Money Well Spent?
From Columbia Alumnus Julia Phillip’s Exhibit Failure Detection
I’m Detecting Some Failure, All Right
An important dispatch from Columbia University, the most expensive college in the United States:
“On April 5, the students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David Madigan to discuss their concerns with the program and demand a full tuition refund from the University. Although Coatsworth acknowledged that the state of the program is a ‘disgrace,’ he told the students that Columbia would not be able to provide them with a tuition refund.”
Never mind the fact New York City has some of the highest costs of living in the world. What’s the annual pricetag for Columbia MFA students? Merely $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year. The university had an endowment of over $10 billion dollars in 2017. Yet none of those funds seem to be directed towards basics like building maintenance or adequate staff. I wonder if their Office of Academic Diversity faces similar challenges.
As an artist myself, I view the complaints about their facilities with skepticism. I lived for two years in a warehouse space in Arizona with no air conditioning or heat. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I used to paint in my kitchen. I had to drag all the furniture around to make space, and be mindful that I didn’t set my cans of paint thinner too near the pilot lights on the gas stove. No one would have known the primitive conditions I had to work in by looking at my finished pieces. An artist must take control of their presentation, and not make excuses about the difficulties involved in production.
But reading this article about some offended privileged kids, there is another quote which reveals what really irks them:
“[The faculty] have gone above and beyond what their role is as a faculty member. They’re in the same boat as us, they’re trying to do the best they can with the restrictions that have been placed from the institution,” Travis Fairclough, a Columbia MFA student expected to graduate in 2019, told the Spectator. “[But] half of the faculty that are listed on the website is actually here, which is a huge blow, because the program is largely based on the connections that you have with your faculty members.” (emphasis mine)
A work by unhappy student Travis Fairclough.
Connections with faculty members. Really, how much could a professor do for someone who produces paintings like this in an advanced degree program? But artistic achievement isn’t the real concern. In the Postmodern world, it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.
What the students are really protesting is the fact the school isn’t delivering enough chances to suck up to powerful folks who can act as gateways into the corrupt establishment art world.
In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I discuss at length the tainted practices of elitist power games:
An additional tool of Postmodern phoniness is brown-nosing. When quality and accomplishment are no longer factors, life is reduced to a scramble to be noticed and elevated by the powerful. It’s a matter of who can most offend the disdained outsiders, make the most noise, and kiss the most rings, or asses. Our cultural institutions have degenerated into hierarchies of sycophants; the Postmodern establishment makes it clear that throne-sniffing is mandatory for advancement.
Why would students face massive expenses to study fine art at an Ivy League school? They expect it will pay off for them in the form of nepotism. They expected the chance to play courtiers to some mighty art world players, which would give striving students a shot at joining the ranks of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. Without being able to count on favoritism from cronies, Columbia students would have to try to earn an art career based on the merits of their art. Looking at the works above from a couple of Columbia trained artists, it is evident why they desperately need someone to grease the skids on their behalf.
It’s ironic that at least one of the missing professors, Thomas Roma, “retired” due to #metoo concerns. Guess he wanted to connect a little too much. Why are elitist institutions always such cesspits of harassment?
A Photo by the Inappropriate Thomas Roma
The Columbia MFA students aren’t getting a refund. The administration calls their own program a disgrace, but there’s no money back guarantee. Caveat Emptor. The students feel violated because they thought they could buy their way into prestige. They expected take personal advantage of the Neotribal benefits Postmodernists offer up as the reward for conformity. Instead, their situation can be best summed up by Jon Kessler,one of the Columbia art professors who actually is there:
“’It’s almost criminal to endebt a student $100,000 to be a painter or a performance artist… and if this program was a third of the price, I don’t think we’d have quite the intensity around the tuition reimbursement,’ Kessler said.”
The Art of Jon Kessler, the who calls Columbia’s MFA program “Almost Criminal”
Earlier entries in the “Death of University Art Programs” series