Art portfolio process needs to be re-evaluated

The ax could fall at any semester for some students in the art department, and this policy deserves scrutiny.

Thursday's Arizona Daily Wildcat outlined the process graphic design, illustration and photography majors must undergo each semester to get their degree. Upper-level classes require a portfolio review by committee for admittance, and acceptance is not guaranteed.

Some students are accepted to their classes, some are told to fix up their portfolios for the resubmittal process, and some are simply not admitted. Students are encouraged to reapply for classes; some are urged to retake their current class to bone up on skills or spruce up their work independently.

The reason for the portfolio review policy in these three majors is quality control and professional preparation, according to professors. While there is nothing wrong with demanding high standards and pushing students to perform at their highest ability, being shut out of classes near their anticipated graduation date is not the best solution.

Every department in the university should have some form of proficiency testing, but the question is when. While these art programs continually test students, they also leave students wondering each semester if they will be able to continue in their chosen field of study, or must change majors.

While no one can fault the departments for preparing their students for the real world, equipping them with quality skills and portfolios, there comes a time to question what is the best way to achieve that end.

For instance, the architecture department evaluates students after their freshman year, and either admits them to the professional program or allows them to reapply the next year. This plan works for most students, and while students must maintain excellence throughout the program, they do not have the possibility of delayed graduation hanging over their heads each semester.

The art departments involved must work to find a compromise that maintains periodical quality checks, combined with a modicum of graduation security. It is unrealistic for professors to expect students to be financially able to spend an extra semester or year in school, just as it is naive to think that if a student is truly dedicated to that art, he will be able to keep coming back, trying for class admittance.

The portfolio policy needs attention, especially in light of the Arizona Board of Regents' maximum 120 unit degree policy, and the proposal to make students with over 160 units pay out of state tuition. If the 160-unit proposal passes, the portfolio process will definitely need a closer look.

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