Following months of unrest at the University of Tasmania’s School of Creative Arts (SOCA) campus in Hobart, a student-launched petition calling for action to combat “ongoing disruptions to learning and study” has gained almost 200 signatures.
The disruptions outlined in the petition include the “recent suspension” of key teaching staff and the “uncertainty” around employment for technical staff, corroborating wider student concerns about cuts to resources and teaching support.
Students have said an “atmosphere of anxiety and distrust” is rising at the campus, with many worried about the future of the Art School.
“Many of these concerns have been ongoing, and relate to poor management and leadership in the University,” the petition reads.
“We believe that, by students voicing these concerns and offering resolutions, we are working towards improving campus culture for staff and students.”
The petition was launched following a number of information sessions held by UTas staff during Semester 2 to address the growing number of questions from students.
A packed meeting with the Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Arts, Law and Education, Professor Kate Darian-Smith, was held in September.
Togatus can reveal Professor Darian-Smith told students there are no plans to pull back resources at the Art School, during a forum attendees described as “extremely heated”.
Alex Hullah, a Fine Arts Honours student, told those at the meeting there are “serious concerns” regarding the sculpture course, with a number of students dropping out.
“Many students are considering whether they want to come back and finish the course next year,” she said.
The sculpture course went without supervision and teaching support for a significant period of time in Semester 2, following the removal of two teaching staff as part of an undisclosed investigation.
Professor Darian-Smith could not reveal the circumstances of the investigation, or tell students when the issue would be resolved. Students were told by staff the investigation would only take two weeks to resolve at the start of Semester 2, but at the time of publication it remains underway.
Professor Darian-Smith responded to concerns about technical staff, highlighting a review had been ongoing since the start of the year.
“There have been some changes to technical staff. This has not meant there is less support for students, but possibly the problem may be the communication of how support is available,” she said.
Professor Darian-Smith acknowledged the response could have been handled better, but said “we can’t turn the clock back.”
“I am sorry, I am very sorry, if [an apology] is what you want. Personally, I wish this had never happened,” she said.
Following an investigation by the UTas Academic Senate, formal complaints by students have been “substantiated”.
The acting head of SOCA, Professor Tony Simoes da Silva, has stepped down from the position during the semester and has been replaced by Professor Dominic Geraghty.
The petition has been sent to UTas management, including Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black.
The revelations come just days before the opening of the 2018 Art School Grad Show, to be held on Friday.