Thursday, June 18, 2009

Response: June 18, 2009

Today an email from Dr. Rusty Barceló was distributed by the dance office specialist to the dancemajors email listserv only:

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2009 08:41:36 -0500

From: Jessica Crary
To: dancemajors@cla.umn.edu
Cc: Ananya Chatterjea ,
chapi001@umn.edu

Subject: [Dancemajors] From Dr. Rusty Barceló

Dear Dance Program Students,

Over the past few weeks, the Office for Equity and Diversity staff have had the opportunity to meet with various groups and individuals to discuss the THIS protest in the Dance Program. We also would like the opportunity to meet with a broader range of students in the Dance Program to gain your perspectives about any aspect of the protest and/or the Program.

I would like to invite you to participate in a meeting set for Friday, June 26, 2009 from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm in room 432 Morrill Hall. For those of you unable to attend in person, we are making it possible for you to participate via a conference call. Please contact Celest Miller by Wednesday, June 24th at 612-626-9836 or mill3761@umn.edu to set up a conference call connection.

We are aware that the timing of this is not ideal and not many students are on campus right now. However, we believe it is important to gain as many voices as possible in order to determine future directions. I hope that you will be able to participate on some level.


Dr. Rusty Barceló
Vice President and Vice Provost
Office for Equity and Diversity

Friday, May 15, 2009

Response: May 15, 2009

We received an email from the Office for Equity and Diversity, with the following text of the letter that was distributed today on all the dance (dance, dance majors, dance musicians, dance faculty, dance staff) and theater listservs. We will be commenting in our continually updated annotated timeline soon.

Sub: memo from VP Barceló and Dean Parente
Date: May 15, 2009 10:32AM

May 15, 2009


To: Students, staff, and faculty of U of M’s Dance Program and members of the larger community, both locally and nationally

From: Nancy “Rusty” Barceló
Vice President and Vice Provost, Office for Equity and Diversity

James A. Parente, Jr.
Dean, College of Liberal Arts

We are aware that broad-based grave concern exists for a positive resolution to the ongoing protest initiated by a coalition of students within the Dance Program at the University of Minnesota. We are also aware that there is concern that a lack of timely, decisive response has fueled suspicion that the issues raised are not being taken seriously and that a strategy of riding out the criticism until the end of the semester is being deployed by university administrators.

We write to let you know that this is not the case at any level of administration. To be sure, the issues being raised are enormously complex, sensitive, and painful for all involved. None of these are easily addressed or dismissed, and a real solution involves a sustained commitment to working on these issues together. The artistic, political, pedagogical and intellectual work of the Dance Program, and the dedication and commitment of several faculty members to such work, has helped to nurture and create a space where this kind of difficult student-led dialogue can begin. The Dance Program, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Office of Equity and Diversity are working towards a collaborative process that demonstrates commitment from all sides and which takes into account not only the institutional issues that need to be addressed (curricular reform, review of processes, department and institutional environment) but also the deeply emotional wounds experienced by all sides. The wounds that have resulted from the articulation of grievances not only speak to the recent incidences that gave rise to the protest, but they are also, unfortunately, part of the social legacy we all have inherited. In order to reform how we do our work to create a safe, nurturing, and inclusive environment committed to excellence, we need an integrated approach that takes into account all constituents’ needs and concerns. This is no easy task. We need patience and input from all parties involved so we can achieve meaningful and sustainable outcomes. We urge all parties to refrain from making hasty judgments or personalized attacks that might generate injury and pain, thereby undermining the possibilities for productively advancing this dialogue. If we can do this together, the protest and the institutional response can serve as a model for institutional reform.

In order to take steps in this direction, we announce some immediate first steps below. More importantly, we are committed to approaching the upcoming town hall meeting as a workshop that will identify a sustained process for addressing comprehensively all impediments to a healthy community and learning environment, one that is supportive and nurturing of inclusivity and diversity of opinion on complex social issues, including the inherent power dynamics embedded in an educational setting. The steps below are only first steps and not designed to address the range of issues raised by the protest. We ask that all parties involved approach the town hall in a reflective and thoughtful manner that can lead towards pragmatic solutions. While we understand that it may be difficult to refrain from personalizing the issues, we believe it is healthier to approach these challenges from a structural perspective that can lead to sustained change.

Here are actions raised by students, faculty and staff that we propose to act on immediately:
  • Provide space for expressions of dissent within the department
  • Initiate a process and establish a committee to re-think imagery/symbols on the walls of Barker to signify a commitment to a multi-ethnic dance heritage
  • Establish staffed temporary safe zones within the department for students, faculty, staff and community members to express dissent, grievances, and dissatisfaction without fear of recrimination
  • Invite the Student Conflict Resolution Center to continue to act as mediator
  • Provide program advisors with a regularly updated, comprehensive list of CLA courses that typically have diverse racial/ethnic enrollment
  • Provide department faculty with information and training about University policies on student confidentiality and privacy
  • Make small-grant funds available to support the Peers and Student Dance Coalition to hold student-only meetings to discuss issues
  • Continue to make students aware, on a regular basis, of campus resources to address eating disorders, depression, and other difficulties, etc.
  • Make students aware of all the ways they can communicate grievances about the department and/or faculty
  • Continue to have active student representation on faculty hiring committees
  • Make available to students the departmental organizational chart and roles of the faculty and staff
  • Disseminate agendas in advance of town hall meetings; establish a system for requesting agenda items and disseminate minutes to students, faculty, and staff after town hall meetings
  • Share casting policies and timelines in writing with students before auditions
  • Make a public statement in writing regarding the steps that the department is taking to build and sustain an ongoing dialogue about its policies and practices
  • Communicate publicly about the next steps to be addressed after the May 19 workshop.

If you are a University of Minnesota community member that believes you have experienced problems that need to be addressed the following resources are available to you:

  • Administration of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance and Dance Program
  • Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
  • Student Conflict Resolution Center
  • Office for Conflict Resolution
  • Office of the Dean, College of Liberal Arts

We very much appreciate your willingness to participate in working collectively with us to address the necessary changes to ensure a mutually supportive and inclusive environment in the Dance Program.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Response: May 7, 2009

We received an email from a concerned dance student (who wished to remain anonymous) to inform us that they witnessed the dance program specialist removing the protest postings on the glass walls of the Barker even before the building officially opened. On multiple occasions the program specialist has confirmed this verbally as well, explaining that she is doing her job by enforcing the university policy on indoor posting.

Since the wholescale removal of the protest on April 5, protest postings have been removed five times, each time before or within minutes of the building officially opening at 8am. To date, there is still no administrative acknowledgment of any involvement in the removal of the protest materials.

We have updated our annotated timeline on the May 7 entry with our responses relating to this.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Response: May 5, 2009

The following email was sent from Carl Flink's email and cosigned by Carl Flink and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea to theater, dance, and faculty/staff listservs, and cc'd to Josh Casper, Dr. Louis Mendoza, Dr. Rickey Hall, Dr. Barceló, Dr. Jim Parente, Dr. Richa Nagar, and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea:

Sub: Update on May 19 Town Hall Meeting on Equity and Difference
Date: May 5, 2009 10:43 AM


Dear All:

The department faculty, CLA and OED understand that May 19 from 10-noon is not an optimal time for students, staff or faculty to meet but dates during the last week of classes also presented serious scheduling problems. We are going to go forward with the May 19 meeting. It is important for everyone to understand that this is simply a next step in this dialogue and that it will be followed by more steps laid out in an action plan for the department that this town hall meeting will help develop.

