University of the Arts president resigns as questions swirl over abrupt closure

Four days after announcing the school would shut down imminently, and during a constantly evolving crisis, Kerry Walk stepped down.

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University of the Arts (Billy Penn/file)

University of the Arts (Billy Penn/file)

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The president of the University of the Arts has abruptly resigned.

UArts has confirmed that Kerry Walk has stepped down as the institution unravels in a dramatic financial collapse. She was in office for less than a year.

Last Friday, UArts announced it would shut down permanently June 7, citing low enrollment and an undisclosed fiscal crisis. It came as a surprise to instructors and the approximately 1,100 students.

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A town hall scheduled for Monday afternoon, during which Walk and UArts management were supposed to explain what was happening, was canceled 10 minutes before it was to begin.

The United Academics of Philadelphia, the union representing UArts teachers, called the actions of management and the board “cruel.”

“Nothing has been done to help students find new colleges in which they may enroll,” UAP wrote in a statement. “Both President Walk and the Board of Trustees that appointed her have behaved disgracefully and irresponsibly.”

Doria Wohler, an adjunct instructor, was surprised but not shocked by UArts board and management, calling them “exploitative and predatory.” One of her students sent an email saying, “We’ve been very much abandoned by the university.”

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Many students have already enrolled and paid for the fall semester. Other regional art schools, including Temple University Tyler School of the Arts, Drexel University and Moore College of Art and Design, have said they would accept UArts students into their programs, along with their already acquired credits.

The union is calling on the UArts board to pay staff for work completed and come up with a severance package, as well as meet their “legal and ethical obligations.” Some class action lawsuits are in the works, and Temple University is considering acquiring the school, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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