The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 2, 2005 Tuesday Home Edition
SECTION: Metro News; Pg. 5B;

LENGTH: 609 words

HEADLINE: Art college merger plan draws protest;
Atlanta students criticize larger Savannah school

BYLINE: TOM SABULIS

BODY:
Lisa Kittel, a sophomore at the Atlanta College of Art, is unhappy about her school's proposal to merge with the Savannah College of Art and Design.

"I worked too hard to go to a school like that," said the 18-year-old sophomore from Charlottesville, Va. "I'm looking to transfer after this year."

Charlie Mylie, a sophomore from Lawrenceville, also was upset with the plan that has ACA folding into the much-larger SCAD as early as next summer.

SCAD, which traditionally focuses more on commercial arts than ACA, opened an Atlanta campus in March and plans to enroll about 150 students this year. It has more than 7,000 students in Savannah. ACA has about 330 students.

"I really wouldn't have come here if I knew about this," Mylie said.

Senior Michael Wilson has another problem if the merger is approved by the Woodruff Arts Center board of trustees in the coming weeks. (No meeting date has been announced.)

"What do I do about my transcripts after I graduate? Will they be from Atlanta College of Art, a school that no longer exists?" Or will they be from SCAD, an institution he never attended?

Those were some of the frustrations being registered as about two dozen ACA students hit the streets Monday to protest the proposed merger of their 100-year-old institution with SCAD. Last week, the ACA's board of directors approved a plan to fold the college into the Savannah-based institution.

Carrying signs saying "Save the ACA" in front of the Woodruff Arts Center on Peachtree Street in Midtown, they handed out leaflets and tried to engage passers-by. The college is one of five divisions of the Woodruff, along with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, the Alliance Theatre and Young Audiences of Atlanta.

Later, approximately 100 students, teachers and staffers met with John Spiegel, the ACA's board chairman, for a closed-door meeting at the arts center.

They said they believed that ACA's standards were higher than SCAD's. Some were angry that they were not informed of the ACA's exploration of a merger. Talks have been ongoing for the past year.

"I don't want to go to SCAD," Elizabeth Weber, a painting major from Augusta, said after leaving the meeting with Spiegel. "I don't respect it as much."

SCAD officials issued a statement Monday as they became aware of the protest.

"SCAD is working with ACA and the Woodruff Arts Center to provide information, answer questions and alleviate concerns," said Pamela Rhame, senior vice president of recruitment and communications for SCAD, in the release. "SCAD welcomes an opportunity to speak to ACA students about their concerns." The school has posted a question-and-answer page for ACA students on its Web site, www.scad.edu.

Before the meeting, Spiegel said SCAD's broad array of extracurricular activities and post-graduate degree programs --- ACA does not confer master's degrees --- could be an asset for Atlanta.

"One of the great things that may come out of this, hopefully, is the ability to build a truly vibrant educational facility degree-wise and outreach-wise here in Atlanta," Spiegel said. "The vision is to grow it dramatically."

So far, ACA students seemed unimpressed --- and suspicious --- about the deal.

In leaflets handed out Monday, they referred to the merger as "a hostile takeover and the destruction of a 100-year-old institution that holds higher accreditation status and places a greater emphasis on the fine arts."

ACA senior Andrew Ericson, 24, was more succinct: "My personal opinion is that the Woodruff Arts Center is trying to sell off the school under the guise that it's a collaboration."

GRAPHIC: JOHN SPINK / Staff Atlanta College of Art sophomore Maurice Vandenbergh II displays his opposition at the Woodruff Arts Center to his school's plans to merge with Savannah College of Art and Design. ; JOHN SPINK / Staff Marylin Chen and other students protest Monday the planned merger between the Atlanta College of Art and SCAD.

LOAD-DATE: August 2, 2005