In order to facilitate as many voices from students, staff and faculty being heard in this process Josh Casper from the University Student Conflict Resolution Center will gather suggested agenda items and future action steps via e-mail at caspe052@umn.edu. He will redact any personal information from e-mails if the sender desires to remain anonymous. Josh has also graciously offered to meet in person with anyone who wants to provide input for the May 19 meeting, but is uncomfortable sending it through e-mail. So Josh can collate everything in preparation for the meeting, please send your comments by Monday, May 18 at 9 a.m. Comments and suggestions can also be sent directly to Ananya (ananya@umn.edu) and me (Carl Flink at flink003@umn.edu). We are also willing to meet with anyone who would like to talk in person.

In order to facilitate further posting of any documents related to these dialogues by US or anyone else who desires to do so on this subject and in order to to comply with University indoor posting procedure, a space will be created in both the Rarig Center and Barker Center for postings on an official bulletin board. Postings should have a date on them and be removed by the distributer of the posting seven days after posting date. For more information on the University procedure on indoor posting please go to the following link:

http://policy.umn.edu/groups/ppd/documents/Procedure/DistPubsProc.cfm#indoor

As stated in our previous e-mail about the May 19 town hall meeting:

Vice Provost Barcelo has also generously offered to meet directly with dance program full-time faculty, affiliate faculty members and students to identify specific issues these groups face and would like addressed. These meetings will be planned in the next three weeks or in fall semester if that timing makes more sense.

We look forward to seeing you on May 19 and working with you all in the coming months on these critical and sensitive issues. Because of our students, staff and faculty, we think our department is uniquely positioned to make great progress on these very important matters.

Sincerely,

Carl & Ananya

Click here to read full text and see images.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Part 16: May 4, 2009

An Open Petition to The Chair and Director of the Dance Program


From Part 16 - May 4, 2009


We ask you to demonstrate your stated commitment to ‘issues of equity, social justice and difference’ and your previously stated support of the THIS protest by undertaking the following actions before May 8--the last day of classes:
  • Immediately cease to remove any of the THIS protest postings on the walls of the Barker.
  • Repost the THIS second open letter with its list of demands, Dr. Barceló's communication with the protesters, and this petition on the walls of the Barker.
  • Make a public and official statement supporting the use of the Barker walls as a site of communication, in light of your previously stated support of the protest.
  • Invite the Office for Equity and Diversity and the Student Conflict Resolution Center into the Barker to be able to meet with as many students and affiliate faculty as possible, in order to get everyone’s input on the record.
  • Immediately distribute to the dance and theatre list-serves and make hard copies available of (1) the suggestions generated at the Town Hall meeting which was held on March 13th, 2009 (2) the suggestions generated at the Peers organized meeting, (3) the THIS second open letter.
  • Publicly and officially support the MCAE (Multicultural Centre for Academic Excellence) organized students of Color department support group, and acknowledge the need for it.
  • Invite an external commission to assess students' perception of institutional hostility towards criticism, and faculty abuse of positional power—this should include the situations that lead to the THIS protest.
The Student Conflict Resolution Center and the Office for Equity and Diversity have demonstrated their commitment towards working with the protesters to resolve the issues the protest has raised by responding directly to letters, respecting pseudonymity, and not denying grievances. As the leadership of the dance program, we demand the same commitment from you.

-- us, May 4, 2009 (http://thisbyus.blogspot.com)

Note: Supporters of this petition and the protest can comment here.
They can also forward their comments and letters to
Carl Flink (flink003@umn.edu)
Dr. Ananya Chatterjea (ananya@umn.edu)
Josh Casper (caspe052@umn.edu)
The protesters (thisbyus@gmail.com)

Note: This posting had already been taken down the next morning before 8am, when the building officially opens. This is the fifth set of materials that has been immediately removed since our protest was ripped down in its entirety. No one has publicly claimed responsibility.

From Part 16 - May 4, 2009


To view complete album, click on icon below or go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/thisbyus/Part16May42009#

Part 16 - May 4, 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Part 15: April 30, 2009

We posted on the glass walls of the first floor lobby in the Barker the following response to the second town hall announcement, and addressed it to Dr. Barceló.

Note: This posting had already been taken down as of 8:09AM the next morning. The building officially opens at 8am. This is the fourth set of materials that has been immediately removed since our protest was ripped down in its entirety. No one has publicly claimed responsibility.

From Part 15 - April 30, 2009


Dr. Nancy "Rusty" Barceló
Vice President and Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity
University of Minnesota

Dear Dr. Barceló:

We appreciated our first meeting with you, Dr. Louis Mendoza, and Dr. Rickey Hall on April 22, 2009. We felt that you acknowledged our voices and respected our concerns. As agreed upon in that meeting, we publicly posted your reply to our open letter, along with our response, so that our peers would know how communicative the Office for Equity and Diversity proved to have been (this material was immediately removed—twice from the walls of the Barker and once from Rarig. See blog for documentation).

In a jointly signed email sent to the theatre list serve today, Carl Flink and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea said that they had "a very positive and constructive conversation" with the Office for Equity and Diversity, along with CLA Dean Dr. Jim Parente and CLA Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Dr. Richa Nagar. We are very glad that your input persuaded our department to start addressing the issues raised by our protest, and we join the chair and director in thanking the OED for your much-needed experience, expertise and resources.

While we were happy to hear the announcement of a second town hall meeting, we are very concerned about the date of this meeting. To hold it on May 19--11 days after the last day of classes in the dance program--makes it even more inaccessible than the poorly attended Spring Break meeting on March 17. We have always called for the largest possible number of voices and opinions to be involved in any decision making process in the program. The voices of the graduating seniors are essential in this conversation, given their centrality to both the Dance Revolutions experience and their cumulative knowledge of the past four years in the program. We feel that many seniors will find it both inconvenient and unnecessary to attend a meeting held two days after their formal commencement. Many of our peers will already have taken up summer jobs or be traveling by this date.

Since no official meetings can be held during finals week, we would urge you to therefore try and find a way to have this meeting before classes are over. Since the dance program and larger departmental discussions are to be separated anyway, perhaps these could be two distinct meetings, planned to match the individual dance and theatre schedules. We realize the inconvenience this will cause to all administrators involved; however, the first town hall meeting on March 13 was announced only five days in advance, and we feel that the last meeting that some students will attend deserves a similar sense of urgency.

If there is no way possible for this rescheduling to happen, then we would strongly recommend that the OED along with the Student Conflict Resolution Center set up office hours in the Barker to allow as many student and affiliate faculty input to be on the record as possible.

