Students have launched a campaign to protest the proposed closure of the Art History and Visual Culture Programme, which had 1700 signatures as of Thursday.
The goal is to buy more time for the Programme, said protester Matthew Schep. “There’s been one month between students being told and changes actually happening; that’s not enough time to come up with an alternative plan. We want to put a pause on it and find other options for the University to consider,” he said. The current proposal is to disestablish the Department in 2020, when its last student has graduated.
The student campaign, backed by Student Voice and OUSA, has started a change.org petition to the University of Otago that already has over 1000 signatures. Volunteers have also gathered over 700 signatures on a paper petition around the University.
The change.org petition said that the justification for cutting Art History and Visual Culture – a drop in equivalent full-time students – is due to long-term neglect of the discipline by the University. Matthew said, “the University haven’t promoted Art History or replaced academic staff when they left. We feel cutting the Art History Programme goes against what the University stands for”.
Another protesting student asked, “If the Uni has seen this coming since 2014, when their EFTS (equivalent full-time students) started to drop, what have they done about it? Even if we accept the argument of a need for economic sustainability, it seems as if they have brought this on themselves”.
OUSA Education Officer James Heath said, “OUSA is going into Senate with the singular goal of saving the Art History and Visual Culture Programme – just because it might be a fight does not mean we should back down for a second. This means presenting the community petition and putting forward a strong and robust argument.”
James will attend the Senate meeting and argue for Art History alongside the newly-elected Postgraduate Officer.
A public meeting will be held on Tuesday 25th September at the Main Common Room for “stakeholders and interested parties to have their voices heard and to demonstrate support for the retention of the Art History and Visual Culture programme at Otago,” said Student Voice. They encourage students to “stand up and make your voice heard”.
Statements from supporters around New Zealand will also be heard at Senate, including several art gallery directors who have expressed their support of the Department and its contributions to art scholarship beyond Dunedin.
A rally will be held outside the clocktower at midday on Wednesday 26th September, during the Senate meeting that will decide Art History and Visual Culture’s fate. Be there.