The media has exploded with articles about the students of The Juilliard School, one of the world's top conservatories for the performing arts, protesting for a tuition freeze in order for students to be able to continue their education during the tumultuous, unstable year of 2021 that have left many people in America jobless and struggling due to the pandemic, and the resulting crises that followed afterward.
According to the Forbes article, "Juilliard Students Stage First-Ever Protest Against Tuition Hikes", Juilliard has increased the tuition by 4% for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. Jumping the price from $49,260 to $51,230, the increase is equal to almost $2,000. $2,000, that could make a difference between who can afford to continue their education at the prestigious campus, and who no longer can.
Demand a tuition freeze for all students! Link in bio. #ShadowAndBone #SkipTheRinse #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #student #studentproblems #college
Jay Julio, an alum from Juilliard who now plays for the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship, stated how the tuition increase, an action that seems tone-deaf to the difficulties of affording a life in New York City and their education simultaneously, both exacerbated by the pandemic, has been harmful to the poorer musicians studying there, as the increases in prices further narrow the number of students able to attend the school. Julio stated, "The study of fine arts [is] going to be more and more...reserved for the rich. What kind of art are we producing if it can only be produced by the top 1 to 10% of the population?"
The students first responded to this by signing a petition for a tuition freeze, something that has been done in other conservatories such as the Curtis Institute of Music, and speaking with the administration on June 3rd. Their response had been subpar, with the administration trying to reassure the students that the financial aid, received by 92% of the student body, will be able to help cover the increased costs, with the Juilliard spokesperson stating in the Insider Higher Ed article, "Juilliard's teaching, coaching, and performance opportunities are unmatched, and great care is taken care to offer this education at the lowest possible cost".
In short, the administration will do nothing.
"The study of fine arts [is] going to be more and more...reserved for the rich. What kind of art are we producing if it can only be produced by the top 1 to 10% of the population?"
Sarah Ma, a freshman violinist who is also a founder of a small political group called the "Socialist Penguins" had released Tiktok videos since March about her group, and since early May, the tuition increase at Juilliard that are causing the students to protest. On June 7th, the Socialist Penguins held rallies and protests where students gathered, dancing, drawing art with chalk and playing music, and holding posters and signs spreading awareness and telling cars to honk for solidarity (and to annoy the school). The same night, they organized what would be the first student sit-in in Juilliard's history at the Irene Diamond Building. Ma released videos of what happened there, and raising awareness for the cause they are fighting for. According to her, the students protested on the second floor, with the words "TUITION FREEZE" taped on the glass of the second floor. In response, Juilliard has sent security guards to lock the students up in the second floor. Luckily, this attempt was stopped when the students realized what the guards were doing.
The next day, the students who participated in the sit-in were temporarily suspended from the Diamond Building by the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at Juilliard, Sabrina Tanbara. Unfortunately, the Diamond Building is where the majority of classes and rehearsal spaces and performances were being held, causing the students to miss, and possibly, fail their classes due to their protests.
On June 9th, Ma released another Tiktok video, this time calling people to be informed and to spread awareness of what is happening at Juilliard, and demanding the administration to not punish the students who were involved in the sit-in, and who were only speaking out against the injustices that had left them in deeper financial, and now, academic insecurity.
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A few weeks have passed, but since June 11th, magazines and newspapers such as the Rolling Stones and The New York Times have been getting this information about the events and the rallies out into the world--to more and more people--bringing public pressure towards the conservatory to give these students their much-needed tuition freeze. Even Youtube creators, such as the classical duo TwoSetViolin, stepped in to inform their viewers and offer their support for the students still protesting in the rallies for real, beneficial change.
Why Juilliard Students are Protesting www.youtube.com
The school year for the students at Juilliard may be over, but their demands have not changed or subsided. As Ma stated to Rolling Stone, this cause for a tuition freeze has brought students across different divisions of Juilliard together in unison against something that affects all of them. And now, they have the support of friends, faculty, and alumni.
And now, the world is paying attention.