We have some concerns about the agenda for this meeting, as well as suggestions for immediate action that the program can take beforehand. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss these further; we will limit ourselves now to saying that the first step that Carl Flink and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea can take to "demonstrate the department's commitment to a collaborative approach that involves all stakeholders" is to actively support everyone's voices remaining on the walls. We have been struggling to keep this conversation public so that students remain included and are able to form their own opinions of our protest. We look forward to your continued demonstration of these shared values.

--us, April 30, 2009 (http://thisbyus.blogspot.com)

cc:
Josh Casper
Dr. Louis Mendoza
Dr. Rickey Hall
dance list serve
theatre list serve

From Part 15 - April 30, 2009


to view the full album, click on the photo icon below or go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/thisbyus/Part15April302009#


Part 15 - April 30, 2009

Response: April 30, 2009

The following email was sent out to the dance and theatre listservs, from Carl Flink's email, co-signed by both Carl Flink and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea.

Sub: Dialogues on Equity and Diversity
Date: April 30, 2009 4:40 PM


Dear TAD Department Faculty, Staff & Students:

On Tuesday morning, Ananya and I had a very positive and constructive conversation with Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) Vice President and Vice Provost Rusty Barcelo, Associate Vice Provost Louis Mendoza and Assistant Vice President Rickey Hall, as well as CLA Dean Jim Parenti and CLA Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Richa Nagar. The discussion focused on next steps the dance program and our department might take in regards to the issues and suggestions raised by the THIS Protest and department students’ responses to it. We also discussed building on the department’s established and ongoing commitment and activities as a University leader on issues of equity, social justice and difference. We thank the leadership of OED and CLA for their commitment to supporting this process of reflection with their expertise, experience and possible resources if needed.

As the end of the semester is fast approaching and full to bursting with departmental activities, we understand the need to take concrete steps to demonstrate the department’s commitment to a collaborative approach that involves all stakeholders even as our time is somewhat limited. To advance this, we want to schedule some conversations that can help us identify a group of faculty, staff and students as a working group to develop an action plan for next fall and beyond.

After consultation with the OED staff, we will convene another department town hall meeting on Tuesday, May 19 from 10 – 12 p.m. Faculty, students and staffers from throughout the department are invited, however the meeting will be divided into two discussion groups: one will focus specifically on an action plan for the dance program, the second will focus on an action plan for the broader department. The purpose of two conversations is to provide a much needed space for the dance program community to convene to address its specific needs in this process while also facilitating a parallel and supporting dialogue for the department. These meetings will focus on where the program and department should go in the coming year and beyond. These meetings will be team-facilitated by department leaders and OED staff members.

We understand that May 19 is after the academic year has ended, but OED, CLA and we thought that it made more sense to schedule this meeting shortly after students, faculty and staff have completed the business of the academic year.

Vice Provost Barcelo has also generously offered to meet directly with dance program core faculty, affiliate faculty members and students to identify specific issues these groups face and would like addressed. These meetings will be planned in the next three weeks or in fall semester if that timing makes more sense.

We look forward to working with you all in the coming months on these critical and sensitive issues. Because of our students, staff and faculty, we think our department is uniquely positioned to make great progress on these very important matters.

Carl Flink
Chair, Theatre Arts & Dance

Ananya Chatterjea
Director of Dance

Click here to read full text and see images.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Response: April 24, 2009

We were sent an email from Josh Casper, the Ombudsman we have been in communication with, saying he'd been asked if we would be willing to post the the following announcement for a Students of Color meeting to our blog. Since we have been told it is a public announcement that has been sent to the peer advisers to distribute on the dance and theater list serves, we consider it an official university (but not dance program-driven) response, and publish it here as such.


To Students of Color in the Dance Program:

The Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) has been following with interest the “This” protest and its multifaceted range of issues. MCAE is prepared to assist in any constructive way.

We write today to offer a service stemming from one of the issues raised in the second open letter. In the letter it states, “Students of Color and other minority identities should be acknowledged as having to deal with a continual additional burden of being a minority in an unsafe system, and should be provided space where they can safely speak about their experiences, without the burden of assuaging anyone’s guilt, or educating anyone’s ignorance, or being held responsible for generating solutions.”

We would like to provide a space for students to speak to what has been occurring, their experiences, etc. An MCAE staff member will be facilitating a discussion for students of color on Tuesday, April 28th at 3:45 p.m. in 215 Blegen Hall. We know that not all students of color will be able to meet during this time and would be open to identifying additional opportunities if needed.

The meeting isn’t about MCAE supporting or not supporting the protesters. We are aware that some students of color are supportive of the protest and others are not. Instead, this meeting is about creating a space for students of color to talk about their experiences on a predominately white campus. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to direct those to Josh Casper at caspe052@umn.edu.

Click here to read full text and see images.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Part 14: April 22, 2009

We reposted our Open Letter to the Office for Equity and Diversity, which had been immediately torn down the first time we posted it on April 16. This time, we also included Dr. Barceló's response, as well as our response (text below). We posted one copy on the glass walls of the first floor lobby of the Barker Center, and the second copy on the glass walls of the theater program's administration offices on the 5th floor of the Rarig Center.

Note: The postings had already been taken down in the Barker as of 8:05AM the next morning. The building officially opens at 8am. At some point the same day, the postings at the Rarig Center were also removed. No one has publicly claimed responsibility.

Text of our response to Dr. Barceló:

Sub: Re: An Open Letter to the Office for Equity and Diversity
Date: April 21, 2009 1:42AM

Dear Dr. Barceló,

We have decided that we would like to meet with you in person. We are hopeful that it will help in getting concrete action from the dance program before the semester is over. Thank you for stating that you will respect our anonymity, and we do ask that you keep our identities and the contents of our meetings confidential unless otherwise stated.

The best time for us to meet with you is [date/time redacted]. We welcome the presence of Dr. Louis Mendoza and Dr. Rickey Hall, as well as Josh Casper, who we would like present at any and all meetings discussing the protest (Josh, will you be available?).

We would very much appreciate, if you would not like your letter to us to be made public, a public statement from the OED giving students as much information as the director and chair of the dance program have about your involvement. It is important to us that the dance program administration is not privileged with information that the students do not have public access to. We are copying on this email only those offices who have communicated directly with us and whom we believe to be acting in good faith.

We look forward to meeting with you.

Sincerely,
us

cc:
Josh Casper
Dr. Louis Mendoza
Dr. Rickey Hall


PHOTOS

At the Barker Center:
From Part 14 - April 23, 2009


At the Rarig Center:
From Part 14 - April 23, 2009


To view complete album, click on icon below or go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/thisbyus/Part14April232009#

From Part 14 - April 23, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Responses: April 20, 2009

We received permission to post the following email, which is a response to our Open Letter to the Office for Equity and Diversity from Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló, Vice President and Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota:

Sub: Re: An Open Letter to the Office for Equity and Diversity
Date: 4/20/2009 7:08 PM

Dear us:

I have been watching with interest the events unfolding within the U of M Dance Program. I, and others on my staff, attended the town hall meeting and offered the services of our office as soon we became aware of the concerns. I am pleased that you have requested our assistance and we stand ready to help in any way we can.

