Sunday, May 4, 2008

Support the Protest

Supporters of the protest can forward their comments and letters to:

Carl Flink
Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance
580C Rarig Center
330 21st Avenue South
Mpls, MN 55455

Dr. Ananya Chatterjea
Director of the Dance Program
203 Barker Center
500 21st Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Please copy the protesters ( or Josh Casper, Ombudsman and Associate Director of the Student Conflict Resolution Center ( on any communication you send to the dance program if you would like to make sure that the protesters are informed of it.

Note: This section is moderated for comments of support only. If you want to leave a dissenting comment, it will not be published here; please post in comments, where posting remains unmoderated and unscreened.

NOTE: Three dissenting comments have been submitted to this section, and we have reposted them in comments.


  1. Mr. Flink and Dr. Chatterjea:

    A friend pointed me to the THIS protest blog, where I found your email addresses and a request to write to you in support of the protest and petition. I am most wholeheartedly glad to do so. From what I can see, the students who created this protest began and continue their work in a spirit of sincerity, honesty, and determination that I find very moving. The obstructive and destructive responses from yourselves and others seemingly acting on your behalf simply make it clear why the protest action is needed, and I hope you will follow the examples of the Student Conflict Resolution Center and the Office for Equity and Diversity in taking the protest seriously and doing all you can to make the dance program a more welcoming place for all students.

    Rose Fox
    New York City

  2. I just e-mailed this.

    Dear Mr. Flink and Dr. Chatterjea

    I am writing to you because I have been following the "THIS by Us" protests and discussions via their blog (

    I have been amazed by the amount of thought and work which has gone into creating their protest. The energy to find the materials, pull it together and then put them up is astounding, and a testament to how much of a problem there is at the dance program. This is not a case of sour grapes or a minor quibble. These students are grappling with intense issues that should be addressed.

    One element of their protest that has really stayed with me is what THIS did to room 301. Quoting from their blog: "301 is where all of our history and theory courses take place. This is the same classroom where, 3 years ago, the faculty promised they were going to change the framed photographs of famous white dance artists to reflect the multitude of dance artists of color who have been seminal figures in shaping modern dance history. To date, the photos have not been changed." (from

    The fact that in three years no one in the department has bothered to make such a simple change, is an illustrative example of the problems in this department. If the faculty and administration can't be counted on to make promised changes on a small scale, how can students count on them to make large scale changes?

    I am also particularly appalled that the incredibly protest art by THIS was destroyed and that the open letters by THIS have been systematically and swiftly removed. I recognize that faculty did not remove the THIS project, it was done by students. However, I believe that the faculty and administration created a hostile environment in which a destructive silencing of protest was deemed acceptable.

    I urge the Dance department to swiftly distribute the material generated by the 3/13/09 Town Hall meeting and the peer organized meetings. Continuing to sit on this material is stifling discussion and frankly seems very strange. Normally that sort of material is redistributed within a week or two.

    I also urge the Dance department to work with the university's Office for Equity and Diversity as well as the Student Conflict Resolution Center. I think having people from outside the Dance department act as facilitators for discussion and change is an excellent idea. It also will also work to alleviate concerns about bias, hostility and perceptions of faculty abuse of power.


  3. I am so very glad to see the shape and scope of this protest, and so incredibly saddened and angered by what has, thus far, been the response on the part of the faculty and the white portion of the student body.

    There is no justification for not listening; no "conversation" can start when only one side is able to stop destroying the words and bodies of the other.

  4. I am so very glad to see the shape and scope of this protest, and so incredibly saddened and angered by what has, thus far, been the response on the part of the faculty and the white portion of the student body.

    There is no justification for not listening; no "conversation" can start when only one side is able to stop destroying the words and bodies of the other.

    (Reposted because I forgot to sign with an ID.)


  5. The glass staircase is such a perfect illustration. I hope the dance program comes to their senses soon.

  6. The protests is simply amazing and touching. The faculty's response is unacceptable, and their behaviour is inexcusable. They must treat the protest with seriousness it deserves, and nothing less.

  7. The THIS protest has been inspiring in its creativity and perseverance. The issues it raises need to be addressed by faculty as soon as possible. Students are being devalued, diminished and demoralised in this environment.

    Dr Juliette Woods

  8. Text of email:

    I am writing this letter in support of THISbyus ( I have been following the protest through their blog at least in part because of the connection between these actions and online anti-racist work in science fiction/fantasy fandom that I am involved in (both as a participant and as an academic working on documenting such efforts).

    I have been impressed by the thought, care, and effort put into the protest by the students and, increasingly, angered by the lack of meaningful response and actions by university faculty and administration.

    To learn that the administration, in the persons of the Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance and the Director of the Dance Program, condoned the destruction and removal of the protest materials by white students who include employees of the university by claiming it was “part” of the protest is horrifying.

