Fine arts program at TRU to be phased out

“It’s not easy to make decisions like this," said TRU board chair Marilyn McLean.

During a special board of governors meeting on Monday, the fate of TRU’s Fine Arts program was finally decided. In a 6-2 decision, with one abstention, the TRU board of governors voted to discontinue four visual arts degrees and diplomas.

The degrees and diplomas scheduled to be phased out are the bachelor of fine arts (visual arts, major), bachelor of arts (visual arts, minor), the diploma in visual arts and the visual arts studio certificate. 

Monday’s vote by the board marked the conclusion of nearly a year of discussions regarding the program’s fate.

“Visual Arts at TRU has a long-standing relationship [with the] Kamloops community. However, over the course of [10 months] of deliberation and research, it is clear the specified VA programs have very low graduation rates, with many students not completing the credentials or leaving TRU,” said TRU provost and vice president academic Gillian Balfour.

In a statement from the university on Monday, TRU advised that the decision would not impact any students currently enrolled in the programs nor the faculty teaching them.

“Students currently enrolled in these programs will have the opportunity to complete their credentials. Faculty teaching these programs will not be affected, and TRU will continue to offer a wide array of visual arts classes for students,” the statement reads.

Marilyn McLean, chair of TRU’s board, emphasized in the statement that although it was not an easy decision to make, it was the most responsible.

“Every university, including TRU, must change and adapt to what students, the job market and communities need now. We must also meet the expectations of our primary funding partner — the provincial government. By doing this, TRU is acting responsibly to ensure the best use of public dollars,” McLean said. 

According to McLean, continuously low enrollment numbers and many unsuccessful attempts to discover a means to “ensure its relevance over the years” forced the programs’ closure. 

“It’s time to move in a new direction that provides different kinds of equally valuable opportunities to larger numbers of students,” McLean said.

The statement explained that the closure of the fine arts program would enable the redirection of what the university calls “[…] limited and unchanging” resources to other programs in the Faculty of Arts.

In acknowledging the outcome of the vote, McLean communicated that the board understood the decision’s impact on the community.

“It’s not easy to make decisions like this. The board understands the passion and connection many in the community have to the arts,” McLean said. “We know that TRU has played an important role in developing artists in Kamloops and beyond. We are proud of that legacy, and we will continue to provide opportunities for people to explore artistic endeavours.”

Although the visual arts program will now close, the university stated that this change does not signify an end to visual arts training at TRU.

“Many arts courses will continue and possibly expand, especially ones that have served as popular electives for undergraduate students in other programs,” the statement reads.