I spoke by phone with Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Richa Nagar on Friday morning, April 17, 2009 to discuss ideas I had about addressing the complex array of concerns raised by "THIS" protest.

The mission of the Office for Equity and Diversity is to support and enrich the experience of students, staff and faculty on campus by fostering mutual understanding and respect that builds on the strengths and synergy resulting from diverse experiences and perspectives. These values will guide us in our work with all members of the Dance Program.

I believe the most important first-step our office can take is to work with the students, staff, and faculty of the Dance Program to develop a constructive, intentional, and systematic process to address the concerns raised. The multifaceted range of issues that have been identified, including concerns with climate, policies, practices, communication, and governance, require a long-term commitment. Meaningful change requires patience and sustained engagement, the ability to listen and the will to act. I see the potential for our work together to serve as a model that can be used across campus for turning difficult dialogues into an opportunity for creative transformation.

Having said this, I also want to make my office accessible to you in a way that you feel will be most effective to resolve these issues, so I want to work with you to determine where to begin and what direction to take. I suggest we meet (or dialogue in an alternative format of your choosing) as soon as possible to explore how we can best begin the work. I am available Tuesday evening, April 21 or Wednesday, April 22 [time redacted]. I can speak with you alone, or, with two of my colleagues, Louis Mendoza and Rickey Hall, who are also available during those times and either of them could be included in our discussion at your discretion.

If one of the above times would work, please respond to this email. If these times do not work for you, or you wish to propose an alternative form of communication that respects your anonymity, I would ask you to contact, Celest Miller at 626-9836 or mill3761@umn.edu to determine another time for our meeting.

I appreciate that you contacted me directly and that you have taken what you feel is a risk to do so. Please know that we take your concerns very seriously and we will do everything we can to support an outcome that is meaningful and constructive for everyone.

Sincerely,

Nancy “Rusty” Barceló
Vice President and Vice Provost


cc: Josh Casper
Ananya Chatterjea
Carl Flink
Richa Nagar

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Response: April 19, 2009

Tonight Carl Flink sent out to the dance majors and theatre list serves an email jointly signed by him and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea.
We have updated our annotated timeline with the pertinent quotes and our responses to them.


Sub: Ongoing Departmental Dialogue Updates
Date: 4/19/2009 9:55 PM

Dear Department Students, Staff & Faculty:

We want to update you on the steps that we are taking at a departmental level to address the questions of institutional power, privilege and prejudice that have been raised by the THIS Project and some other students within the department in recent months. We also want to update you on conversations around the status of the departmental peers for next year.

In terms of student input on the first matter above, we are currently waiting for the peers/ombudsmen's office-driven dialogue that has had two conversations facilitated by Ombudsmen Office representative Josh Casper to develop a roster of suggested actions for the department to consider for raising awareness and understanding on these important issues within the department. We also congratulate the students who organized and participated in the recent training on white privilege led by University Faculty member Lisa Albrecht.

At the departmental level, Ananya and I are currently working with College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Richa Nagar to develop a dialogue with the University's Office of Equity and Diversity's Vice Provost Rusty Barcelo to identify how the Office and the CLA administration can best facilitate and support these ongoing dialogues. We hope that these conversations will bear some fruit in the coming weeks.

In terms of the status of the departmental peers, the department faculty has considered whether it is necessary to continue these positions as paid in the face of the impending budget cuts our department will need to address this summer. Over the past two weeks I have engaged in multiple thoughtful conversations with the Peers, Jasmine Rush of the X Board and a number of concerned BA students, as well as, department faculty and staff on how the department can move forward with the peers and still responsibly meet the budget reductions it is facing. I hope to have a final resolution in regards to the peers as early as this coming Friday. Students, if you have questions or input about this subject, I strongly encourage you to contact the Peers.

Sincerely,

Carl Flink Ananya Chatterjea
Chair, Theatre Arts & Dance Director, Dance Program

Click here to read full text and see images.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Part 13: April 16, 2009

From Part 13 - April 16, 2009


Tonight, we posted in the first floor lobby an open letter to the Office of Equity and Diversity, along with an Annotated Timeline of Dance Program Responses.

Note: The next morning, these postings had already been removed from the glass walls of the Barker as of 8:15am Friday, April 17. The building opens at 8am. No one has claimed responsibility for removing them.

Open Letter to The Office of Equity and Diversity


Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló
Vice President and Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity
University of Minnesota

We are the group of students who have for the past nine weeks been protesting the university Dance Program’s inability to provide safe space for its students of color. We organized and installed the protest project entitled THIS, which was spread throughout the Barbara Barker Center for Dance until it was ripped down by people who were not involved in our protest. You can find documentation of this protest at our blog: http://thisbyus.blogspot.com

We are writing to you because our department has proven incapable of leadership during the reactions precipitated by our protest. Josh Casper, an ombudsman at the Student Conflict Resolution Center, has informed us that the Office of Equity and Diversity is concerned with our protest, and has offered any assistance it can provide to the dance program. As students, we are therefore asking you to step in and provide help regardless of the dance program's official indifference or disinclination towards your involvement.

Since March 23rd, we have been working with the ombudsman to try to negotiate with the dance program administration. The department refused to take action, saying they needed a list of demands. We then posted our second open letter with requested demands on April 1st. Since then, nothing has succeeded in persuading the department to make a response to those demands, even the simplest ones intended merely to prove good faith engagement.

On the night of April 5th, our protest was ripped down by some White students not involved in the protest, including the president of the Student Dance Coalition, and two employees of Dr. Chatterjea’s dance company, respectively a student and an alumna of the dance program.

The only official reaction to this removal of our protest materials has been in an email, signed by Carl Flink and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea, describing the destruction as "the changes made by another group of individuals to the THIS materials at the Barker last night that we were unaware of until earlier this morning."

We are attaching a summary of the official responses (and lack thereof) to our protest, in order to provide examples of what we think has been handled badly. We have documentation of more specific instances of unethical behavior by the administration, but in order to protect student privacy, we have shared this only with the ombudsman. Should we feel your office would benefit from and can be trusted with this information, we would be happy to work with the ombudsman to negotiate your access to it.

Dr. Barceló, for speaking up in criticism of oppressive practices and demanding our right to the equitable and just educational environment entitled to us, we have been made to feel even more isolated, unwanted, and suppressed by the dance program we are supposedly a part of. Our concerns have been co-opted when convenient, and ignored or derided when not. Our words have been misrepresented, silenced, and torn up and thrown away. Our protest has been manipulated as an opportunity for White students and faculty to demonstrate their alliance with faculty of color by supporting "anti-racist" activism that treats actual students of color—us—as the problem. Our sense of safety and security inside our community has been eradicated by these demonstrations of indifference, apathy, and hostility, as well as outright threats.

We continue to maintain that we want change from our leadership; we do not ask for their punishment or removal. We want them to understand the mistakes they have made and are making, so they can learn not to repeat them. We want them to behave professionally, respectfully, and equitably—characteristics that are not much in display right now.

