UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | June 18, 2024

Art department understaffed, underfunded

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The art department is far from the center of Dixie State University’s campus and is even further from the center of its attention.

The most recent university involvement with the art department was the addition of a photography emphasis, said Alex Chamberlain, an assistant art professor.

“It was, I believe, the last bachelor’s degree to be added before we got university status,” he said. “And it was required for that. That’s part of the reason we ended up getting the bachelor’s degree.”

Chamberlain said the department is still operating on a fairly minimal set of classes because it is seriously understaffed.

“We’re about 75 percent adjunct,” he said. “We only have six or seven full-time faculty up here. We’ve been asking for more full-time faculty for a while, and we haven’t received a full-time faculty position, well, since I was hired.”

With only six classrooms and five emphases — photography being one of them — the department is not built to accommodate the increasing demand for classes and studios, said McGarren Flack, an assistant art professor and the adviser in the art department.

Photography alone requires two different types of studios: a set up room for shooting and a computer lab for editing, he said.

“We don’t have stuff that you would find in a standard photography studio,” Flack said. “We have a couple of flash heads, but they’re like from the 1970s … We have nothing over here.”

The lack of supplies and studios is only compounded by the unsatisfactory quality of the current rooms and items, said Nicole Winona, a senior art major from St. George.

“We attend classes in a building with no windows,” Winona said. “I feel like things are always breaking, which is ridiculous because we pay to go to class.”

She said even though the department is understaffed and underfunded, the professors are going above and beyond to meet their students’ needs, often by volunteering their own equipment.

Nevertheless, Winona said her professors shouldn’t have to lend their personal equipment. If DSU is going to offer a degree, it should be capable of properly equipping its students, she said.

Additionally, Winona said the department, and particularly the photography emphasis, would benefit from additional classes.

“I think the way the degree is written needs to be looked over,” she said. “There are definitely some classes that make no sense to be on our list of electives, but there are classes that aren’t listed, such as the Photoshop class, basic design classes, and lighting [class].”

As the 10th largest department on campus and with over 200 students listed as art majors, Flack said the art department needs to be taken more seriously.

Insufficient funding forced the department to raise fees for their classes, he said. The change was essential to meet the students’ needs in the classrooms.

Chamberlain said they understand DSU has a lot of monetary needs, and said the art department is doing its best to fit within the allocated budget. However, the lack of support for the department is unreasonable, he said.

“Public perception of photography as a career usually includes the sentiment that it’s an oversaturated field where there’s no money to be had,” he said. “My experience has been the opposite … [Our students] will be capable of making money following their passion as a photographer.”

Flack said faculty from the art department found statistically that art students are more employable than other students because they are trained to think outside the box and resolve problems. He said turning an art degree into a profession is no different from turning a business degree into a profession.

As it stands, the department reports being understaffed and underfunded. But despite the lack of support from DSU, both the faculty and the students are working hard to make the best out of the situation.

“When some people say, ‘The Dixie Spirit,’ that’s kind of what they mean — do more with less,” Chamberlain said.

The dean of visual and performing arts, Jeffery Jarvis, said he does not perceive the art department to be in any different position than any other department. He said the other departments are likely experiencing similar pressures.

“There’s a core challenge,” Jarvis said. “That is funding high quality education with the most affordable tuition rate in the country.”

Jarvis said the department is aware of the challenges it is currently facing and is working on improving the situation. In addition to raising classroom fees, the art department will receive a larger portion of the general student fees. Instead of receiving only $2 per student per semester, the department will be receiving $3 beginning in fall.

Lastly, Jarvis said President Biff Williams passed a tuition increase this year which will help budgets all across campus, including the art department.