Annabel Osberg was riding high when, at only 17, she got into the hyper-competitive MFA program at the Yale School of Art. After administrators showed her the door a year later, she vowed to take them to court. Contributing reporter Harrison Korn reports.
At 19 years old, Annabel Osberg plans to take the next year to pursue her passion for art by painting on her own. She also plans to use her time off to sue Yale for readmission to its graduate Masters of Fine Arts program.
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Even though she gained admission to Boston University’s MFA program earlier this month, Osberg has decided to take the year off to contest what she claims was her unfair removal from the Yale School of Art’s graduate painting program after her first year there last spring. But Yale officials indicated she was removed because her work was not up to snuff.
Osberg said Yale kicked her out because administrators believe she is “too immature and too young” to receive her degree and because she “listened too much to her instructors’ advice.” She was admitted to the program — which has an average student age of 27 — at 17. In a statement, Osberg said Peter Halley, the director of graduate studies of the art school’s painting and printmaking program, told her the school had made a mistake in admitting her.
Osberg claims in her suit that she was not given adequate warning of her expulsion, in violation of the art school’s academic regulations. Osberg said she met with Halley and School of Art Dean Robert Storr in April and asked them what she could do to improve.
“I was told it was very likely that they were going to expel me,” she said in an interview last month. “They were unwilling to help me.”
School of Art regulations stipulate that, after an initial warning, students have a full academic term to “demonstrate a satisfactory level of quality and effort in their work” prior to a final expulsion.
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said Osberg’s removal did not violate any protocols.
“The Yale School of Art assesses the academic progress of its students carefully and followed its procedures in all respects,” Conroy wrote in an e-mail. Conroy said the University believes Osberg’s claim has “no merit.”
Halley and Storr did not respond to requests for comment this week.
The lawsuit — which claims that the plaintiff “suffered ascertainable economic losses and emotional distress” as a result of Yale’s actions — seeks Osberg’s readmission to the M.F.A. program, the reinstatement of her studio and residence, and at least $15,000 in damages. Osberg is suing the University for breach of contract and lockout violations, claiming that Yale locked her out of the studio she rented from the University after being given only a few hours’ notice that she had to vacate.
Two weeks ago her attorney, John Williams, filed a motion for a temporary injunction to allow Osberg to be readmitted to Yale’s MFA program while the lawsuit plays out. It is unlikely that the injunction will be acted upon in time for her Osberg to return to classes for the fall semester, Williams said, but he and Osberg said they hope she can return to Yale for the spring semester.
Williams said the Yale Office of the General Counsel has indicated it is not willing to settle the case out of court. After discussions with administrators in the School of Art, Yale’s counsel informed Williams that they would not budge, he said.
“Yale behaved the way it seems Yale always behaves — ‘we’re Yale, don’t tell us what to do,’ ” Williams said. “They’re a stone wall — an ivy-covered stone wall.”
University General Counsel Dorothy Robinson could not be reached for comment.
Osberg said about 45 of her peers signed a petition opposing her expulsion from the painting and printmaking program that read, “It would be unjust and arbitrary to terminate Annabel from the program.” None of about a dozen of Osberg’s peers contacted by the News responded to requests for comment.
Contact Harrison Korn at firstname.lastname@example.org