Students loot Art Institute of Seattle classrooms as school suddenly shuts down

Hundreds of students are scrambling as the Art Institute of Seattle shut its doors for good on Friday.

Now, as other universities in the area try to step up and help, some frustrated students are showing their anger by looting classrooms.

Art Institute students found out about the closure a couple of days ago -- two weeks before the end of the quarter.

“A lot of us are angry,” said Rick Cargill, a student who just started his second year there. “This is a Seattle staple. It's kind of like losing the Sonics,” he said.

“I'm pretty much a mess right now,” said Haneen Bakhashwain, who said she had been about to graduate.

On the last day, some students scrambled to get copies of transcripts as others wheeled out boxes of documents.

Now, about 650 students at the Art Institute are struggling to figure out what's next.

"I'm, like, will I ever graduate?" Bakhashwain said.
Students who are veterans, such as Cargill, are worried they'll lose their GI Bill benefits.

International students have just 60 days to find enrollment somewhere else or lose their visa status.

Bakhashwain is from Saudi Arabia and was studying at the Art Institute in Portland when that school shut down and closed near the end of 2018.

“I moved in two to three months ago. I was one class away from graduating,” Bakhashwain said. “Hearing this school was closing, I was just numb. I feel pretty much numb because I don't really know what to do,” she said.

Some students are taking out their anger at the situation by looting the school's classrooms.
A former student sent KIRO7's Deedee Sun videos from inside, showing projectors dangling from ceilings, and computers stripped bare. Computers have also been stolen.

“I'm sorry to admit there's a lot of people who will take advantage of a chaotic situation,” Cargill said.

“I don't think it's right,” Bakhashwain said. “I'm actually shocked, but then I'm, like, I kind of understand because people paid a lot to come to school,” she said.

Amid this mess, several universities in the area, including Seattle Pacific University, are stepping up.

“Our faculty quickly reached out and said, 'What can we do to help these students?'” said Nate Mouttet, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at SPU.

Seattle Pacific is offering a $3,000 scholarship to Art Institute students and working case by case to roll over as many credits as possible.

“We’re going to find ways to help you,” Mouttet said.

“It’s bittersweet because it's nice to see that Seattle and the surrounding areas, the community of universities and colleges, have come to kind of help out,” Cargill said.

The Art Institute has been in Seattle for 73 years, but now joins more than 40 other art institutes across the nation that have closed or are closing. The art schools have been struggling financially in recent years.

A nonprofit called Dream Center Foundation bought the schools in 2017, and a round of closures happened in 2018. It’s not clear why the Art Institute in Seattle suddenly closed two weeks before the end of the quarter. The academic year would’ve ended in June.

Representatives from SPU, Seattle University and other schools will be at a meeting for Art Institute students at the school on Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help students figure out their options.
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