U ousts independent arts program in Duluth, citing budget cuts

The University of Minnesota-Duluth campus had to make major changes to its art programs this year due to budget cuts.

Hailee Schievelbein

Hailee Schievelbein

by Hana Ikramuddin

Struggling under budget cuts, the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus had to make major changes to its art programs this year.

Last academic year, the Duluth campus was instructed to cut more than $5 million from its budget due to recurring deficits. Because of the cuts, the University decided to merge the School of Fine Arts with the College of Liberal Arts, leaving the University system without an independent fine arts school. Though the cuts have affected other areas of the Duluth campus, those within SFA said they have mixed feelings about the merger.

None of the fine arts programs or majors will be cut; they will instead be integrated into Duluth’s CLA. 

The merger is not meant to reflect a lack of value the University places on the fine arts, said Regent Ken Powell at the regents meeting last month.

“Merging the School of Fine Arts and the College of Liberal Arts together …  allows us to make sure that we keep all of these programs,” said Duluth’s CLA Dean Jeremy Youde.

The administration hopes to minimize negative impacts on student learning and the curriculum.

“This was in no way going to affect the students. In fact, most students don’t even know who their dean is. And if that’s the case, probably nothing’s going to change for you,” said SFA Dean Robert Kase.

To some, the loss of the SFA represents a loss to the University system. This is especially prevalent because of the loss of administrators who can directly advocate and support those who learn within the school, Kase said.

“We had leadership that was specific to the arts,” Kase said. “I regret that we have lost that.”  

As the merging of SFA happens this summer, Kase’s position will end along with it. As a tenured faculty member, he may remain on staff in a teaching position after a period of time off, he said. 

Kase said advocacy for fine arts can still happen but on a broader scale, as it will come from CLA faculty and leadership.

Christian Moreno Cova, a student senator for SFA, said students were concerned and confused about how the cuts were going to be made, citing a lack of communication from Duluth administrators. 

“We’re still trying to remedy the damage that was done by the fact that the administration didn’t have a plan for sharing that information in a structured way,” Moreno Cova said.

Usually, the traditions of the fine arts are not prioritized and are often the first programs whose budgets are cut, Moreno Cova said. Similar to Kase, Moreno Cova’s role in student government will end with the merger of SFA.

“The students are the ones who are affected by losing administrative roles. The students are the ones who are affected by losing representation within their student government,” Moreno Cova said.

Despite the merger, the administration will ensure that fine arts programs remain central to Duluth’s mission, Youde said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Christian Moreno Cova’s name.