Protestors occupied an SCA building for 65 days recently. Credit: Dylan Crismale

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BY DYLAN CRISMALE

The University of Sydney last week informed staff that as of July, the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) will be absorbed by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Department (FASS).
The school will be relocated from its current spacious Rozelle campus to the Old Teachers College on the main Camperdown Campus.
Thandiwe Bethune, 20, is in the second year of her Bachelor of Visual Arts degree at SCA and was a part of the ‘SCA Resistance’ campaign that fought for the arts school to remain at the Rozelle campus.
She said “It’s unfortunate that this has happened, it was very difficult to maintain the campaign. We had the occupation which was so wonderful with so much energy going but obviously we’re all students and we have the rest of our lives to go on with.

“Post-occupation, we had an understanding that we would get moved onto the main campus and that fighting for SCA wouldn’t really be feasible anymore.”

The announcement is the latest development in a long battle between Sydney University and the students of SCA, with the new plan expected to reduce the operating deficit of SCA from $5.1 million to $1 million per year.

Sydney University first revealed its plans to close the school in 2015 and later tried to merge SCA with the art school at the University of NSW. But the plan was scrapped after the universities decided the two separate art schools were not the right fit for a merger.

Ché Baines, 21, is an artist and an ‘SCA Resistance’ activist who believes the University of Sydney’s plan won’t provide enough studio space to accommodate students.
He said studio space is important and that “In the studio you’re learning with your teachers and with the techs who are currently practicing artists…they’re teaching you hands on about the craft of making your art.”

“Without studios students will be a lot less prepared… you can learn the theory but art students need the right spaces and materials to work with.”

In August last year the students occupied the top floor of the SCA administration building for a record 65 days, the longest student occupation in Sydney University’s history.
In a statement, the University of Sydney said “rigorous consultation has taken place with SCA staff for almost a year and has informed decisions such as the preservation of jewellery, glass and ceramics.”
The jewellery, glass and ceramics majors were set to be abolished in an earlier draft proposal plan, but students and staff fought to keep them in the curriculum.
Ms. Bethune said: “We won [keeping the majors] after the occupation. The new draft proposal plan said they would accommodate for those studios. To what degree and how they’re going to manage to do that hasn’t been outlined, they’ve just said it will be possible.
“I think there’s a high chance that will mean outsourcing and going to external places to practice ceramics and glass, and having other classes back at main campus.”

Professor Stephen Garton, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Sydney said in a statement “The move enables the University to continue to offer a world-class visual arts education that is financially sustainable.”
“Our desire is to enrich the educational experience of all University of Sydney students by offering greater opportunities for students in visual art programs to engage with the wide and varied educational offerings on [sic] main campus in Camperdown/Darlington, and to enable other students to broaden their experience in units of study offered by SCA.”
Mr Bain said the description was really a “false benefit” dressed up to sound appealing.
“It’s always great to do interdisciplinary collaborations, but an artist can’t collaborate if they don’t have the tools, if they don’t have a studio to work in.
“The Rozelle campus has so much space to do art, and so many disciplines of art, so yes there can be collaboration with other non-art faculties but I would say it’s a false benefit,” he said.

The university has not yet determined the final design of the SCA facilities in the Old Teachers’ College, but said “the design will be determined during a period of staff consultation as the change plan is implemented.”