VCU’s hands-on majors concerned about accessing art studios, resources

Illustration by Claire Deely

Fabian Fontanez, Contributing Writer

Some freshmen with hands-on majors such as art or engineering are concerned about the lack of academic resources and course modality changes during the start of their college careers. 

“At first, I expected everything to be really good, since VCU is one of the best art schools,” said freshman art foundation student Elise Corbin-Pollard. “It’ll be different now ‘cause there’s always updates about COVID and stuff we have to do to stay safe.”

The university’s studio spaces will remain open, with VCUarts providing safety protocols for sharing tools and equipment. The university is also maintaining safety via physical distancing, mask requirements and daily health checks for students and staff during the fall semester. 

Corbin-Pollard said she was reassured by the added safety measures, but is concerned about limited access to studios, art materials and other resources. She said she believes the art foundation program will be different with critiques occurring over Zoom.

“There’s probably a limited amount of resources for us now, ones they would’ve had for us if we were in person.” Corbin-Pollard said. “Not everyone has the amount of space they would have in a classroom.”   

Video conferencing has become the new normal at orientations and other first-year events. Online platform RamsConnect hosts virtual mixers to help transfer and first-year students connect with clubs, organizations and Greek life on campus.

“I wish they could’ve given us more money and be more understanding of people’s situations to be more personal with each student’s lives and not so general.” — Samir Nader.

Freshman art foundation student Ariadna Perez said a disconnect between students and instructors will be inevitable during online classes. As a “visual learner,” she worries that without hands-on experience she will begin to lose focus and procrastinate.

“Everyone is worried, and they don’t know what’s going to happen,” Perez said, “especially out-of-state kids seeing these VCUarts tours and now not being able to do these things promised before COVID. We’re worried about not being able to make our art.”

The university is keeping in-person classes small in size at 50 students or fewer, with classrooms and studio spaces allowing 36 square feet for each person. Still, Perez remains concerned about the personal instruction art students will miss during the fall semester. 

“It’s kinda like watching YouTube videos, like you really don’t absorb much doing a tutorial which you don’t want to do,” Perez said. “You want to do more with your expression and go outside the box.”

VCU expanded its course modality options to adhere to health guidelines and academic requirements. The deadline to cancel

Art foundation major Ariadna Perez moving into her on-campus dorm. Photo courtesy of Ariadna Perez

the university’s housing contract for the 2020-21 academic year was extended into July after many courses switched to an online or hybrid format. 

According to an email sent to students in the Honors College, many students took advantage of the grace period and canceled their contracts. The additional space meant the university no longer needed to use the Graduate Richmond hotel as a housing option for honors students. Instead, students are residing in Gladding Residence Center or Cary & Belvidere. 

Freshman bioinformatics major Samir Nader has experienced changes to his housing plans, now assigned to Cary & Belvidere instead of the Graduate. Due to course modality changes, he purchased a reliable computer out of his personal funds that he says would’ve been used for tuition. 

“I wish they could’ve given us more money and be more understanding of people’s situations to be more personal with each student’s lives and not so general,” Nader said.

Despite his expectations of having “an amazing and unorthodox college experience” changing tremendously, he still wishes to remain optimistic and understanding of VCU’s precautions and current plans for the fall semester.

“I have no doubt they’re trying to keep people happy, but there is a balance that you need to keep people safe,” Nader said. “It’s going to be hard to find that middle ground and sometimes you have to just settle. It is what it is.”

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