Monday, February 9, 2009

Annotated Timeline of Dance Program Responses

From Part 13 - April 16, 2009

Annotated Timeline of Dance Program Responses

  • This is a summary of the official responses to our protest, and related actions. We have provided our commentary about these events in order to highlight specific examples of official mismanagement; this is not a list of incidents of institutional racism.
  • We do not intend to target individuals; we have only quoted Carl Flink and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea in their official capacity as department chair and program director.
  • We have chosen not to include the three affiliate faculty comments made on our blog, as we do not consider them to represent the administration's position.
  • We have not named any students in order to protect their privacy, and have only identified those actions publicly claimed by specific students.
  • We are editing this timeline to keep it updated as events develop.


A post-show discussion with the cast of Dance Revolutions occurred, during which concerns regarding casting were raised and student experiences regarding their racialized identities were brought up.

We would like to point out:
  • This discussion was only one factor in our decision to protest, and has never been the focus of it.
  • We acknowledged in our first open letter to the dance program that the handling of this discussion was the straw that broke the camel's back but it was certainly not the first or only instance that moved us to protest.
  • We have never claimed to represent the views of any students--of Color or otherwise--other than our own. The program has not once made any public gesture of protection and support toward the students of Color, both those involved in the artistic process under discussion and otherwise, who may have had to deal with hostility and stress resulting from assumptions about their involvement in or approval of our protest.

Our visual protest began in the back stairwell of the second floor.

FEBRUARY 11, 15, 18, 23

Part 2 and Part 3 - Added more articles and quotes
Part 4 - Introduced photos
Part 5 - Photos of black dance artists in Classroom 301 in celebration of Black History Month


Two weeks after we had begun our protest, Dr. Ananya Chatterjea--the director of the dance program--made the first official response in an email she sent to the dance listserv, in which she said:

I want to congratulate whoever has done this because of the thoughtful and thought-provoking insights with which this exhibit is filled.... I thank you for your work and for your guerilla tactics. I also thank you for your respect. There has been no angry defacing of walls but a filling up of spaces.

I am proud of this exhibit and am excited that as people from far and wide come to our campus during ACDF, they will witness a thoughtful and reflective group of students.

We would like to point out:
  • There was no acknowledgment, in this or any emails from the faculty, of the post-show discussion whose unsatisfactory resolution had been the cause of more than one classroom and personal conversation.
  • By describing our work as an "exhibit", the director decontextualized our protest, and suppressed any responsibility of the program to respond to it as a critique.
  • While we found this email to be appropriative of our efforts, we believed it to be a public, official commitment to supporting our protest, in light of the director's pride and excitement at it being seen by the regional American College Dance Festival visitors. The director's subsequent statements in emails, and agreement with Carl Flink that students should feel free to take the protest materials down before the festival on March 17, contradict this stance of support.

Part 6
- International dancer photos in Studio 300

Part 7 - 2nd floor, invisible bodies

Part 8 - Main floor, privilege staircase, entry ways, bathrooms


Dr. Ananya Chatterjea sent out a second email, saying: "Some time ago I had written to you congratulating you on the exhibit that has been springing up on us. Truly, this faculty has been very supportive of such guerilla art and the thoughts it has provoked. I also hope that these fantastic images and quotes have sparked really vibrant conversations and dialogues amongst you all. "

Her email then went on to bring up some "housekeeping concerns":

I am requesting whoever is responsible to _gently_ remove tape and replace them with two-sided stickies. we have some of them in our office and I am not sure how you will access them given the nature of this secretly mushrooming exhibit, but i am open to suggestion.

She concluded:

Please, please, students and artists who are responsible, can we talk--through your anonymous blog if need be--so we are assured of your safety. We are deeply deeply worried. I hope to hear something from someone through some channel by monday.

We would like to point out:
  • The director's hope that conversations and dialogues have been sparked among the students once again shied away from any recognition that the faculty might also benefit from discussing the protest, and that they too might have anything to learn.
  • In spite of suggesting that we use two-sided stickies from the dance office, there were none available in the office, nor were any made accessible. There was no suggestion of the program sponsoring the additional costs we would incur by meeting their demands. A more complete response to these "housekeeping concerns" can be found in our "statement about the protection of white walls" posted March 9, 2009.
  • The director's request implies that a discussion mediated through our blog was acceptable, but since the time we posted our open letter, the pseudonymity of our protest has been officially and unofficially described as a hindrance preventing any form of communication with us, even though we have responded to posts made on walls, comments made on our blog, and requests made through ombudsman Josh Casper.