We have lost so much faith in our leadership that inviting the Office of Equity and Diversity to intervene feels like a tremendous risk. We can no longer trust those in authority to match their anti-racist claims with genuinely helpful action. We can only hope that you will find this situation as unacceptable as we do, and choose to intervene in a way that will help us as well as the other students and faculty in the dance program.

You may respond to us via email, or with a comment on our blog, or through Mr. Casper. But most importantly, please respond to us on the walls of the Barker Center, so that students in the dance program can see without any additional effort or inconvenience how the Office of Equity and Diversity responds to an open letter explicitly asking for their intervention and assistance. We would like proof that the larger university is not as indifferent to our concerns as the dance program has proven to be, and we hope to see that proof in your response.

--us, April 16, 2009 (http://thisbyus.blogspot.com)

The Annotated Timeline of Dance Program Responses can be found here.

From Part 13 - April 16, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

responses: April 6, 2009

Carl Flink sent the following email cosigned by him and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea. See the April 6 entry in the annotated timeline for our responses to pertinent quotes from this email.

Subject: [Dance] Today's Peers Brown Bag Lunch - Please Attend

Date: April 6, 2009 9:39 AMTo: THEATRE-L@LISTS.UMN.EDU , 'Dance list serve', dancemajors@cla.umn.edu
CC: 'Ananya Chatterjea', 'sos', 'TAD FacStaff Mailing List'

Dear Theatre Arts & Dance Students:

We want to thank the department peers for taking on the task of continuing the discussions going on among students around race, privilege and power dynamics within our department in an open and public manner. We encourage as many of you to attend this brown bag lunch as possible, especially inlight of the changes made by another group of individuals to the THIS materials at the Barker last night that we were unaware of until earlier this morning.

We're not certain if it has been made clear that the peers asked Josh Casper from the U of MN Ombudsmen's Office to facilitate this brown bag. Josh has been a real asset during the discussions around THIS and we think his presence at this meeting can only be a benefit. We look forward to hearing back from the peers after today's brown bag lunch.

We strongly hope that both dance and theatre arts students will come together to join in this discussion. These are difficult and multifacted conversations, but we also think they present an opportunity to bridge the gaps that stubbornly continue to separate many of the programs in our department as we look for next constructive steps in this process.

Our Sincere Best Wishes,
Carl & Ananya

Carl Flink Ananya Chatterjea
Theatre Arts & Dance Chair Dance Program Director

Click here to read full text and see images.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Responses: April 5, 2009

Tonight a group of all White students and alumni tore down the materials of the protest. They acknowledge their actions and identify themselves on our blog comments here (where you may scroll down to continue reading others' comments in response to the destruction of our protest).

[details and photos to be added to this post at a later date.]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Part 12: Second Open Letter to the Dance Program

Today we posted a second open letter to the dance program (text below - click on link).
We also posted comments and responses to all the comments on the blog thus far. Text of our responses to be added to this entry.
Photos to be added to this entry.


From Part 12



Second Open Letter to the Dance Program


On March 10, 2009--three weeks ago--we posted our first open letter to the dance program, stating the reasons we were protesting.

Our goal with the open letter, as with the parts of the protest preceding it, was to make our voices heard, and to provoke a community response that addressed the issues we were protesting. We hoped that our faculty would initiate open dialogue about institutional discrimination and positional power, and the specific oppressions those issues perpetuate.

In these past three weeks, it has become clear that although our protest has received attention from within and outside the dance program, the dance program administration appears either ill-equipped or disinclined to meet our protest with any measure of responsible, concrete action. The Town Hall that was called was a beginning, but the behavior of the faculty before and since has not indicated concrete action but a defensive reaction to our protest.

In light of the lack of honest negotiation from the administration, we are forced to broaden the scope and intention of our protest. We had not wanted to assume spokespersonship for the student community, or dictate actions to the faculty, but given the frequency with which the faculty has been asking, “But what do they want?” we will provide demands.

Observing the faculty reaction to our protest has been illuminating--we do not think that anti-racist awareness is the fundamental issue they are grappling with. Rather, what we see is that there is an endemic resistance to addressing positional power, and the silencing of any dissent and criticism. We are therefore extending our agenda to demand a dismantling of this hierarchical abuse, and asking for actions that make the dance program a fair, equitable, just and safe space for all forms of dissent to be voiced in, including but by no means limited to the discourse on racism.

We preface the following list of demands with the emphatic note that it is only a starting point, and meant to describe broadly problematic areas and accompanying incremental steps towards fixing those problems. There is no such thing as a comprehensive list of ways to combat abuse of positional power and racism, and our demands certainly should not be interpreted as one. The faculty must continue researching their own methods of combating overt, covert, and systemic racism until there is true equality, even if it takes years or decades or generations.

A Statement about Values


We believe that the faculty of the dance program share with the students certain core beliefs in the values we want upheld at our program. We would like to state our values clearly, so that we can have a fundamental agreement as to the mutual agreement of our goals.

• Respect for diversity – The dance program must be a space where diverse experiences, voices, bodies, histories, philosophies and artistic endeavours are respected. This respect must be the foundation on which debate and dissent can be built.

• Assurance of safety – For active learning to be possible, the dance program must commit to doing whatever it takes to create a safe space not only for the bodies, but also for the hearts and minds, of every single one of its students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

• Recognition of inequality – As an educational institution equipping students to survive in a professional world, the dance program must explicitly, continually, and openly address the imbalances of power that are perpetuated by the social and political systems it is a part of. Flaws must be acknowledged in order to discuss the work-in-progress nature of social justice.

• Appreciation for dissent – A healthy society is one in which multiple and contradictory views can co-exist without coercive silence. A constructive tension born from passionate debate should not be mistaken for violence, and should be valued over the repressive ‘peace’ of hegemony. Those in power should, especially, welcome criticism as an educational opportunity to learn how to do better.

• Commitment to social justice – While art need not be bound by morality, an educational institute must be committed to ensuring that its artistic vision never supersedes its legal, social and moral responsibilities to its students, staff, faculty, and neighboring community.

• Eagerness to learn – While the desire for self-improvement and growth is routinely demanded from students, as part of a university that prides itself on its emphasis on research, the dance program must demonstrate a conscious and systematic willingness to question, doubt, reassess, and change itself.

• Fostering trust and honesty – There needs to be an acknowledgement that trust is not automatic and unconditional, and that it needs to be purposefully earned and respected. While trust cannot be earned without honesty, it is the responsibility of those with power to recognize that confidences cannot be forced, and that transparency, accountability and openness are owed unconditionally to the people they have authority over.

• Dismantling hierarchy – Issues facing a minority are the problems of the majority. One of the ways the dominant, entrenched power structure remains ensconced is a direct result of a dearth of scrutiny. The White community should be held responsible for the problems of racism, males should be grappling with sexual assault and feminism, and straight and cisgendered people should be addressing their privilege in regards to GLBTQ issues, etc.

Immediate Responses to our Protest


Our trust in the institutional engagement with our protest has been severely eroded by the official and unofficial reactions of the dance program administrators. We ask that they demonstrate that they are willing to engage with us in good faith by taking the following actions:

• Make a public and official statement, in writing, regarding the departmental stance on criticism of official policy and faculty actions.

