The Biggest Laughing Stock in New Mexico

Local university causes quite a stir.

In late March, Santa Fe University of Art and Design sent an email to its thriving community announcing that the for profit institution is to shut down after 2018. Students went insane and instructors tried to remain calm but broke down in silence. Ever since the dreadful email was sent out, the school has offered very little assistance to the students unfortunate enough to be attending this university and is handling the overall situation very poorly. In this article, I am going to be jumping around to try to explain a very, very, very, very, complicated situation.

The Problem

There is way too much irony in this picture.

Santa Fe University of Art and Design is one of five universities that have the unfortunate pleasure to be owned by Laureate Education Inc., an "educational services company." "We believe in the power of education to transform lives and remain committed to making a positive, enduring impact in the communities we serve. This commitment is best expressed by our commitment to be Here for Good in both permanence and purpose. When our students succeed, countries prosper and societies benefit." -A quote from Laureate's website. 

This article is not about Laureate but just know that they are the root of all evil in this situation. Literally all of the colleges that are under ownership of Laureate except for University of St. Augustine in Florida are all for profit. They all claim to work tirelessly to see students succeed in what seems to be "copy and paste" descriptions on each of their websites with a few words switched up but, every student attending these universities can say that they us as nothing more than walking dollar signs. "We believe in the power of education." If you were to walk around my campus right at this moment and asked them what valuable information that they have retained, most will draw a blank. I am film student. I love my film courses and I can probably recall 90 percent of information that was given to me in each of my film classes but, as for my laughable liberal arts courses, I cannot say what I remember learning because I honestly can't say that I did. 

The school closing is due to a deal gone south with Raffles Education, leaving the school without an owner.

It looks like for profits don't care for their students' success after all. Huh, I never would've guessed.

The Closure

Courtesy of the SF reporter.

Back to the topic at hand, SFUAD has been handling the whole closure very un professionally in my opinion. With staff members finding out about the closure literally the same time as the students, the school was in total chaos and offered very little in damage control except a few emails that, when translated, read "Hey. So I don't have an answer for you guys yet. Please don't transfer." 

SFUAD held a transfer fair. For the readers who have never experienced a school closure, a transfer fair is when representatives from other schools, usually for profits (sniff sniff, smells like capitalism.), come to the closing school to sit down with students to see how or if their credits will transfer and try to get them admitted as soon as possible. The fair was extremely small and crowded. A few students who I spoke to, whose names I will keep anonymous, said that they felt overwhelmed and confused at the fair. The SFUAD representatives supervising the fair were being pushy. They told SFUAD students "just take a transcript form and fill it out, I'm busy." Or they didn't speak to them at all. The for profits attending the fair approached the aimlessly wandering students, as if they were car salesmen desperately trying to meet a sales quota. They pitched their school with a smile while glossing over the fact that their institutions that they represented sometimes had a price tag larger than that of SFUAD's.

Fast forward to my situation a few weeks later. I am trying to attend institutions that did not make it on SFUAD's transfer fair list. I had to get some transcripts sent out so I spoke to a representative in charge of doing exactly that. She confessed to me that she totally ignored my email that was sent weeks in advance for more "pressing matters" and hurriedly accepted my paperwork in a flustered manner. She just threw my forms in a stack of messy papers and returned to her computer. I told her that my institution wasn't on the list of partnered universities and I said "I recall in one of the emails that was sent by the president that you guys were willing to work with whatever university we [the students] wanted to attend even if they are not on the list. I wish to attend [university] and I don't know how my credits will transfer. Do you think you guys can give them a call and figure something out?" I was surprised with the most unprofessional answer I have ever heard in my life. "I really don't want to right now. I am kind of overwhelmed and I have other things to worry about right now." 

A Thorn in the Administration's Side

Courtesy of the SF Reporter

Meet Rand Hadid. Rand is an international student from Syria who is only attending SFUAD because she was one of the lucky few that won the Robert Redford/ Milagro Initiative Scholarship, a scholarship exclusive to SFUAD that pays for the recipient's four years of attending this university with housing and a full meal plan included. With the school closing in 2018, her visa will no longer be valid and her scholarship will not transfer to any other instiution. Rand was devastated when she heard the news and turned to the school for help.