Dr. Chatterjea had requested that we respond by March 9. That morning, she sent out another email announcing a mandatory Town Hall meeting:

While I am aware that this will not resolve all of the questions that have been brought up, I do hope we can all attempt together to begin to create a safe space to ask questions and have a productive dialogue around issues of difference. I also want to urge us all to think about how certain projects might be performative and very successful in drawing our attention to certain questions, but they do not always offer opportunities to work towards a specific set of goals. The goal of this Town Hall is to get us to outline goals and move us towards certain parameters. This is only the first of such Town Halls this semester.

She concluded: "Once again, while this exhibit has been personally very enriching to me, I doubt that, if the safety either of the individuals involved in the exhibit or of the building in which we all work--many of us with a rich history in anti-racist work--is compromised, then we are moving towards some vision equity or justice."

Later that evening, we posted Part 9 - first open letter

We would like to point out:
  • The director, by talking about an attempt to begin to create a safe space, is clearly acknowledging that such a safe space does not already exist. Her subsequent silence during the March 17 meeting in the face of Carl Flink and some White students voicing opinions that do not show an understanding of what is unsafe about the dance program, is therefore disingenuous.
  • The director's allusion to our protest being "performative," but not "offering opportunities to work towards a specific set of goals" not only contradicts her previous statements about the value of the protest in sparking important discussions, but also ignores that this protest was what gave her the opportunity to cancel classes in order to call a mandatory town hall meeting whose agenda she was free to set.

Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance Carl Flink sent out an email very early in the morning, describing our protest as “a spontaneous non-dance program directed happening” that was “transforming the building into a vibrant space of protest”. His email concluded:

This past Saturday night I spent an hour wandering through the Barker with my partner Emilie experiencing this dynamic event. I found it an incredible journey.

I encourage you to take the time to stop by the Barker and witness THIS - The Protest Project.

The above email was presumably sent before the Chair could have seen our first open letter that we posted that night.

We would like to point out:
  • This first communication from the chair specifically addresses that a protest is going on in the space, and yet completely ignores who and what it is directed towards. He makes no suggestion that the department administration holds itself responsible to answer the questions he says the protest raises. Further, by elevating his experience of the "incredible journey" he went on and encouraging people to "witness" the protest, he reiterates the position of White privilege where the benefit to the majority bystander is the primary value of a minority protest action, and that the proper reaction to a protest is to "witness" rather than to respond. This is particularly disturbing since, as chair of the department, Carl Flink is in an excellent position to respond to us and take action, and to encourage others to do likewise. Instead he declines to constructively use his power and speaks only in favor of standing by and watching.

Partly in response to Dr. Chatterjea's request, we posted our first open letter to the dance program, along with a statement on the protection of white walls. This was the first time we used our own words and directly addressed faculty, staff, and students in the dance program.

In response, the modern dance technique teachers canceled their classes and sat in the lobby of the building, in solidarity with other faculty members who were crying or displaying other signs of grief, shock, and outrage. The musician in residence played her cello alongside them. Some teachers told their classes to talk about the protest amongst themselves.

We would like to point out:
  • As an official response to a student protest, the faculty's actions were appallingly lacking. Students who had paid to attend class were left to themselves while being confronted with the emotional distress of their teachers. What could have been a seminal teaching opportunity for the program and a chance to successfully respond to issues of race, positional power, and grassroots criticism was wasted on a reactive rather than professional response.

In an email sent to the dance and theater listservs, Carl Flink described the faculty response in the following words:

Many dance faculty chose to not hold class today, Tuesday, so that the entire program and department could be focused on THIS and the open letter that was added to it. The faculty did not simply leave the building but stayed in the lobby talking with students or just being present in order to signal our connection to this happening and the commitment we feel to this program and its evolution. Many students gathered in the Barker studios to carry-on student driven discussions on this subject.

We would like to point out:
  • The chair's insinuation that the faculty could have chosen to leave the building, but didn't, completely ignores that they failed to teach the classes they were being paid to teach, without any official dictate to cancel their classes.
  • The chair's observation that many students gathered in studios to discuss the subject avoids the fact that students get penalized for non-attendance, and in some classes, the teacher took attendance before leaving the classroom.