• Immediately distribute to the dance and theatre list-serves the group discussion notes from the Town Hall meeting on Friday the 13th, 2009 as well as this—our second open letter. Make hard copies of both available for students to read and take home; we suggest using the system of distribution used for the Backstage Pass.

• Openly and publicly announce each action, response, and plan the administration has in regards to our protest; not only via email to the list serves, but also available in hard copy so that every student can access the information without additional effort.

• Invite the Student Conflict Resolution Center to act as mediator and neutral researcher for the program. We trust Josh Casper, the Ombudsman currently involved with this case, to listen confidentially and respectfully to every viewpoint, and we demand that the program dedicate the resources needed to bring him in, so that students, affiliate faculty and staff can safely and without repercussions talk to him about their perspectives.

• Use facilitators from the Office of Equity and Diversity to guide initial discussions about race in groups that separate students from faculty and White students and faculty from those of Color.

• Invite an external commission to assess students' perception of institutional hostility towards criticism, and faculty abuse of positional power—this should include the situations that lead to our protest.

• Set a time frame for negotiation with us within which concrete action will be taken before the end of the Spring semester 2009.

• Restore our first open letter, with the Addendum, and Statement about the Protection of White Walls to the glass walls of the Barker, and agree that removal of any protest material constitutes a censoring and silencing of our protest.


Faculty Development


• Facilitators from the Office of Equity and Diversity should be brought in for intensive training with all faculty, affiliate faculty, and staff, and the program should accept offers of assistance and resources from both the University and the outside dance community.

• All faculty and staff who advise students should be provided with enough regular training and resources to equip them to meet any student’s concerns about program policy, voicing dissent, and issues including but not limited to racism, sexism, ableism, sizeism, and GLBTQ issues. All advisors need to be educated about the diverse issues their advisees might face because of their identities, and have to be proactive in offering all resources to their students to help handle them.

• Dance major advisors should also be provided a clear and comprehensive list of CLA courses where the student demographics are more diverse than the average class offered by the dance program, and which can educate students in ways the dance program is not able to provide. The list should include suggestions of how students may fit these classes in their dance schedules, and should be updated and amended with student input. These courses should be considered appropriate for meeting the dance elective course requirement.

• The hierarchy between affiliate and core faculty needs to be dismantled. Affiliate faculty and staff musicians are one of the program’s biggest strengths, and most varied assets. They are often the ones engaging with the widest and most diverse demographic range of students. Their commitment is often demonstrated by the frequency of unpaid extra time they give to their students. Any discussion on the departmental response to the protest must include them, and they must be remunerated for the extra time they are asked to invest in this process.

• A concrete system for the expression of dissent needs to be set up and publicized. No faculty member, especially affiliate or international, should ever feel afraid of negative repercussions for voicing dissent. The burden of their fear should not fall on students--no student should have to silence their criticism of a teacher for fear that it will lead to that teacher losing their job. If faculty are feeling so insecure that they have to admit to students that they cannot say something in public that they might agree to in private, then the University is not meeting its basic requirements of providing our educators the safe space they need.

• White faculty members need to be made aware of how they can reduce the burden of racial education on the faculty of Color, and straight teachers need to be clear that their GLBTQ colleagues should not be the only speakers on problems surrounding GLBTQ issues. Those without personal experience of a problem need to undertake more self-education and work if they are to support their colleagues.

• All faculty and staff need to be instructed on the University policies regarding student confidentiality and privacy. Student-teacher conferences should occur in a private, closed space.


Student Resources

• Institute a mandatory series of workshops for incoming freshmen and transfer students where a baseline curriculum is taught which includes terminology such as White privilege, heteronormativity, sizeism, positional power etc. Students should be familiarized with on-campus resources and it should be made clear that discrimination is an issue in the university as it is in the outside world, and is a topic that should be talked about in the dance program and beyond.

• The Peers and the Student Dance Coalition should use funds they get and apply for to create regular student-only meetings where problems with faculty or with the department as a whole can be discussed, and where a neutral representative or spokesman can report student concerns to the faculty—these meetings should avail of the external resources available to students such as an Ombudsman or facilitator.

• While the increasing racial diversity of the incoming freshmen classes is laudable, students of Color should never be exposed to the accusation that their talent and ability is valued differently and is secondary to their racial identity. These accusations are already made; the program must prepare itself to be able to support students who face such insinuations.

• White students should be provided with resources and compassionate spaces where they can process coming to terms with White privilege and educate themselves on how to be more effective allies.

• Students of Color and other minority identities should be acknowledged as having to deal with a continual additional burden of being a minority in an unsafe system, and should be provided space where they can safely speak about their experiences, without the burden of assuaging anyone’s guilt, or educating anyone’s ignorance, or being held responsible for generating solutions.

• The dance world places relentless pressure on bodies. The program needs to acknowledge this, and provide counsellors and interventions to deal with eating disorders, weight and size issues, and the mental health issues surrounding body image.

• Multiple channels of communication should be available to students, and anyone in authority over a student should make explicit what those alternative channels are.

• Students should be able to easily and privately access their records containing feedback from their faculty, before their second year reviews and mid-term conferences.

• The dance list serve needs to be unmoderated and allow for immediate posting (spam can be checked with the authorization system the theatre listserve implements).


Program Policies and Conflict Resolution


• The decision making process for Cowles Artists should be made open to student representatives who are present in meetings throughout the process, as they are in the theater program for meetings regarding Mainstage Productions.

• Student representatives should be on every hiring committee, whether for faculty or staff.

• Any administrative meetings regarding curriculum, scheduling and policy should be public, and the minutes should be easily accessible (a departmental moodle site is one solution).

• When requesting a meeting to discuss a conflict, students should be told very clearly about the topic of discussion and the resources accessible to them. The dance program should adopt an opt-out policy where an offer will always be made for an ombudsman, advisor or trusted supporter to be present at any meeting.

• All dance students, faculty, and staff should be allowed to request to have public conversations documented via recording or transcribing. In the case of private conversations, the party with less institutional power should always be able to document the conversation, with the understanding that all legal and moral rules of confidentiality will be respected.

• A comprehensive and rigorous conflict of interest policy must be adopted regarding faculty availing of student services whether as employees, apprentices or interns must be formulated and made public.

• The program must form and/or regularly invite a watchdog group whose job is to specifically point out any potential race issues within the department.

• The official hierarchy of the department and the individual responsibilities of each faculty and staff member must be made public and clear.

• The agendas for all official meetings and Town Halls should be disseminated in advance, so that attendees can prepare themselves. There should be a system established for requesting agenda items.

• Anonymous and pseudonymous methods of expressing dissent must be respected, and even encouraged, especially given the intimate, personal nature of the dance program.

• Teachers need to acknowledge that when they are in a conversation with a student, they are in a position of power. By giving students the power to hurt, but not to question, they are silencing students. Teachers need to respond professionally to questions and critiques, and doing so does not include explaining how hurt they are by being questioned.


