UArts students, staff still in dark on next steps ahead of Friday closure; City Council investigates

With a megaphone, signs, and sidewalk art, students of the University of the Arts hoped to capture the attention of car and foot traffic along Broad Street on Thursday, to keep the university top of mind amid its official closing Friday.

"It’s the only art school on the Avenue of the Arts and I think it’s really important that it stays here," said Mars O’Neill, a graduate student with the University of the Arts.

News of the sudden closure of the university came only a week ago, when president Kerry Walk and the university’s board chair blamed a "fragile financial state." Days later, Walk resigned.

O’Neill is in a one-calendar year program, with only nine credits left for the summer.

"We don’t really know what’s going on with that either, there’s a lot of unique situations and everyone’s feeling the pain from it."

United Academics of Philadelphia, the union representing some faculty members and staff, filed one of two lawsuits this week. They are also calling for a date to address impact negotiations so they can get clear answers, after they say their meeting was canceled on Tuesday.

"There is no information on what the skeleton staff is going to be," said Murphy, a union member who also works for the university. "I’m assuming I will not be part of that, but I have not been told explicitly in writing when my last day will be, when the last day I’ll be paid for."

Attorney Eric Letchzin filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of nine faculty members and staff, accusing the school of violating the WARN Act, which requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60 days notice before closing.

"To me, it has the look and feel of the Ponzi scheme cases that I handle when a Ponzi scheme unravels," he said. "It’s pretty incomprehensible to all of us how this university could close with only seven days notice."

Letchzin says their goal, at a minimum, is to get the plaintiffs at least 60 days pay, along with attorney’s fees.

"Our main interest is moving this forward as swiftly as possible," he said.

Councilmember Mark Squilla on Thursday introduced a resolution, which Councilmember Thomas cosponsored, calling on the committee of Education to hold hearings to investigate the closure of the University of the Arts.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education said they pulled accreditation only after the university informed officials that they were abruptly closing. 

They stated that they planned to meet with prospective teach-out partners Thursday, which are other schools that would help students finish out their programs.

Earlier this week, Temple University confirmed they are part of the conversation, and a spokesperson for Governor Josh Shapiro confirmed to FOX 29 that the governor is part of the talks as well.

Students tell FOX 29 they are cautiously optimistic of a merger.

"I think our students and our faculty need to be at that table to talk about this possibility and we really, we want the art school to stay essentially how it is," said O’Neill.

United Academics of Philadelphia plans to hold a rally at Hamilton Hall at 3 p.m. on Friday, with President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten.

Students also started a petition (LINK:, and plan to rally on Friday as well, beginning at 5 p.m.