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Capilano art students shut out of graduation

Only a handful of Capilano University's last class of studio arts students will be graduating this year, despite a school policy to "teach out" the two-year program axed in budget cuts last year.
Capilano studio arts programs students Eric Yen, Michaela Hanemaayer will not be able to graduate due to cuts in their program. Jennifer O'Keefe is one of the lucky few who has enough credits to graduate this month.

Only a handful of Capilano University's last class of studio arts students will be graduating this year, despite a school policy to "teach out" the two-year program axed in budget cuts last year.

"There's only about five of us right now that are graduating," said Jennifer O'Keeffe, one of the few who has enough credits to get her diploma.

When the students learned last year that the program was being shut down, they were told the school would "offer the required courses for students up to the year they would have normally completed those courses plus one additional year," according to policy posted on CapU's website.

But the administration immediately cut all of the first-year classes, many of which were prerequisites for the second-year classes. Because of cancelled classes, scheduling conflicts and the long hours needed for studio time on top of the academic courses, about three-quarters of the remaining students were unable to take all the required classes in the last two semesters and are now shut out of graduating.

The administration has told the students they will be able to get equivalent credits at other schools like the Emily Carr University of Art + Design and then apply for their Capilano diploma, but they must first be accepted into the substitute schools' programs without any transitional help from CapU.

One of the students affected is Michaela Hanemaayer. Because of a hand injury and the already demanding class hours, Hanemaayer was unable to do the full course load in 2013. When she wanted to take the required first-year programs last fall, they were already cancelled.

She has since been accepted into the Emily Carr program but even that is a major setback.

"They're pushing me back to second-year again to do my courses over again because too much of it just didn't transfer over," she said. "I've lost a year."

And she is one of the lucky ones. Several of Hanemaayer's classmates have been told there's no room for them as Emily Carr still has to accommodate its own students, new high school graduates and international students.

Hanemaayer said this could have all been avoided if the administration was more forthcoming about the cuts, giving students and faculty ample time to prepare.

"I'd like to see them actually take responsibility for their actions. If they're going to cut programs, they should be informing the students. There should be clarity and clarification between faculty, students and administration and there was none of that," she said.

The Capilano Students' Union has been lobbying on the studio arts students' behalf, but has had little luck in securing extra help for the straggling students.

"We don't think it's acceptable for any student to fall through the cracks," said Brittany Barnes, the CSU's educational issues co-ordinator. "We just want to make sure there are no students who are left behind and that everyone is given a fair chance to graduate and that the university upholds their part of a policy they implemented of their own volition."

More than just being delayed and inconvenienced, the administration's handling of budget cuts has left the studio arts students out of pocket as well, Barnes said.

"These students did pay for their education and being shifted around from institution to institution does affect the quality of the education you're receiving," she said.

Making the situation even more frustrating, Barnes has only just been able to secure a meeting with the dean, despite months of trying.

"That's obviously quite concerning because these students want to know what the future of their education is going to look like before they start missing deadlines for other schools," she said.

Capilano administrators declined to be interviewed but did offer a statement.

"Since June 2013 Capilano has contacted all affected students to facilitate completion of their courses. We prepared individual program completion assessments for each student and we offered, in the 2013-14 academic year, the required first-year courses and all required secondyear courses, as well as a range of electives," it read. "Capilano believes these accommodations to be consistent with our policy."