Casting, Auditioning and Performances


• The casting policies need to be made completely clear and consistent, and should be on paper, and handed out to students before any auditions. If there is any indication that students are being selected on basis of height, weight, costume size, race, or gender, this needs to be openly stated and explained, with mechanisms to allow debate on the casting policy beforehand, as well as challenges after the audition.

• All choreographers should do their own audition and casting. If flying them in earlier is impossible, hold the auditions later in the year, and create a system to allow students to be able to register for credit after regular CLA deadlines have passed.

• If the faculty are in any way going to offer an opinion or advice to the choreographer about a student's ability or suitability, they must do this on paper, in records the student can access.

• The policies for understudies' rights and responsibilities need to be clearly stated on paper, and available to every performer and choreographer. They must be given enough time and attention to be equipped to perform, and costumes should be built assuming the understudies might need to step in. If any dancer is unable to perform, a system must be in place to allow the understudies to perform in their place.

• If the Dance Revolutions rehearsal and performance process is distributed across two semesters, it must be increased to a minimum two-credit opportunity. Dancers in more than one piece should receive an additional credit for each additional piece they are in.

• At least one Cowles Artist should be brought in to teach a workshop class that is accessible to all students who register, and that can culminate in a fully-produced performance (one that is either a part of Dance Revolutions or a separate concert).

• Dance traditions that work at the level of the participants' abilities should not be considered less aesthetically or pedagogically valuable than those demanding an intensive audition process.

• Stage managers and dramaturges should be involved from the beginning of the choreographic and rehearsal process, and should be accessible as alternative mediators with whom students can discuss problems.

• Performances in professional pieces in the dance community outside of the University should be accepted as performance credits. The standards of these pieces can be judged by a panel that consists of a multi-disciplinary selection of faculty and student representatives, but performances in tap, ballet, hip hop, jazz and musical theater pieces should be accepted, and even encouraged, given the lack of such performance opportunities within the structure of the modern dance program.


Pedagogy and Curriculum


• The entire format of the dance history sequence needs to be overhauled, with significant student input. History must be taught before historiography is introduced. Technique teachers, including affiliate faculty, should be involved in determining which dancers and choreographers need to be covered.

• Education about social justice and diversity should be incorporated into all classes, so that the burden of educating students does not fall on the academic classes that then become bludgeons to inculcate one specific approach to critical thinking.

• The BA and BFA mandatory academic classes must include a history of American vernacular dance forms including jazz, tap and hip hop.

• There should be classes within the dance program offerings that meet the CLA liberal education core and themes requirements. If this means opening up enrollment for these classes to non-majors, find the resources needed to make this possible.

• The program needs to have a rigorous, in-depth discussion to figure out methods that bridge the divide between the “shut up and dance” way of teaching where the teacher is an unquestionable authority and task-master, and the academic pedagogy where students are expected to be active learners who use debate and questioning as tools to engage.

• Technique teachers and academic teachers need to share their knowledge and engage in the debate needed to generate a comprehensive approach to problematic terms and practices in dance. Right now students face an enormous amount of cognitive dissonance because of the contradictory and incomplete information they are given in individual classes, leading to a compartmentalization that is unhealthy and divisive.

• Cultural appropriation needs to be part of the dance discourse, and technique teachers should be provided with resources to be able to address the problematic aspects of the material they are teaching.

• The faculty needs to process their individual aesthetic preferences to find a genuine respect for genres and techniques different than theirs. No dance style should even privately be snidely alluded to. Especially, the popular dance versus high art divide needs to be broken down.

• Academic knowledge should not be privileged over bodily knowledge, and technique teachers should feel equipped to defend their positions without having to conform to academic standards of debate.

• Classes and workshops should be offered during the UDT rehearsal time slot that work around the schedules of students who are absent during the period that they are working with a Cowles Artist.

• Hip hop technique classes need to be offered as a regular course, with an urgent intention to make it part of a multi-level track.

• Change the pictures on the walls of Studio 300 and Classroom 301 and add photos in 200 and throughout the building. Use them as a means of education, and fill the building with representations of the diversity in the dance world. The building currently has a minimalist aesthetic, and of course the unmarked minimum is white, so change the decor to be non-minimal and diverse. If every teacher, staff, musician and student provided the names of two mentors or inspirations that they wanted students to know about, our walls would be filled with information.

Click here to read full text and see images.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Responses: March 30, 2009

The Peer Advisors sent an email announcement to the theatre and dance listservs about a student meeting they are organizing.

Subject: Brown Bag Lunch- What do students wish to see come from THIS?

Date: March 30, 2009 9:32 AM
To: Carl Flink, crar0009@umn.edu, Dance Listserv, Theatre Listserv

Brown Bag Lunch- What do students wish to see come from THIS?
Mon. April 6th @ 11:40-12:20
BBCD 301

The Peers invite you to come to what we hope will be the first of a series of Brown Bag Lunches that will focus on the steps students would like to
take in the wake of discussions surrounding THIS.

These Brown Bag Lunches will focus on brainstorming concrete steps that our program can take in order to grow and become an program that supports ALL
students of every race, gender, sex, body type, class, etc. We want these discussions to be positive and forward thinking, focusing on what we can do
to make our program better, rather than focusing on the events that have occurred and the feelings that we have felt (not that these cannot inform
our ideas!) The Peers will also be bringing faculty suggestions to place on the table for students to think about.

At this time we are opening this discussion to students. Please bring your lunch, you ideas and suggestions, and your thinking cap.

Click here to read full text and see images.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Media: March 23, 2009

The Minnesota Daily, the official daily newspaper of the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities published an article today, which may be found at:

http://www.mndaily.com/2009/03/23/students-protest-racial-issues-dance-program


Full text of article with photos posted below:


Students protest racial issues in dance program


The anonymous protesters have been putting up posters and sending e-mails.




Marija Majerle
A student walks past a statement of protest Monday in the Barbara Barker Center for Dance. The statement is part of “THIS,” a more than month long protest by anonymous students who feel institutional racism is an existing problem in the dance program.


BY Briana Bierschbach & Isaiah Potts
PUBLISHED: 03/23/2009

Until last week, a letter taped to the glass windows in the University of Minnesota’s Barbara Barker Center for Dance greeted visitors with a declaration of protest.

The letter, along with other photographs, articles and quotes, is part of “THIS,” an ongoing protest at the dance center by anonymous students who said they feel institutional racism is a problem in the program.

The protest, which has been going on since mid-February, began with a few photos and quotes posted in a stairwell, and has escalated to a full statement of protest and postings all around the dance center. The protest included an open letter to the dance department that stated the University’s faculty has failed to create an atmosphere free from prejudice.

It is unknown how many students are actually involved in the protest.

The protestors, who wish to remain anonymous, said they wanted to raise awareness of racial issues in the program and plan to continue protesting in a direct, but nonviolent way. The protestors would only respond via e-mail to protect anonymity.

There has been little exposure University-wide about the protest, but recently, several meetings were held by the dance department to address the issue.

The casting of Missa Brevis , a production in the dance program, has been acknowledged by faculty, staff and students as a catalyst of the protest.

During the casting two students of color were not selected, but felt that they should have been, said Ananya Chatterjea, professor and director in the University’s dance program.

