community. 

When it comes to programs, more profitable shouldn’t mean more important. That mindset is how we end up with a one-dimensional campus culture, devoid of creative outlets for students whose livelihood and sometimes even mental health depends on them.

If suspending admissions is what it takes to make the improvements the BFA program needs to provide students with the best experience possible, then it’s the right decision. As it stands, the program’s course structure is restrictive and makes it difficult to take advantage of invaluable university experiences like exchange. 

Queen’s is right to want to do better by its students, but it shouldn’t have come to this. 

Faculty and students have long been making the best of what they’ve been given. We should acknowledge students in the Fine Arts program who are producing high quality work and winning awards for it. 

Now that admissions have been suspended for the second time in fifteen years, the University has a responsibility to deliver on its promise to reform the program such that it won’t require another suspension anytime soon. Still, it’s hard not to worry that with Queen’s’ BFA track record, it will let the program slip through the cracks again. 

We haven’t seen students outside the BFA program organize or advocate for their fellow students. As a student body, we should acknowledge the value the program brings to campus and work together to make sure the university gets it right this time. 

To make up for the dent this will take out of the campus arts community, the University should take extra care to invest in the vibrant arts scene on campus as it does athletics and STEM. Arts-focused clubs will need extra support to survive the next two years.

Fine arts students deserve to graduate with the knowledge that this community values them and their contributions.


Arts, BFA, BFA Admissions suspension, Campus Culture, Fine Art

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