Fine arts students at UMass Dartmouth are saying that the university still has not set up a promised new studio space one month into the semester.
In August, the university announced that it was shutting down the facility that housed studios for students, known as the Star Store building. The Star Store served roughly 200 students and was shut down due to a lack of state funding.
A letter, signed by 17 students, that was sent to Chancellor Mark Fuller and other university administrators was released on Tuesday asking for accountability and financial reimbursement.
“Today is the 39th day without the facilities we are paying for and the 16th day without the education we are paying for,” read the letter. “We believe UMass owes us the education we purchased.”
Master’s student Fallon Navarro said her and other students had to unexpectedly pack up their studios just weeks before the fall semester.
“We never knew where we were going,” she said. “Now that we've been moved out, we've spent almost a month without any facilities or studio access and have been unable to work.”
Students were then told that their new studios would be located in a former Bed, Bath & Beyond, but this building still isn’t ready to be used.
“I think their choice to put us in a retail space that is no way close to what we came here for is just really hurtful,” Navarro said. “I think the other issue is that the Bed Bath & Beyond doesn't have the ventilation and the capacity to have the specialized equipment that we need to complete our degrees.”
Navarro added that students also have not received timely updates on the new facility.
Art professors have also had to move their classes to Zoom while some students have had to turn their apartments into art studios. Others have had to pay out of pocket to buy private studio space.
Navarro said her and some other students were able to find a temporary workspace at Hatch Street Studios in New Bedford. But it’s an empty room with no necessary equipment.
“The university has told us that they won't reimburse us for any of these costs,” she said. “They wouldn't even give us tables, so we had to make our own tables for the space, and it feels like a waste of money that we're paying a lot of tuition to not be given any facilities or equipment.”
Master’s student Marilyn Perry, said not being able to produce her ceramic work has been paralyzing.
“In order to do that, we need to have clay glazes, spray booths, slab rollers, extruders, a variety of kilns and that's all in storage at the Bed, Bath & Beyond facility,” she said. “We don't have a way to move forward.”
According to the letter, students are asking administrators to meet in-person by Friday, Sept. 29, stating that they’ve declined previous requests to do so. Students are also asking the school to reimburse their tuition after failing to give them the facilities they were promised.
“This is meant to be the launching point for our careers,” said Navarro. “We came to grad school so that at the end of the three year program, we would be able to have careers in the arts. By denying us the studios and support, we feel that we can no longer achieve those goals.”
In an email to GBH, university spokesperson Ryan Merrill said university administration has met with students three times and shared written updates between those meetings. Merrill also said that as of Monday, Sept. 25, the Bed, Bath & Beyond studio space has been open for students.