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It costs to be creative at Notre Dame

| Monday, September 2, 2019

I went to a public charter school for the arts from seventh to 12th grade, and I’ve recently been increasingly reminded of this time as I begin my third year now at Notre Dame. Mrs. Oden, the Visual Arts Conservatory Director at the Orange County School of the Arts, who advised me through middle and high school, would always tell us to appreciate the supplies we had — that were always stocked and replenished — while we could. But even by the end of my high school education — when I saw recent graduates from my school come back to “borrow” art supplies their new colleges didn’t readily provide — a reason to be so appreciative was never quite apparent.

Now, having already paid over $50 in art supplies with $120 due by fall break for my required courses this semester alone, all I can say is that Mrs. Oden was right.

Of course, college students of all kinds of disciplines must inevitably spend extra money on supplies and resources to support their education, so it wouldn’t be fair to everyone if all creative supplies were covered when textbooks, laptops and lab kits are not. What is confusing, however, is not that Notre Dame studio courses require the extra fees or supplies, but that they require both the extra fees and supplies.

We’re told that the studio fees are used to maintain the facilities and tools we use in class. But if we have to pay for the tools that we use anyway, then what do most of these fees end up financing? How much of our tuition funds these supplies?

I love my Industrial Design classes this year, and it’s my love for the creative capacities that my major entails that makes me want the money we pay to go to actual and meaningful use. But for now, we have one very old building to call our own, barely on the edge of campus. One class this semester has 19 students in a very physically production-heavy class that must share the same amount of tools and equipment used by a class half that size in the previous semester.

With more interest in creative innovation and respectively developing majors and minors, it is very exciting to see the growing awareness for how significant design can be. As an Industrial Design major, I’m not opposed to financially supporting the department’s growth and advancement, as I’m sure many of my peers would also be. But when considering that all of the extra fees students are required to pay over the course of their time at Notre Dame don’t seem to be as clearly reflected in the quality and quantity of resources it claims to go into, this system only seems discouraging.

I can’t say which of these options students taking these classes would choose: buying their own supplies at prices they can choose or paying a fee up front to cover supplies and materials for the course. Currently, I can only note that a choice doesn’t exist at all; students must pay not only tuition, but also a studio fee and the required studio tools that one would assume to be included in that fee.

Now, in my fifth semester taking required studio classes to graduate and paying for basic materials and softwares that I previously took for granted in high school, I really do appreciate the opportunity to have been able to pursue my interests with such support. I can only hope that as creative departments continue to grow at Notre Dame, more effective support will appropriately follow.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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