SJSU's animation/illustration major has been known for having a rewarding and sought-after program, but students are being shut out of the major by apparent rigorous impaction and a required 3.85 GPA standard for transfers, according to professors in the department.
According to SJSU's impaction website for Fall 2013, the animation/illustration major is listed as one of the university's many “impacted” majors and competition to step into the program has never been more coveted.
Just this year alone, the program admitted only 38 percent of applicants into animation, which includes both freshman and transfers, according to the office of admissions.
Alice Carter, SJSU professor of animation/illustration, said administration raised the required GPA of admits to 3.85 with no prior warning to the department because of impaction in the major.
“It's a clear violation of the California 40401 education code,” Carter said. California education code 40401 states that undergraduates attending any CSU or community college may choose to meet requirements of the campus they selected at the beginning of attendance, at the time of entrance to campus or at the time of graduation.
Carter said she believes that community college students who planned to transfer back in 2011 or earlier should be entitled to current GPA standards when they applied. According to Carter, those students are now turned away from the animation major if they applied last year because of the GPA raise to 3.85.
In a 2013 spring memo sent to students trying to apply for animation,
Lisa Vollendorf, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts, stated that the animation major had “limited space, resources and classes” so the university could not admit students to the first major of their choice.
With about 565 total animation students after Fall 2013 enrollment, animation professors like Carter have stated that seats in classrooms remain empty despite the major being categorized as impacted.
“SJSU's administration is forcing it to be impacted, when in reality, classrooms usually have space and teachers are always willing to add more students,” said Nick Lee, a junior animation/illustration major
. “I was in a 3D modeling class two semesters ago that had less than 15 students, barely filling half of the available seats.”
According to the financial aid and scholarship office, comparatively lower tuition fees of $7,300 per year at SJSU
have also attracted many prospective students to the art program.
According to a financial aid website, it costs $8,523 for Cal Poly undergraduates to live on or off campus and a $19,000 tuition fee, according to the California Colleges website.
“My parents flat out refused to pay for an expensive art school because of it's lack of general education, on top of the fact they would never be able to afford it,”
said senior animation major Kathy McNeal. “If I were to apply now, I wouldn't be accepted under the restrictions that now apply.”
SJSU's animation/illustration program trains students in a wide variety of disciplines including 2D and 3D animation, 3
D modeling, story-boarding and concept art according to the animation and illustration website.
Joshua Zinman, an animation graduate and BFA instructor, said all of these techniques are considered relevant when applying for gaming, television, film and Internet-related media.
SJSU alumni who have graduated from the program have been hired into
studios, such as Pixar, Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network, according to Zinman.
SJSU animation and illustration professor Courtney Granner, who helped Carter found the program in 1996, said he was disappointed with the current enrollment situation for their classes.
“They won't let anyone take our classes until they take our major,” Carter said. “Usually its the faculty who decides whether the class can be for majors or non-majors.”
According to Granner, the restrictions have not only remained constant, but progressively got worse throughout each semester. “They've shown us empty classrooms and they won't let us use them,” Granner said. “We've had to cancel classes because they couldn't fill enough.”
According to Carter, Vollerdorf said last August that adding students over caps violated fire codes.
Carter said a few students were asked to leave certain classes because of fire codes.
Fire codes are a policy that limits the maximum occupancy of a room based on fire safety standards set by the fire marshal's office according to online university safety codes.
Carter said the students who were asked to leave the classes investigated with facilities and with the University Police, who both told them that they did not have fire code numbers for the rooms in question.
“It's the students who found out there was no fire code,” Granner said. “It's become a professional embarrassment for this campus.”
According to Carter, if the trend of allowing only 50 students in per semester lasted six to eight more years, the major's number of students could go down from 600 to 100.
David Chai, animation/illustration program coordinator, said that things have been challenging, but he remains optimistic.
"Things have definitely been difficult, but this is the first semester of a new college restructure that has been in the works for several years, and things are already starting to fall into place,” Chai said. “Working with our new department chair and the administration, I'm confident that we'll be able to address issues such as these, and I'm anticipating many positive results moving forward."