- Aunt O’Donnell wore a white cloth saying “I want a refund” to her graduation ceremony.
- She told Insider that her action demonstrated how she felt about the Central Saint Martins course.
- Making people uncomfortable is a good way to make them listen, O’Donnell said.
The pandemic has forced students to adapt to online learning, but some feel they have received an inferior education as a result.
That’s why Tia O’Donnell decided to make a statement about her tuition when she attended her graduation ceremony in London earlier this month.
She majored in fine arts at Central Saint Martins, the world-famous art and design college that is part of the University of the Arts London.
Its graduates include fashion designers Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs, sculptor Antony Gormley and pulp singer Jarvis Cocker, who named Saint Martins in the band’s 1995 hit “Common People.”
Loans and tuition fees mean O’Donnell now owes around $60,000 (£50,000).
She decided to “write down exactly what the other students are feeling”, so she sprayed “I want a refund” on a piece of white cloth attached to a chain. He stayed hidden under her robe until it was time to go up on stage to collect his graduation certificate.
“I turned him around, turned to the student behind me and asked if I got this on the right track,” O’Donnell said. The student responded “Oh my God, I love you”, and that gave her the boost she needed.
She was terrified, but O’Donnell said she wanted to do this not just for her, but for thousands of other students who “feel so unfair about what happened.” To make people listen, you have to make them feel uncomfortable in some way, she argued.
“Initially, I wanted to write something a little cruder and a little more offensive, but then I realized that’s not really the right way to portray a message,” she told Insider. “If you want people to hear it, then you have to be direct.”
Students around the world have expressed concern about the impact of online learning on their courses. Some feel that they have not received training comparable to face-to-face teaching, while others complain about the lack of practical activities.
O’Donnell said it was always his dream to go to Saint Martins. “The reason I signed up for the course was for the ceramic workshops, the metal workshops, for all these incredible physical facilities that Saint Martins offers.”
She added, “And lest this be a part of my journey while I was there, I feel like it was completely unfair and I don’t feel like I received the level of education that they promised each student at the beginning of our freshman year.”
O’Donnell said he hasn’t heard from Saint Martins since graduating, but vowed to “continue doing things that are for the justice of the students. I won’t stop until we have some form of compensation.”
A spokesperson for the University of the Arts London said: “We do not underestimate the challenges and upheaval caused by the pandemic. During the pandemic, staff worked tirelessly to ensure that student learning was supported. feedback. We encourage students and graduates to speak with us directly about concerns so that we can learn from what has been an extraordinarily difficult time for our entire community.”