Students, faculty, alumni detail UArts closure

Testifiers: ‘Brutal, awful’ time and lives thrown into ‘catastrophe’

PHILADELPHIA, June 17 – Students, faculty and alumni detailed the heartbreak and fallout in the wake of the haphazard announcement and sudden closure of the University of the Arts at a House Majority Policy Committee.  

“This has been a terrible time for the University of the Arts students, staff and alumni,” said Policy Committee hearing host state Rep. Ben Waxman, who represents portions of Philadelphia including the UArts campus in Center City. “They have been treated in such a way that is frankly unacceptable. The University of the Arts’ leadership has refused to provide information, even after throwing the lives of thousands of people into chaos because of their incompetence.”

The UArts announced it would close on Friday, May 31, and it closed its doors – ending almost a 150-year history in Philadelphia – a week later on June 7.

Testimony from the former UArts Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies Erin Elman explained how she – and other deans – learned of the closure 10 minutes before the public.

“Even though these universities are private institutions, we believe we have a moral responsibility as elected leaders to have oversight to ensure tax dollars are being spent correctly and responsibly,” said House Majority Appropriations Chair Jordan Harris, who represents portions of Philadelphia. “When a tragedy like this happens, the students, faculty and staff turn to their leadership – whose presence has been lacking. The House is looking to have more involvement on the front end, so a tragedy like this never happens again in Philadelphia or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Students detailed a “brutal, awful” time and how their lives have been thrown into “catastrophe.” House Democrats – including Reps. Harris, Waxman and Bob Merski – have introduced legislation to prevent similar abrupt closures of higher education institutions.

“Faculty and staff detailed the uncertainty, heartbreak and sorrow caused by this closure as well as its chaotic announcement,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, who represents portions of Erie County. “The lack of accountability by school leadership is astounding, and – quite frankly – so disturbing the House is examining taking action to pass a law so this level of distress caused by this closure never happens again.”  

Testifiers became emotional, talking about the uncertainty of their future, including doubts about being able to pay their bills.

UArts illustration faculty member Kevin Mercer detailed the work and internationally respected accomplishments of some UArts students. He found out about the closure while he attended a Phillies game, after a friend texted his wife. The announcement of the closure happened less than a month after he closed on a house.  

Monday’s House Majority Policy hearing featured testimony from UArts student Joey Miller; 2024 UArts graduate Alex McFadden; former UArts staff and alumna Gehia Davenport; former UArts faculty Kevin Mercer; UArts alum Frank Machos; UArts alum Laurin Talese; and the former UArts Dean of Graduate & Professional Studies Erin Elman.

The William Way LGBT Community Center hosted the hearing.   

Waxman invited the UArts leadership to attend the hearing, and he once again invited any member of leadership in attendance to speak at the start of the hearing.

Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at A livestream of the hearing can be found at Photos to be used for publication can be found at