We were anonymously forwarded an email that Dr. Chatterjea had sent out to multiple faculty members not only outside the program but outside the university. Given the assumptions made about us in just one official email, we can only guess at the extent of what might have been said in personal conversations to receptive faculty and students (some of this rhetoric has been echoed in comments on our blog posted by people identifying as friends and employees of Dr. Chatterjea). This is the first time that this email is being made publicly available, so we include the text in full:

Subject: urgent request for support
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 2009 12:59:08 -0500
From: Ananya Chatterjea

To: [recipient names redacted]

Dear Colleagues,

Hope this finds you well. I am writing with an urgent request. Recently, we have witnessed an incredible exhibit taking over the Barker: the "This" protest project. it began with a back stairwell exhibit on "white privilege" at which point I sent out an email to the student body, assuming it was them, congratulating them and hoping that it would spark more vibrant conversations about raced bodies among our student body. This has lead to more and more mushrooming of this exhibit and while some amazing things have happened --like the covering up of the pictures of all white choreographers and dancers in the classroom and studio 300-- and some troubling questions have come up.

For instance, since no one will assume responsibility for this exhibit, and this is happening in an entirely guerilla way, we have to assume to that students have somehow been able to access a master key to the building, or are working with custodial staff, in order to get inside the faculty bathroom, the studios etc all of which are locked by 10 pm. we have heard that some students have been seen on ladders at 2:30 am. Now, because they are putting posters up on really hard to reach places, issues of insurance are coming up as well as those of safety.

Moreover, we believe that much of this is related to an issue about casting around a contested piece for our last concert, which is much more complicated than it seems to be. Interestingly, I do not see any of my students of color clamoring to be part of my dance company of women of color doing social justice work, or work with the choreographers of color we have steadily brought in. They are angry because they did not get to participate in a mainstream dance piece. I do not mean to trivialize their struggle, but am baffled by their lack of self-examination.

On Monday, perhaps because they could not get us to be angry, they posted a scathing "open letter" to the Dance Program, lashing out at everybody and classifying the work done by faculty of color as "failures" when of course our steady work over at least the past 10 years for me, and thereafter for others, has produced so much change. Honestly if what Diyah, Cindy, Maija, and I teach is not anti-racist, I dont know what that might be. But more troubling is that while some of the quotes (about intersectionality) are directly from what I teach, a lot of the pictures and quotes they have put up remind of the old project of multicultural diversity, not really difference.

This has now escalated to a point beyond my ability at least to stomach, also because the 3 faculty of color who are in the BBCD, Diyah, Toni, and I, feel specifically targeted, and openly called out as being "complicit with bureaucracy." Also, Dance has been moving along for sure through the work we have been doing, the faculty went through an anti-racist workshop and training program 2 years ago, that then caused us to ask more questions. Many of these are reflected in curricular shifts, one of these I am implementing as my first major change as Director: introduction of a multi-level track in African dance in the main curriculum. There are other changes as well including considerations of a collaboration with African American and African Studies next year, so we are able to bring in several black choreographers to work with students.

Anyways, tomorrow (fri) from 1:30-3:30 I have called a Town Hall in Barker 100, largely because these anonymous protesters have performed their attacks, but not proposed any desired outcomes. Catherine Squires has kindly kindly kindly agreed to moderate this. Thank you Catherine!! However, because of the outreach these students (i have just learned that this includes possibly 2 students of color and 2 white) have done, the issue is totally spectacularized, and the Barker seems irredeemable, and its faculty totally ineffective.

I am fully aware that this is the day before spring break and it is ridiculous to ask you for even more of your time. But if you could show some support by showing up at the town hall, i would so so so appreciate it. I really need your support, as do the other faculty of color in this program!



