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Kicked Out of Yale

July 8, 2008

By Mary E. O’Leary, New Haven Register, Conn.

Jul. 8–NEW HAVEN — Rejection is not something Annabel Osberg has encountered in her 19 years.

A prodigy who graduated summa cum laude from California State University at San Bernadino at age 18 after less than three years of study, Osberg followed up that success by gaining admission last year to Yale University’s top-ranked graduate program in art.

She said she was the youngest ever accepted into the school, one of 22 studying painting and printmaking out of 600 applicants, all of whom were chosen based on personal interviews and critiques of their work by several people.

But late this spring, Osberg, who was home-schooled until she began commuting to college at age 14, said she was dismissed from Yale by officials who, she says, told her she wasn’t mature enough to benefit from the program.

“My parents were very proud about my acceptance at Yale,” said Osberg in a quiet manner. “Now, everything is lost.”

Osberg said she wasn’t told in time to allow her to apply to another program next year and now she will lose a year of study. Since graduate programs are usually two years long, she didn’t feel she could salvage credits from her time at Yale.

Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy said a student’s academic record is confidential and he wasn’t in a position to verify Osberg’s account.

Osberg’s attorney, John Williams, said he tried unsuccessfully to work out something informally with the administration and plans to file a lawsuit this week. “They have treated this young woman badly,” he said.

Osberg said her teachers found her conscientious and hard-working, but were critical of her technique, although she said they also noted her improvement.

A written report on grades are issued for the year at the conclusion of the spring semester, but she said she has yet to receive them. Osberg said she was told orally that she passed her fall courses, which were all pass/fail. No one at the art school could be reached for comment.

“I’m not sure what they were looking for. That’s the problem … there was no real consensus on what I was doing wrong,” the young painter said.

Not discouraged by the unexpected turn of events, Osberg hopes to make a living through art — something her parents endorse.

Sant Kalsa, chairwoman of the art program at Cal State, said Osberg successfully completed all basic courses on such things as design, color and light and was tapped two years in a row to participate in the Robert V. Fullerton Museum’s exhibition of student work, in which only 20 percent to 30 percent of entries are accepted.

In 2005, she won the Cal State president’s award and her piece, “Clusters,” a nightscape of Southern California in which she examines sprawl, a theme she regularly returned to, is part of his collection.

“I think she is a genuinely intelligent and talented young woman who is up to the challenge,” Kalsa said of Osberg. “In many ways, she is a very mature young woman in that she stays focused on her goals.”

Kalsa said Cal State every year sends students to top graduate schools in art, and others have gone on to Yale besides Osberg.

Last week, Osberg had already moved out smaller examples of her work from her studio, with only the largest pieces remaining, including several in a series on the interior of the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale, part of a work she was doing on hidden spaces.

Osberg feels the university was preparing to expel her as far back as October, one month after she arrived, when a top administrator said she should go back and get a bachelor’s in fine arts in addition to her bachelor of arts degree.

“The school offered nothing in the way of tuition reimbursement to make amends for their mistake,” Osberg said of the $52,000 total yearly cost.

“In my previous educational experience, the teachers (at Cal State) were very helpful and I expected it to be that way at Yale. In reality, their actions indicated that they are not concerned about their students, only about their own reputation,” Osberg said.

She said two top Yale administrators, meeting with her in April, “indicated that they believed that I was too young to receive an MFA. Several times, they emphasized the fact that I would only be 20 when receiving my terminal degree and challenged me to think about what I would do with a terminal degree at such a young age.

“However, they had enthusiastically accepted me knowing that I would be only 20 when receiving my degree,” Osberg said.

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