A great deal of apprehension was lifted from the shoulders of students, staff and faculty at the College of Santa Fe on Tuesday, Nov. 24 when college president Stuart Kirk announced that a board member and an alum had together donated enough funds to keep the struggling school afloat through the spring term.
The evening before, students had gathered in a self-organized forum to discuss their concerns about the instability of the college. As one student put it, they had been assured for several months now that a planned acquisition of the school by Laureate Education, Inc. was "99.9 percent certain."
That deal cratered over the past few weeks and, as CSF administrators scrambled to salvage the school's existence through a deal with the state, students grew increasingly uncertain about their future and increasingly frustrated with the administration's seeming reluctance to communicate openly. Questions about CSF's financial status, the origins of its hardships and the future of its distinct and flexible arts-oriented curriculum were on the minds of students as they shared their frustrations.
Some students have been coordinating actions to help with saving the school, while others are fed-up and ready to transfer as soon as possible. At the Monday night student gathering, in advance of Tuesday's meeting with Kirk, students voiced frustration with both avenues.
"It's finals week and we're trying to hash out ideas with no facts. We don't have any information, we don't have a timeline of what might happen when. We're kept in the dark and it's nothing short of criminal," said one student.
In an effort to facilitate better communication one senior, Alysha Shaw (disclosure: Shaw is a former SFR intern and sometimes contract employee), located and posted full contact information for the school's board of trustees to a Facebook group that students have used to organize their actions and share ideas. She said that one member of the administration was "arguably harassing" her as a result and that she was being pressured to remove the information.
Shaw has not removed the information, but has encouraged her fellow students to contact board members "legally and respectfully." She has thus far declined to comment on the details surrounding the incident.
Rumors emanating from the forums Kirk held on the 24th include the suggestion that the school's absorption into either Highlands University or the University of New Mexico, included the notion that it may be possible to engineer such a feat without requiring the immediate blessing of the state legislature. Presumably this means that UNM, for example, would acquire the campus and program outright. But the details of such a maneuver remain unknown.
Also unknown at this point is the fate of the Santa Fe Art Institute, an independent nonprofit arts organization that leases space on the campus. State Secretary of Education Reed Dasenbrock did say, however, in the Albuquerque Journal that CSF's arts focus would remain in place in the event of a move to state control.
Students left the Tuesday forum with Kirk by scheduling a meeting with him for Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 2 pm. Kirk meets with UNM officials the same day and the students are anxious to remain in the loop. Students also presented Kirk with a multi-page document expressing their frustrations and hopes for the school's future.
Staff perhaps left their Tuesday encounter with Kirk the most nonplussed. He could not promise that no staff cuts were in the pipeline.
This article will be updated as news comes in and details emerge.
New Poll: If given the choice, should CSF roll with Highlands or UNM?