USC fine arts students withdraw from school protesting changes

University of Southern California’s art and design school’s entire 2016 class has dropped out of school, protesting faculty and curriculum changes.

The seven fine art students on Friday posted a letter online, saying they are withdrawing from the university’s Roski School of Art and Design because of changes to the visual arts graduate program and the loss of several prominent professors

"It's a different program from what I enrolled in," George Egerton-Warburton told the Los Angeles Times in Saturday's editions. "I had a dreamy first semester — it had a tone of rigor. But we've lost that this semester."

The students said they were upset that studio visits were replaced by classes focusing on teaching and criticism. They also lamented about the loss of guaranteed teaching assistant positions.

USC said “minor changes” were made to the curriculum before the students arrived in 2014 and that studio tours remain part of the curriculum.

"I regret that several of our MFA students have stated they will leave the program over issues that were presented to us and that we considered to have been resolved, specifically having to do with financial aid and curriculum," Dean Erica Muhl said in a statement.

Muhl took over the department in 2013. She oversaw the name change from Roski School of Fine Arts to the Roski School of Art and Design.

USC's graduate visual arts program is intimate but highly respected. It has produced many well-known contemporary artists including international art star Paul McCarthy, installationist Amanda Ross-Ho and multimedia artist Elad Lassry.

Experts said universities in recent years push for an interdisciplinary arts program that boosts students' chances of employment.

At schools that offer both art and design, "design gets more attention and often more funding," said DeWitt Godfrey, president of the College Art Association and professor of art and art history at Colgate University.

The Associated Press contributed to this report