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June 08, 2024

University of the Arts officially closed Friday, laying off over 600 staff members

Students, faculty, union members and other supporters of UArts threw a 'Last Stand Jam' rally to show solidarity after the closing.

Education University of the Arts
UArts closing columns Chris Compendio/PhillyVoice

Signs are displayed outside Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts on Wednesday before a march. On Friday, students, faculty and union members participated in a rally on the school's final day.

University of the Arts is officially closed as of Friday, as originally scheduled, laying off several hundreds of faculty and staff members and ending the existence of a nearly 150-year-old institution. 

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, 613 UArts staff members were fired. The layoffs were facilitated by consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal and announced through a Zoom call with university staff. 

Fewer than 80 staff members will remain indefinitely to assist with building maintenance and other tasks, including assisting students transfer their credits to other schools, NBC10 reports.

Fired faculty and staff also learned that their medical insurance would expire by June 30, according to a notice to terminated employees.

The university's administration announced the closure on Friday, May 31, setting off a whirlwind week of confusion, grief and anger. University president Kerry Walk resigned on Tuesday before and several local universities offered benefits for displaced UArts students looking to transfer.

United Academics Philly (UAP), affiliated with the AFT union, held a rally on Friday afternoon in front of UArts building Hamilton Hall. The rally was led by speakers including AFT president Randi Weingarten and had students, faculty and staff take a "final big shot photo" in front of Hamilton Hall to mark the university's final day.

Shortly after, a "Last Stand Jam" rally organized by students took place in front of Hamilton Hall as a show of solidarity.

Featuring music performances and dancing on the sidewalk of Broad Street in front of Hamilton Hall, the rally was an energetic and bittersweet celebration of the university, its students and its faculty. The Beardmobile, a mobile performance unit from Philadelphia cabaret company The Bearded Ladies, was present at the rally for performances and speeches.

Students from the now-closed university are still mobilizing to demand answers from UArts administrators, including information on transferring and potential refunds.

UArts union members have filed a class action lawsuit against the university. The Philadelphia City Council is planning to hold hearings to investigate the untimely UArts closure.