Rand works a work study job on campus that pays minimum wage for laughable hours. Rand has to either sell or donate most of her belongings because she only has one suitcase to take wherever she ends up after this semester ends next week.

Rand went to the school administrators for help, as they regularly email us saying that they are there for us and "will help and in any way that we can, regardless of what you need". Rand asked if she can live at her on campus apartment until she gets her residency situation figured out, school officials said no unless she can pay for it in full out of pocket. Rand explained that she has nowhere near enough money to meet the for profit's financial demands because her on campus job pays a tiny salary of a few hundred a week. The officials simply told Rand to "get another job." Rand explained that she cannot legally do so because she cannot provide proof of residency with the school closing. Officials told her to "stay at a friend's house or something." Rand explained that all of her friends are transferring to out of state universities because they are in a similar, yet less extreme situation. She also explained that she has nowhere to put her all of her belongings. Officials recommended that she buy a storage unit in Santa Fe. Rand explained that she does not have the money for such an arrangement. The school official concluded the meeting with Rand.

Student Reactions

 Flyer for a  "Saving SFUAD" protest

The announcement of the school closure did not sit well with the student body. Many took to protesting and creating Facebook groups, inviting as many students as possible. These groups would waste everyone's time by protesting on campus, where everyone knew what was going on. I was a part of the protesting community and was even making a documentary like video for the group. But, my dissatisfaction with their work ethic caused me to leave. They wished to gain media attention but refused to take their demonstrations off campus to the public, who knew almost nothing about the school's situation. The protest eventually occurred less often and had a small attendance of sometimes five members or less at a time. The saving SFUAD page has had very little activity as the semester comes to a close.

Some students have taken to suing the school for economic and emotional distress. Even though there is very little information on the suit at the moment, once can wonder how far this will go and is it even worth it? The school is just trying to get everyone out as fast as it can and I feel like the suit is just one last ditch effort to get some financial composition from the school. If they haven't done so already, why would they now? You can read more about the lawsuit here.

Lack of Communication, Rumors & Speculation

The abandoned "Manhattan Project" set ablaze at SFUAD

SFUAD is notorious for not relaying information at all to faculty and students especially with the closure. One example of terrible communication was earlier in the year. The school had a bomb threat called in and no one knew until an all clear email was sent out the entire student body at the end of the day. Another extreme example of poor communication was during a recent fire that occurred at SFUAD. I saw the smoke at around 7:45 P.M... Students and security were outside watching fire fighters tackle the blaze for hours. Then as the fire was slowly being contained, around 10:00 P.M., the school's alert system sent out an email saying that there is a fire and we should stay away from the area. 

With the school closure, some students have tricky personal and financial issues that prevent them from just getting up and transferring to other schools so easily. I know of a student that literally has no family left at all so, they have decided to live in a homeless shelter until they get back on their feet. I know of some students who are taking a gap year to get back on their feet financially to pay off some dues that SFUAD is forcing them to pay despite their closure.

Some students have claimed that the school has known about its impending doom since October. I can't understand why they would have waited so long if this were the case. With the announcement of the closure so late in the year, many schools are not accepting any applications at this time and many students have nowhere else to go. So many students will just leave, clearing up dorm space, or have no choice but to stay and pay for one last year as they try to get accepted anywhere that they can.

Conclusion

I love SFUAD. I really do. But there are ways to handle certain situations professionally and efficiently and it appears to be doing neither. The school has implemented several morale boosters like having a sale on its over priced student store and giving out free ice cream to the students but, that is not enough. The students want answers and help. The $2,500 transfer grant provided by the school is a joke. The for profit school can easily provide more funds to us but they refuse to do so for the sake of profit. I fear that I may never get the hands on experience that I got at this university anywhere else. I will miss this school, despite its heavy price tag.

This article was obviously extremely opinionated. I gloss over some facts and left out useless information that the school has provided us. I know for a fact that some members of administration will find a way to get offended by this and ask me to delete this or a student may read this and try to fact check me. Before any of you even try to call me out on anything, f*** off. The school is closing and your ego does not matter to me. 

I wish everyone stuck at SFUAD the best of luck and safe travels to wherever you end up next. 

Gavin Tovar
Gavin Tovar

I write to get a reaction. I prefer negative.

Life is harsh, so is the truth. 

I am young, but I see the world with mature eyes.

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