We would like to point out:
  • The director's personal pique that every student of color in the program has not asked to be in her personal dance company is, or should be, irrelevant to their student experience in the university.
  • The statement that none of the students of color in the program have "clamored" to work with the choreographers of color brought in by the dance program is false. Several students of color have been present at each audition for the aforementioned choreographers each year.
  • Leaving aside that we have never stated any connection between our protest and the actual casting choices made, as we have only written that our protest was instigated by a discussion about casting-- it is unprofessional for a director of a dance program to suggest that students of color lack self-examination for desiring to participate in a "mainstream dance piece" that the program has hailed as a masterwork, and that, moreover, counts as a performance credit required by the program to graduate.
  • Our open letter was neither "scathing" nor "lashing-out," nor an attempt to make the faculty angry. We were responding to Dr. Chatterjea's specific request that we communicate with the program.
  • In our first open letter we specifically recognized the work of the faculty of color, and acknowledged that they carry an additional burden of their positional power being mediated by the race-based challenges they face. By setting up a false dichotomy where any criticism is read as complete invalidation of their work, the director discourages even valid criticism of the faculty of color.
  • By only privately stating her concerns about the quality of our curatorial ability in selecting text and pictures for our protest, the director passed up an important educational opportunity. She could instead have provided what she would consider more appropriate information to us and to other students, as our protest has consistently been accepting and incorporating editorial corrections whenever they have been offered to us.
  • A director of a university program should perhaps cultivate a more cast-iron stomach, given that authority figures are routinely expected to deal with criticism professionally and responsibly.
  • The director's reference to only three faculty of color reinforces the hierarchy we are protesting against, by ignoring the presence and opinions of the lecturers, theater department and affiliate faculty of color who also teach in the building.
  • The reference to the introduction of a multi-level track in African dance to faculty outside the program, when many affiliate faculty had no idea of its existence, is emblematic of the problem of hierarchical communication we have brought up in our list of demands. The jazz and tap faculty should have been involved in the discussion around this track, given the centrality of Africanist dance in those traditions. As has subsequently been announced, students will have to choose between the jazz track and the African track, which does a disservice to the interconnections between the two forms as well as the students interested in both from the perspective of African-American heritage.
  • The director's insinuations about the number and race of the students she suspects are protesters contradicts the official approval previously extended to our "guerrilla tactics."
  • For the director to term our outreach efforts as "spectacularizing" the issue indicates a lack of appreciation for how unsafe we had stated we felt because of the hostile environment in the dance program. In addition, it is a disregard for the weight that the administration's actions carry to imply that it is the student outreach that makes a program seem "irreemable" and a faculty "totally ineffective".
  • It makes little sense for the director of a program to ask support for herself and her fellow faculty, against a group of students who have said that they themselves feel unsafe and uncomfortable in a meeting she has mandated and set the parameters for. In addition, if some students of color are protesting against the actions of all faculty, there is no reason for the faculty of color to imply that it is their racial identity that is being challenged, instead of their positional power.

The Town Hall meeting was held in studio 100 at the Barbara Barker Center for Dance from 1:30pm to beyond 3:30pm.

We would like to point out:
  • Although we know now that the outreach done by us and the faculty prompted a wider university interest in our protest, and that Dr. Rusty Barcelo was present as an attendee, the faculty did not inform students of her presence, nor that of ombudsman Josh Casper, who was there in official capacity.
  • In the March 11 email to the dance and theater listservs, Chair of the department Carl Flink said: "[The town hall] was meant to be a dance program event, but if more attend from the larger department we'll look forward to having your presence in the Barker too." And yet, he stood at the entrance of the room preventing non-dance major students and faculty from entering, citing fire code restrictions, which were later violated anyway after the large number of people attending the event were allowed inside. Additionally, some people remained outside and were told they could watch the meeting on the widescreen in the lobby, even though the format of the meeting did not lend itself to such observation.
  • Dr. Chatterjea, in her introductory remarks, spoke at some length about the anti-racism work done by some of the faculty. However, she did not acknowledge any student efforts.
  • The initial email announcing the town hall stated that it was "only the first of such Town Halls this semester." However, a time for the second town hall was not announced, and to date, there has been no mention of any such succeeding event.
  • The moderator, Dr. Catherine Squires, assured participants that their group notes containing desired questions, values, and goals would be made accessible to the departmental community. We are aware that the ombudsman’s office offered to type up these notes per student request, in order to facilitate their distribution; this offer has not been taken up. On April 1 in our demands we asked that the group notes from Town Hall be immediately publicly disseminated. It has been more than a month since the Town Hall, and still there has been no statement from the program faculty on when they will make this information accessible to the people who helped generate it, nor any statement explaining what they are doing with it in the meantime.
MARCH 16, the first day of Spring Break

We noticed that both the open letter and the statement on the protection of white walls had been removed by a person or persons unknown. We replaced them, and added a note to visitors (Part 11).

An email jointly signed by Dr. Chatterjea and Carl Flink was sent out, announcing:

a conversation tomorrow Tuesday, March 17 from 11 am - Noon to discuss next actions steps in terms of the postings by THIS in the Barker Center.... With the ACDFA conference starting on Wednesday, we want to make intelligent and respectful decisions about the THIS postings ongoing status in consultation with anyone interested from the department.... We understand that time is short, but this is the best we can do given the short timing after our Friday discussion.

In anticipation of the meeting and the upcoming conference, we reposted the open letter and the statement on the protection of white walls, in addition to a note to visitors.

