Copyright 2005 The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 9, 2005, Friday

LENGTH: 403 words

HEADLINE: 2 Arts Colleges in Georgia Vote to Merge, Despite Protests


The Board of Trustees of the Woodruff Arts Center, which operates the 350-student Atlanta College of Art, has voted to merge the college with the much larger Savannah College of Art and Design. The vote came last month as costumed Atlanta College of Art students and alumni protested loudly outside the arts center, where the college is located.

Immediately after that vote, the Savannah college's Board of Trustees unanimously approved the merger.

In an interview, Shelton Stanfill, president of the Woodruff Arts Center, said of the Atlanta College of Art: "Now that it can -- as a very small, small college -- combine with one of the largest fine-arts institutions in the country, we can only have a greater influence on the health of the visual-arts community in Atlanta."

The merger was approved by the center's trustees by a vote of 31 to 4, with two abstentions, Mr. Stanfill said.

"By offering more options and more resources to the students, of course their education will benefit," said Paula S. Wallace, president of the Savannah College of Art and Design, which in March opened an Atlanta campus just five blocks from the Woodruff center.

The Savannah institution offers 78 degree programs, including master's degrees, said Ms. Wallace. The Atlanta college offers bachelor's degrees in 12 areas.

The merger will become official in June 2006, with the combined institution taking the Savannah College of Art and Design name. Mr. Stanfill declined to answer questions about the Atlanta college's financial condition, which opponents of the merger had suggested was a factor in the boards' decisions.

Opposition to the move remains strong among the Atlanta college's students, alumni, and faculty members.

Before last month's meetings, students and alumni gathered on Peachtree Street to continue a series of demonstrations aimed at forestalling the merger, which the college's Board of Directors had narrowly approved in July.

A group of faculty and staff members joined the opposition in a 13-page document that detailed their misgivings to the boards of both the Atlanta college and the arts center. The document, which the faculty and staff members submitted anonymously for fear of retaliation, outlined a number of reasons not to proceed with the merger, including that the Savannah college has been on the censure list of the American Association of University Professors since 1993.

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