Concern over YSU’s Department of Art

Some art students are having trouble finsihing their degrees because of cuts to the program. Photo by Samantha Smith / The Jambar

By Samantha Smith

Back in the fall of 2021, Youngstown State University sunset multiple courses and programs. In September, the university announced 11 departments to be considered for readjustments, including the Department of Art. 

Students and professors within the department have expressed concern for their majors, courses and programs offered at the university. 

Dana Sperry, professor of digital media and photography at YSU, said the issue with fewer courses in the Art Department lies with the number of faculty it has.  

“One of the problems is that we’ve lost a lot of [faculty] because they just left. Some people retired, but by large, people went elsewhere,” Sperry said. “It feels, at least from my vantage point, from a faculty standpoint … like more people left than we needed to cut down to. Now we’re short-staffed, we feel that way at least, and that is reflected somewhat in our course offerings.”

Sperry said he has seen YSU invest in multiple different objectives to help the university — except for teaching.

“I see investments in administration, investments in other areas that are tangential to the learning experience, and some are very important to the learning experience. What I don’t see is an investment in teaching, and what I see is quite the opposite,” Sperry said. “We keep getting smaller, and that feels like a series of deferred maintenance on the thing that we produce, like we actually create the experience that every student has.”

Students have expressed concern about the lack of art classes needed to fulfill certain art majors’ requirements. Courtney Blair, a senior photography major, said past course cuts have resulted in her substituting classes for her major. 

“This has made me have to take classes that aren’t even necessary for me to graduate,” Blair said. 

Kaileigh McBride, a sophomore interdisciplinary studio art major, said the changes made have affected her graduation timeline.

“It affects the entirety of my major. Not only from being an art major, but having to fight with other people to get into classes that I need to graduate,” McBride said. “The reality that my graduation date might be pushed back because I can’t get into the classes I need to get into, it’s very stressful. Not knowing if this specific class will be available, it makes it 10 times worse.”

Blair also said she hopes YSU reconsiders past cuts and what it has caused for other students.

“[YSU] needs to rethink some things. Just because there isn’t a lot of people doing that specific major, doesn’t mean they need to cut back on [it]. Especially for people that are currently in it because it’s making it really difficult for those people to graduate.”

Students, who have issues with courses, often go to professors for help. Sperry said the professors only know so much to tell the students.

“I don’t completely understand [YSU’s] game strategy and I think that creates unease everywhere. That’s the problem,” Sperry said. “Students are coming and talking to [professors] about what’s going on, but we only kind of half know what’s going on. Then, it becomes really hard because we are the mouthpiece to the students, way more than anyone else is.”

The Jambar reached out on multiple occasions to Phyllis Paul, dean of the Cliffe College of Creative Arts. She was unavailable for comment.

For more information about YSU’s Department of Art, visit its webpage.