**Some names have been changed to protect their identities**
Montclair, New Jersey – On December 7th, 2015 the campus of Montclair State University awoke to read the writing on the walls, literally. A protester going by the alias O.H. left their marks on the outside walls of Calcia Hall in colorful sidewalk chalk for the world to see until about 2:30pm when the University contracted a power washing company to get rid of the “graffiti”. This comes after an incident on Sunday where students with scheduled lab time were locked out, along with a class of grade school Gifted and Talented children who had to hold their class outside in the cold. Captured with cellphone cameras, the artist made a list of complaints under the title “IT’S ALL HERE EXCEPT…” listing missing necessities like full time faculty, plumbing, and in the largest font, a future. The artist also included statements like “YOU ARE PAYING FOR LOCKED DOORS AND A FAILING CURRICULUM” and “This Is supposed to be a Safe space for Students And faculty to create ART. Instead it has become a business(corporation) WITH LOCKED DOORS”. Under the latter statement read a threat saying “Next time it’ll be paint”. all were signed by O.H., whomever that may be.
Calcia Hall is home to the Fine Arts department including concentrations in photography, painting, sculpting, metalworks, ceramics, and until recently film which lost its BFA and moved under the School of Communication and Media. All of these concentrations however, including film, use the Calcia Hall facilities to work on their crafts and create their art. Many fine arts majors have been grumbling about the changes made to the building since the new locks were installed, but O.H. is the first one to come out and publicly express the concerns only heard in secret.
The statements made, however, echo sentiments of other frustrated arts students across the campus. I spoke with two students, Paola** and Abigail**. These ladies are BFA Fine Arts Majors in separate concentration, but to protect their identities I cannot release their concentrations or years. A major problem many students face is the doors locking after 11pm on the week days and not being able to access the building at all on the weekends. Over the sounds of power-washing, a statement was given by Dean Dan Gurskis, Dean of the College of the Arts, to WMSC’s Jose Cortez and Juan Contla saying quote “The new swipe system allows access to all students on weekdays from 6am-11pm, and on weekends from 8am-5pm. We also have a list of students…who have access at all times.” The Dean goes on to blame what happened this weekend on a “technological failure”, claiming that those students should have had access and that “those who are either painting students or drawing students ought to have been able to swipe in at anytime.” Paola and Abigail insist that this simply isn’t true. What happened on Sunday was not a freak occurrence, but rather one that has been happening since the middle of the semester when the new swipe system was introduced. Citing “recent headlines” as the reason the building cannot be left open, the Dean stands by the implementation of the swipe cards, explaining that the effort is for safety, not to keep students out.
Facilities has a plan for how to access the building on the off hours if your swipe card doesn’t work. They say to call their office during business hours(when the building is open to the public anyway) or the MSU Police department so they can get in contact with the manager on duty who is available to assist 24/7. Paola explained that on Sunday, when they called the police department as instructed, the police had no access to that building and when they finally got in touch with someone from facilities, they said the building wouldn’t open until 2pm and that they would send someone at that time. The students waited until 2pm to no avail because no one from facilities ever showed up. Students need access during off hours because the workspaces double as classrooms during the day. Students can’t work in the spaces while classes are in session, forcing them to come in at odd hours to finish projects.
Fine arts majors who need off-hour access to the building have taken to propping the doors open with rocks or even breaking into the building to work. Abigail alleged that some lab assistants, employed by the school who should have unlimited access, have had to break into the building to do the job they get paid to do.
Other concerns were raised by O.H.’s work including the lack of full time faculty. Paola and Abigail explain that the fine arts department is sorely lacking in full time professors and recently, a lot of adjunct professors have been cut, leading to lack of classes and full time professors having to work for free in some cases to meet the needs of their ever growing classrooms. “The number of (fine arts) students used to be capped at 16” Abigail explains, “but now it’s capped at 19 which can be dangerous in certain fine arts classes.” The building hasn’t been renovated since the 1970’s and the size of the rooms and studios are too small for almost 20 students to work safely and efficiently. Some concentrations, like photography and ceramics only have a certain number of work spaces for students to use at one time. In the dark room, there are only ten enlargers, the machine that allows a film photograph to be printed on photo paper, meaning only ten students can work at a time. According to Abigail, there are about 200 students currently enrolled in photography classes with nine graduating as fine arts majors this year. Not all of these students are fine arts majors, but they do need to use the facilities. With only ten enlargers to go between the whole department, students run out of space and time to develop their photos. “It’s not an english class where you can pack a lecture hall,” Paola exasperates, “it’s a hands on major. The classes need to be small.” Both Paola and Abigail speculate that the size of classes has gotten bigger due to lack of faculty and need to show the university bigger numbers rather than devote full attention to students.
The lack of faculty has lead to another issue raised by O.H., the lack of classes. Many advanced fine arts students have requirements to graduate that are not offered throughout the year, forcing them to take independent studies to fulfill requirements that should be met by taking classes that aren’t offered. Printmaking student, Alexa Spadafora is a senior fine arts major with a concentration in print making. Alexa had to spend her last two semesters in the limbo of independent study in order to meet the requirements she needs to finish her major. She is not alone. Paola explains that many fine arts students have had to do that and are essentially teaching themselves. “Why pay to come here?” she asked frustrated at the lack of faculty.
The lack of faculty is coupled with the lack of maintenance kept with the building itself. Abigail cites cases of dangerous black mold along with sewage backup problems in classrooms themselves. Heating and Air Condition has been a huge issue as well. There are days where there is no heating in the winter in the upstairs studios and students are bundled up in winter gear to work with printing presses and ceramics wheels, which can be dangerous. Lack of air conditioning is a huge problem in the warmer months, leading classes like Intro to Film, held in Calcia 135 which is set up like a movie theater, to be canceled or end early do to students overheating. Classrooms are too small for the amount of students in classrooms and the building is “falling apart” while other majors have received multimillion dollar facilities, including fellow College of the Arts majors under the School of Communication and Media. It seems fine arts majors have been getting the short end of the stick for a long time and are ready for something to be done.
O.H. certainly made their sentiments known about the changes made to Calcia this semester. Now the question is was anyone listening?
Montclair State | New Jersey