Chatterjea said the students felt it was because of their race.

Despite the protest, Chatterjea said she feels the department promotes diversity.

“In our department, we have gone out of our way to make sure we are not only casting blonde, blue-eyed dancers, which has been the ideal of the dance world outside,” she said.

Chatterjea said she believes the University’s program is one of the most progressive she has seen.

Of the eight faculty members in the University’s dance department, four are faculty of color, Chatterjea said.

But protesters said the casting was only one example of many mishandled discussions.

Thus far, the faculty and staff at the dance center have not removed the protesters’ signs. However, some people have taken down the posters and added their own signs to oppose the original protest.

Erin McIntire, a first-year student of color, posted a series of responses, titled “THAT.”

A sign McIntire posted read, “THAT is a protest to the passive aggressive behavior of ‘THIS’ toward the faculty and staff of the University of Minnesota Dance program, regardless of ‘color’ or race.”

But the protest has been getting support from other student groups. Chardae Kimber, a junior and member of the Black Motivated Women student group , received and e-mail from “THIS” informing the group of an upcoming meeting to address the protest.

She said she feels issues of racial discrimination need to be addressed.

“I think there is a lack of faculty encouragement when it comes to students of color,” she said.

Carl Flink, director of the University’s theater arts program, said he hopes to meet with the student protestors and have an open discussion on how to address their concerns.

To come up with a solution for the concerns, Flink also said the department plans on working with the Office of the Vice President and Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity .

Click here to read full text and see images.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Media: March 22, 2009

Today an article was published on the TC Daily Planet website. The article can be found at:

http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/article/2009/03/21/anonymous-protest-institutional-racism-and-white-privilege-u-m-dance-depart


Full text with photos below:


Anonymous protest attacks "institutional racism and white privilege" at U of M dance program


Photos by Sheila Regan

March 22, 2009

Currently there is a silent protest installation on display at the Barbara Barker Center for Dance, home of the University of Minnesota Dance Program. The installation, called This, features found images and messages about racism and body image. Among magazine pages featuring images of a diverse population, there are white pieces of paper displaying words such as this, privilege, and status quo on display throughout the building. The creators of the exhibit are anonymous, and in addition to the installation have created a blog about the piece.

Christopher LePlant, a U of M dance student who said he was not involved in creating the installation, said that it was his understanding that the silent protest erupted as a result of casting issues within the department. Last fall, the dance department brought in a guest choreographer, Sarah Stockhouse, from José Limón Dance Company, an internationally acclaimed dance company founded by Mexican-born choreographer José Limón.

The piece, entitled Missa Brevis, was performed at the beginning of February as part of a program called Dance Revolutions. Some of the students originally cast in the piece were eventually cut, and a few of those cut were dancers of color.

Yui Kanzawa, an Asian-American dancer who was among those cut from the piece but said she was not part of the protest, said she didn’t feel that her race had anything to do with the fact that she was cut from the final cast. “There were too many people,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t get the style down, I didn’t get the technique.”

The creators of the exhibit said anonymously via e-mail that they did not wish to discuss the casting situation with Missa Brevis, because This is not a protest of that event. They did, however, write that the post-show discussion following Missa Brevis was one of “the ways in which conversations about institutional racism and white privilege have been mishandled and silenced within the department.”

The anonymous silent protesters further wrote: “We are not pointing fingers at individual faculty members involved in a casting process. We are saying that the program as a whole needs to be more safe for discussions around institutional racism and white privilege to take place.” In an anonymous letter that the protesters posted on the wall and on their blog, they wrote: “We cannot have productive discussions about racism when you have a need to assure everyone that their voices are equally important. The pain of our fellow White students confronting their privilege and guilt about racism is not the same as the pain of students of Color dealing with the sometimes numbingly routine, sometimes shockingly unexpected experiences of being a visible minority.”

Carl Flink, chair of theater arts and dance, said that race and body image had nothing to do with casting for Missa Brevis. “It’s interesting,” Flink said in a telephone interview, “because José Limón is made up of 70 to 80 percent persons of color…and has a decades-long commitment of having a diverse company.”

Flink continued, “As you can imagine, I’m deeply concerned for finding communication with my students.” He said the department has to figure out a way to address the hard feelings, which is difficult when the protesters are anonymous. “I don’t want to negate any of the students’ pain,” he said. “That is a real thing.”

Ananya Chatterjea, director of the dance program, has spent many years as an activist for anti-racism and social justice. “It’s interesting,” Chatterjea said in a telephone interview. “For ten years I have had students that were mad at me that we have to study race, gender, and class. I have looked forward for the moment forever that students would join this work.” She said that when the installation first appeared, people assumed that the students were doing it as an assignment for her class.

“When the protest first started, I was so happy, said Chatterjea. “I thought I might be doing something right.” She said she felt the problem with the protest is the public shaming aspect, and a lack of a list of demands. “Anger can be a very powerful tool to reveal injustice, but I have learned anger is not always effective in leadership. If you want to effect change, anger won’t get you there, it is strategy.”

Since the silent protest was first installed, it has morphed through several transformations. On March 10, the protesters posted an open letter accusing the faculty of having a “profound disconnect” between the theories they teach and the actions they practice. On March 17, the day before the first day of the American College Dance Festival, which the University hosts, the open letter was moved by the faculty to the second floor, and several of the messages were moved or were taken down. On March 18, three students removed the hard copy of the letter.

Dance students’ reactions to This have been mixed. There have been both negative and positive comments on the “Thisbyus” blog. A Facebook page about the protest was also created.

Erin Jorich, a fifth year dance student, said that initially she thought it was great that the space had been converted, but she felt the open letter “took a really aggressive and hostile stance.” She said she was upset by the anonymity of the protesters.

Molly Stoltz, a fourth year dance student, said her feelings have been mixed throughout the process. “Right now, I think everyone was glad it was put up,” she said. “I appreciate it, I’ve learned a lot from the artist, and as far as the quotes, I’ve appreciated [them] because some of the teachers have had conversations about race and how it affects us as artists. That’s been really interesting.”

Jesse Mandell McClinton, a monitor (of African and European descent) at the Barker, said “I never thought a passive approach toward race accomplishes much.”

Carl Flink said he wasn’t sure when the exhibit will be taken down, or archived. “We’re really working hard to have a conversation about this,” he said. “But there’s never been a list of wants given. One of the challenge points that we have is how do we respond if we don’t know what is asked for?” Flink said that the department is thinking about having a series of dialogues. “One thing I can really say is that the faculty of the dance program all have intense experiences with social justice and antiracism; when something like this comes up, we take it very seriously.”

Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Responses: March 16, 2009 first day of Spring Break

Someone anonymously added penciled commentary on a posting on the 2nd floor Men's Locker Room.

Also in the 2nd floor Men's Locker Room someone (also anonymous) re-placed a posting that read "Your penis?" above the urinal (where we had originally placed it). It was an answer to the question, "What are you ashamed of?" that was posted on the door of the locker room.

From Responses part 11?

It reads, "shut the fuck up - you sound like an idiot":

From Responses part 11?

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