    If these students believed that their voices and concerns needed to be a part of the public discussion of the issues, then they had every right to post such materials. Instead, they chose to destroy instead of create. They chose to reduce substantive issues to “hurt feelings.” They chose to exhibit their privilege to silence others.

    I am disappointed but not surprised by the actions of white students.

    I am disgusted and horrified by the inability of the administration to refuse to perceive the destruction as part of the systemic problems (embodied in this program, at this university, but existing at every program and university in the United States) that THISbyus was trying to bring to attention in order to begin the hard and long work of resolution.


  9. Text of e-mail:

    I've been following the THIS protest ( for a while now and am intensely disappointed in the reactions from the faculty and administration.

    As a writer and woman of colour who attends the University of British Columbia, I am keenly aware of the way that academic space requires constant vigilance and negotiation by non-white students.

    The fact that the students behind THIS felt they needed to address these issues anonymously should have conveyed how unsafe they feel in their own school. The subsequent display of defensive privilege in those who were then made to see and acknowledge this oppressive dynamic was unfortunately to be expected.

    What is particularly distressing is that the actions of students who disagreed with THIS (most of them white) have been so dismissive, destructive, and silencing -- and that they have been supported by the faculty. One of my nephews is considering attending your school, and I will certainly be advising him that your university promotes an unfriendly and unhealthy environment for students of colour.

    The continued statements by the anti-THIS faction regarding "real ally work" and "real conversations" ring false in the face of their tangible, visible, and *very real* destruction of words of pain and protest.

    I am at this moment considering an interview with the members of the THIS protest in order to bring this matter more visibility. It is clear that within the censorious confines of the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities Dance Program, anti-THIS persons feel comfortable in rendering their protest invisible; I would like to offer them another, less policed outlet in which to speak.

    Marissa Sammy
    riss @

  10. Text of email:

    I am writing to express my support of the THIS By Us student protest at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. I am impressed by the work and thought that has gone into the statements from these students, and even more by their refusal to allow the conversation to be sidetracked and derailed. I am, however, deeply disappointed by the official responses to date. It was exactly this sort of denial of institutional racism on the part of the academic theater community that led me to leave the performing arts world entirely eighteen years ago instead of completing my Masters of Fine Arts in lighting design. The students involved in THIS By Us deserve more than condescending platitudes and attempts at appropriation, and I hope that going forward, you will address their concerns with respect.

    Sent from my account.

  11. I would like to thank you for the courageous efforts that inspired me to speak up in a course on British identities I am taking and to contest a racist approach by one of my lecturers

    Thank you again!

  12. I support the work of THIS by us; my statement to that effect is here.I will be sending an email to this effect from an account with my real name.

    I hope very much that the dialogue you request is finally, finally opened.

  13. Text of E-mail:

    Chairperson Flink and Director Chatterjea,

    There are many things I would like to say in support of the THISbyus protest ( at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. As the vast majority have been said repeatedly, as quoted in the protest's "THIS: Support the Protest" log of supportive communications ( far more eloquently than I feel I could manage, I will not wax at length about the obvious dedication to the cause of equality shown by the protesters. However, I will express my horror at the willful ignorance, arrogance, and institutional bias apparent in the administrative response to the concerns raised by the protest. The deliberate blindness to a need for change in administrative and instructive policies resonates with my own personal fights for results with the administrations of the various educational institutions I have attended. It makes me dread the fallout of the complaint I will shortly be making about a problematic instructor at my own college. Regardless of the issue at hand, the misuse and abuse of power displayed by academic administrators in order to maintain that power is disgusting. When students are made to fear reprisal, disdain, obstruction, or discountenance in response to voicing concerns with the behavior of any employee or policy of an academic institution, it becomes evident that there are severe problems with institutional misuse-- if not abuse-- of power.I find it sadly hilarious that I, as a white student relatively new to the concept of white privilege, can plainly see how the issues at hand are being minimized and derailed when administrators who are assumed to be more knowledgeable in the ways of the world cannot or will not. You are supposed to be interested in the well-being of the students under your care. Your unwillingness to admit to flaws in your methods displays a deep sense of entitlement and uncaring about your students. If you cannot understand that your students are so afraid of reprisal in an environment under your control that they feel the need for anonymity, you have serious problems with denial. Specifically, that you are personally and professionally obligated to resolve the issues making the environment you control into a safer place.

    Thank you for furthering the death of my faith in the spirit of academia. It's administrators like yourselves who sometimes make me wonder why I bother with formal education. When the thought of having to deal with a broken and self-serving administration serves as a detriment to the dedication to pursuit of higher education, you are doing a severe disservice to the community at large.

    The Internet can be a wonderfully powerful tool. In case you haven't noticed, word has spread around the world that the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, is an educational institution whose administration is unwilling to listen to students or admit wrongdoing and need for change. The world is watching. You need to do something soon to change the perception people now have of you and your university as blind, bungling persons interested in maintaining the status quo rather than admitting the need for and enactment of difficult change.

    C. H. (full name provided in actual e-mail)
    Riverside, CA


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