By Abigail Cloutier
Amid budget deficits and cuts, one of the programs on the chopping block is the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. The program is shared by Youngstown State University, Kent State University, the University of Akron and Cleveland State University.
YSU teaches about 25% of the courses through the NEOMFA program — and over 1,200 people are fighting to save them.
Cassandra Lawton, a graduate student in the writing program, started the petition that has over 1,200 signatures. She moved to Youngstown from Michigan to be in the program.
“It’s just really sad to see something go downhill like that, and the program being cut [is] something that would impact me and the other people in the program in a multitude of different ways,” Lawton said.
Though the students currently in the program will be allowed to complete it before it sunsets, she said potential future students could miss out on a lot without YSU’s participation.
“I work with Lit Youngstown, and oftentimes people know me because I’m in the program and I’m able to make a lot more community connections, and connections in general for that organization as well as the program, because I have both on my side,” Lawton said.
She said despite YSU President Jim Tressel’s claims of wanting to grow and support the arts in the area, programs like these are being cut.
“But we’re not seeing that. Over and over again he’s cutting these programs and the [NEOMFA] was just one of them. But it’s a huge one, and the arts fuel $30-41.1 billion of Ohio’s economy every year. So it’s not a financial thing, because the program made money for YSU last year. So I think I would just love to see them maintain it and give it the respect that it deserves in return to show that they are wanting to support the arts,” Lawton said.
Tressel declined to comment. Provost Brien Smith did not respond to requests for comment.
In the petition, Lawton discusses the successes of graduates from the program and how the decline could affect the area.
“If the program were to be cut from YSU, access to writers and resources would diminish in the area. YSU students in the program volunteer for events, such as the English Festival, impacting hundreds of local high school students, and the Lit Youngstown Fall Literary Festival, bringing hundreds to the area each year,” she said.
Lawton is planning a rally outside of DeBartolo Hall Tuesday, Nov. 2 at noon where attendees will walk to Tod Hall to demand a good-faith meeting and deliver the petition.