YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Students gathered Tuesday outside DeBartolo Hall on the campus of Youngstown State University in protest of program cuts.
University officials announced they are cutting 26 academic programs. Those already enrolled in those studies should be able to finish their degrees, university officials said.
The cuts came following an 11% drop in enrollment.
The protesters Tuesday delivered a petition containing 1,200 signatures to administrators asking them to reconsider the cuts.
About 50 students and faculty held up signs that read “Youngstown values the humanities” and “Stop the cuts” as they marched from DeBartolo to Tod Hall.
“I want to let YSU know that we are important and we are not afraid to get out there, let our voices be heard and we’re essential,” said YSU senior Laura Hone.
The Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program is one that’s on the line and will not be accepting any new students. Students who are in the program can still graduate — but they say that’s not good enough.
“It’s called academia and they’re cutting academics and so if you make noise when something bad happens it makes them think twice before they try to do it again,” said third year NEOMFA student at Kent State University Michael Buebe.
The program is the only consortial MFA program sharing faculty and students between four campuses: Cleveland State University, the University of Akron, KSU and YSU.
Claire George is in her third year of the program at KSU and said she fears cutting it would affect not only YSU students but all of Northeast Ohio.
“We care about our education. We’re students at a university not because we want to go to football games — as fun as that can be — we want to get a degree and meet students and faculty that care about us,” George said.
Second-year student Cassandra Lawton delivered a signed petition of over 1,000 signatures to YSU president Jim Tressel’s office to request a formal meeting on the NEOMFA program.
YSU has said faculty worked with chairs and deans starting in October 2020 to identify programs the university would not continue, and that list was shared in June 2021.
On Monday night, students and community members were busy making signs for Tuesday’s rally.
They’re urging the university to keep the Northeast Ohio Masters in Fine Arts program at YSU, as well as reconsider the other program cuts they’re making.
YSU is one of four schools in the state that’s part of the program and actually founded the NEOMFA program.
“This is an amazing program. It brought me actually from Michigan. I would never have ended up in Ohio if it wasn’t for this program at YSU and it brings people from out of state,” said NEOMFA program ambassador and student Cassandra Lawton.