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Studio Arts Students Win Right to Carry on Their Education

Acknowledging the vitality of the arts community in the Kootenays, Selkirk College offers various educational pathways in a variety of arts. This includes Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) Certificate and Diploma programs that features pathways in Jewelry, Textiles, Ceramics or Sculptural Metal and enhancement of other creative skills with course offerings in academic, digital media and self-directed studio practice. There are also opportunities for graduates of the Diploma program to bridge to Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

However, following years of low enrolment and high costs of programming, College administrators decided in the fall of 2018 to discontinue the Diploma. Beginning September 2019 the College will only offer the one year Certificate program.

This came as news to a number of students completing their 2018-19 year with plans to continue on in their studies through the Diploma program, particularly after being told they did not need to register for the full Diploma program at the beginning of term.

“We found out through an email that they wouldn’t be allowed to apply for our next term as it wouldn’t be running,” explains Marcia Ticheler, a student within the Jewelry stream of the KSA Diploma program. “It was part of a mass communication failure that affect our plans as students.”

Through talking with other students within the program, she found out that the Metal studio students had learned of the change months in advance and had already successfully advocated with the College to complete their program. With this knowledge, the students created a petition and mission statement that current cohort would be able to continue their plans to complete the Diploma. Signatures of the minimum number required to continue the program were attained.

“We had our concerns, our petition, and the fact that the metal students got their second year,” Tichler explained.

However, when KSA students met with program Chair, Daryl Jolly, they felt their concerns are heard; however, due to administrative decisions and budget restrictions, there was no chance to continue running the program. The students persisted in their self-advocacy, scheduling further meetings with KSA administrators that continued to offer no definitive answer on what could be done to meet the concerns of students.

The students reached out to advocates within the Selkirk College Students’ Union to provide support during the Selkirk Education Council in their meeting on April 17. During this meeting, students were pleased to support from KSA administrators – Patricia Biddart and Jolly had reviewed the upcoming budget to arrange for continuation of the program. During the meeting, members of the Education Council voted to amend the program changes to grandfather current students, fermenting student victory and the right to continue their program.

“We were all so happy and impressed with how hard they fought for us,” Tichler states. “Through this process all of our professors were really supportive and hoping to do the second year with us.”

For the student advocate within the Selkirk College Students’ Union, the self advocacy shown by the students was important.

“I was proud. The students did a good job of organising themselves and did it very quickly and efficiently.  The commitment to their vision of being able to complete their program was really amazing and drove home their success.”

All parties were pleased at how rapidly the College and Education Council were able to respond to the situation.

““It can sometimes take years to get this kind of matter resolved with the institution,” stated the Students’ Union advocate. “I don’t often get to see student success like this.”

Tichler states students should not be daunted to advocate for themselves and peers when they recognize unfairness in their program or any aspect of their educational experience.

“It doesn’t take as much energy as you think to advocate for yourself – you are never alone – your professors want you to succeed, as do your classmates. You are never as alone as you might feel in this.” 

Students of all pathways of the Kootenay Studio Arts programs will be taking part in a year end show case and sale June 21 & 22 at the Victoria Street campus in Nelson.