Student protests preempt IUP Halloween axe

Bridget E. Sagolla-Slamp, IUP graduate student in music, organizer of #ShameOnIUP petition drive. Submitted photo.

By David Loomis

INDIANA – Graduate voice major Bridget E. Sagolla-Slamp helped organize the #ShameOnIUP coalition of students seeking “to save our programs, professors and staff” from the university’s axe.

The coalition posted petitions online a week before the Oct. 30 Halloween Eve black Friday when official letters are scheduled to be delivered to 128 IUP faculty members whose jobs are on the chopping block. (Additional cuts may fall on university staff and administrators.)

Music students at IUP assemble for a “silent concert” at Fisher Hall on Monday evening. Photo: David Loomis

On Monday evening, a “silent concert” of a hundred or so music students stood in formation in front of Fisher Hall in protest, holding their instruments and wearing concert black without making a sound in a light drizzle. More protests are scheduled in the Oak Grove on Wednesday and Thursday. (See sidebar, below.) An Oct. 20 video of IUP Journalism alumni opposing the program’s elimination had 792 views as of Monday night. A sculpture in front of Johnson Hall was shrouded on Monday morning, signs of protest attached. The shroud had been removed by Monday afternoon.

A sculpture in front of Johnson Hall on Oakland Avenue is shrouded in sheets on Monday morning. An attached sign reads, ” By Order of President Driscoll Since Fine Arts Don’t Matter. #ShameOnIUP.” Submitted photo.

 

Sagolla-Slamp, who plans to graduate in May, described the university’s announced downsizing as a “very unfortunate situation” for the “world-renowned artists” on the Fine Arts faculty facing a 44 percent reduction in force. (See sidebar, below.) Petitions and protests are planned to “raise awareness” and “urge reconsideration,” she said.

“It’s an insult, because the administration can’t manage money properly,” she said in an Oct. 26 phone interview.

The downsizing will stifle the arts and squander IUP’s reputation as a music mecca.

“IUP is well-known all around the world,” she said. “Fine Arts is not the place to be cutting. It’s the last thing that should be discarded.”

Music students are walking billboards, promoting their program at football games, community concerts, European invitations and other venues.

“That attracts a lot of recognition,” she said.

And enrollment. Voice majors have more than doubled since she arrived at IUP as an undergraduate in 2012 at the urging of her parents, both of them music educators in Lancaster public schools, she said. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2018 and began working on her master’s.

“We supported our teachers during the APSCUF strike four years ago,” she recounted. “We brought them umbrellas in the rain. We love them so much. We wouldn’t be professional musicians without them.”

 

WHAT IS HER MESSAGE to IUP President Michael Driscoll?

“First of all, he gets paid way too much,” she said. “And why Fine Arts? We attract the best performers and musicians in the world. The department has gotten so much bigger. Word of what’s happening is turning people, away. He’s hurting enrollment.”

She contrasted program and personnel cuts with campus brick-and-mortar projects.

“The cost of the new dorms is too high,” she said.

The campus recently built a “more fancy sidewalk” on Grant Street and a “brand new dining hall.”

“It’s excessive,” she said. “Folger (Dining Hall) was shut down. It could have been renovated.”

 

WHAT IS HER MESSAGE to the chancellor of the State System of Higher Education and the legislators who hold the system’s purse strings in Harrisburg?

“They have made poor choices,” she said. “It’s an insult to intelligence. It’s priorities. Everything you consume has art behind it.”

Logo for online petition drive protesting planned restructuring of IUP.

What of IUP’s proposed emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics in its restructuring plan?

“IUP is a liberal arts college,” she said. “A lot of STEM students also participate in the arts, the theater, music. A lot of Honors College students are in Art.”

An email message seeking comment from the university’s media relations office was not returned on Monday.

On Monday night, #ShameOnIUP petitions totaled nearly 9,300 names.

 

Sidebar: Oak Grove rallies scheduled this week

Following is a news release from faculty organizers of protests scheduled for the coming week in the Oak Grove at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

IUP COMMUNITY RALLY AGAINST FACULTY CUTS AND RESTRUCTURING

OCTOBER 28TH, 12-2PM; OCTOBER 29TH, 3:30-5:00PM

INDIANA — Two rallies will be held at Indiana University of Pennsylvania following recent announcements of potential faculty retrenchments, cuts and outsourcing to staff positions, and college restructuring. The rallies are organized by the local IUP Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (IUP-APSCUF).

Last week, university president Mike Driscoll announced restructuring plans that would eliminate the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, merging it with the College of Fine Arts. This decision is accompanied by almost 130 cuts to faculty positions in all six colleges across the university: 35 percent in the Eberly College of Business, 29 percent in the College of Education and Communication, 44 percent in the College of Fine Arts, 18 percent in the College of Health and Human Services, 29 percent in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and 20 percent in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. An unknown number of staff positions will be cut as well, according to administration.

Students in several departments, including the Department of Journalism and Public Relations, slated to be cut entirely, have begun petitions and letter writing campaigns to the university administration, the State System Chancellor’s office, and state government. The rallies will be held in the centralized Oak Grove on campus. The university band, known as “The Legend,” is expected to play silently to symbolize potential losses to their music education; 41 percent of the music faculty is slated to be retrenched.

128 decorated rulers will be on display to symbolize the faculty who would no longer contribute to their students’ “growth” at IUP.

Masks will be required, and social distancing measures will be in place.

__________

David Loomis, Ph.D., emeritus professor of journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is editor of The HawkEye.

The HawkEye invites comments on this and other issues of community interest. Email doloomis@iup.edu or click on the “contact us” drop-down menu, above.

 

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3 Responses to Student protests preempt IUP Halloween axe

  1. Celinda Cass Scott says:

    So glad to read about these well-designed protests.

  2. Pam says:

    The Libraries will also be losing five out of their 12 faculty librarians.

  3. Olivia Sieff says:

    Bridget is a talented, well-rounded, smart musician and an incredible person in general. What she says about it being an insult to our intelligence- BINGO! She knows what she’s saying. I pray they listen to our voices. Thank you to everyone who is able to perform or protest in the Oak Grove – wish I could come!

    Sending my love

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