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University of the Arts President Kerry Walk resigns after school's sudden closure

President of the University of the Arts resigns days before school's official closure
President of the University of the Arts resigns days before school's official closure 02:05

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- University of the Arts President Kerry Walk resigned four days after the school suddenly announced its closure, the university told CBS News Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, the university canceled a town hall intended to provide answers for students, parents, staff and faculty, regarding Friday's announcement, leaving students without an explanation or any action plan UArts had in place for students in the event of a closure.

The cancellation of the town hall came on the heels of a large colorful demonstration on South Broad Street Monday afternoon, where students and alumni gathered to process their emotions about their sudden loss. 

On Tuesday, students were back on campus demonstrating on the steps of Hamilton Hall, where they said they were left feeling empty.

"[I feel] numb right now," said Michael Pacio Ximil, a film major who was expecting to continue his studies next year. "I don't know what the future is going to look like, so it's like, 'What can I feel? Can I feel sadness?' Because I still want hope for the school."

Rayne Smith, a 2023 graduate of UArts, said they want University administrators to meet with them, in person.

"Our number one demand at the moment is that the university meets with us, that they agree to a town hall to answer our questions," Smith said. "It was disgraceful to cancel the virtual town hall. It was disgraceful for it to be virtual as someone whose entire freshman year of college was online.

Students, faculty and alumni hold out hope for University of the Arts in Philadelphia by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

Dinita and Kyle Clark are both graduates of the University of the Arts. They met there in 2003 and later got married, and both ended up teaching there for 15 years. Now they own a dance studio in the city.

"It's like waking up one day and finding out your home has been sold. It's one place that made us all as artists feel important," Kyle Clark said.

"To have had the opportunity to learn from so many different students, different ethnicities, races, cultures. To share and to grow, you know, it made me, it made us better," Dinita Clark said.

"Anyone who says that we don't need the arts or the arts need less funding — those people I am sure every day watch a movie, get a tattoo, listen to music, go on Spotify," rising junior Michael Pogudin said.

The University of the Arts closure comes after the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) announced Friday it will withdraw the accreditation of the University of the Arts effective June 1. This decision came after UArts failed to properly notify MSCHE of its unplanned imminent closure.

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) announced it would end its degree programs at the end of the 2024-25 academic year.

MSCHE decided to strip UArts of its accreditation due to not complying with the commission's requests for written reports, teach-out plans and more.

Temple University has said the school is ready to accept University of the Arts students interested in transferring and that leaders are "committed to continuing conversations" with University of the Arts representatives.

Walk, who became the fifth president of UArts in August 2023, has yet to make a public statement about her decision to step down.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with clarified information about PAFA's degree programs.

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