We would like to point out:
  • This manufactured shortage of time was disingenuous as best, and manipulative at worst, given that the dance program had spent the better part of a year planning for this conference. The faculty were well aware that if a community decision regarding the protest materials had to be arrived at before the event, it should more responsibly have been made at the Town Hall which had mandatory attendance of all dance students as well as a number of theater students, rather than at a hastily convened and poorly attended "conversation" during an official Spring Break.
  • A theatre student posted on the listserv asking for the location of this meeting, which had not been mentioned in the email. This question was not, publicly at least, replied to.
MARCH 17, Spring Break

Before the meeting, the faculty moved the reposted open letter and the note to visitors from their original locations to the second floor dance studio, claiming they had moved them for meeting attendees to read and reference for discussion during the meeting. They did not move them back. After the meeting, someone moved the note to visitors back to its original location.

We had been concerned that the meeting was going to be both unproductive and unsafe, and so we contacted ombudsman Josh Casper and asked him to be present. The events of the meeting have been somewhat documented in an unofficial (and fragmented) set of notes taken by a student and emailed to the dance and theatre listservs; we suggest talking with Josh Casper in order to form your own opinion on the words spoken during that meeting. According to those unofficial notes, Carl Flink is reported to have suggested that at "10 am people come together to take things down, and collectively archive THIS," to which Dr. Chatterjea is reported to have replied, "Hope it is student led. We can be collaborators."

We would like to point out:
  • The notes of this meeting circulated by a student on the dance and theatre listservs give every indication that the faculty used the relatively small number of students attending as permission to vent emotions with a vehemence and entitlement that seems entirely uncondusive to allowing contradictory opinions to be voiced. We believe it is a serious issue for an ombudsman to be on record as saying that were he a student, he would not feel safe in the space.
  • It is manipulative for the director and the chair to suggest that students who wish to take the protest materials down determine a time and do so, giving the indication that they support this action, without taking any responsibility for it.
MARCH 18, Spring Break and the first day of the American College Dance Festival (regional conference)

The open letter was removed from the second floor dance studio.
The statement on the protection of white walls was also removed.
The note to visitors was left up.

We would like to point out:
  • There was no official faculty response or acknowledgment of these actions.
  • There was no public official effort to themselves contextualize the protest for the visitors by issuing any statement and making it available.

An article about the protest was published on the TC Daily Planet website, in which the director and chair were quoted:

Carl Flink...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.”

“It’s interesting,” Chatterjea said ....“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.”....“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.”

We would like to point out:
  • The racial composition of the official José Limón dance company has no relevance to the issue of the casting of a work set on University of Minnesota dance students, and that company's commitment to diversity in no way relates to the dance program's own standing on that issue.
  • The director does not mention that during the aforementioned ten years, students have still been facing racial discrimination. It is extremely problematic for the director to frame students' racial experiences in the university through the binary of whether they 'were mad at' her, or joined her; activism should not have to be the prerequisite to voicing criticism against racial injustices. It is also hypocritical for her to credit her own actions for the protest when it was something she did not feel was directed to her, and then not acknowledge the role her actions played in its causes when it pointed out administrative failings.
  • For the director to term the protest as a public shaming indicates a desire for criticism to have been kept private.
  • The continued framing of a lack of list of demands as a 'problem' ignores our point in our first open letter stating that "Placing the burden of fighting racism on those who have to deal with it every day derails the issue. It is unjust to demand activism from students who are already coping with surviving in a system that is actively, continually, and consciously stacked against them."
  • For a self-described social justice activist, Dr. Chatterjea's assertion of anger being unable to effect change completely ignores the philosophies of such activists as Audre Lorde and bell hooks, whose statements on the constructive use of anger were among the words we posted on the walls to give us strength during our protest. On the other hand, the leadership of the dance program seems to have concerned itself more with the anger it felt over being criticized, rather than with any constructive strategy to respond to that criticism.

An article about the protest was published in the Minnesota Daily newspaper, in which the director and chair were quoted:

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

Carl Flink.... said he hopes to meet with the student protesters 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.

We would like to point out:
  • Again, for the record, we have never described the casting choices of Missa Brevis as the catalyst for the protest, but have referenced the post-show discussion of those issues.
  • The director's facts are incorrect--four students of Color were in the second cast of the piece who were not selected for the final cast. None of those students have explicitly publicly stated that they felt they were not cast because of their race. Saying that there was a racialized tension in the casting process does not equate with an accusation of racist decision-making, nor should students voicing the former be framed as making the latter. If the director is referencing private conversations she has had with any of the students, it is a violation of the FERPA rules that protect students' privacy.
  • The chair knew at the time of this interview that we were not planning to have physical face-to-face meetings with him or any other dance program administrator, and in expressing a hope to meet us willfully disregarded our repeated statements about our need for pseudonymity.
  • More than three weeks after the chair publicly stated that the department planned to work with the Office of Equity and Diversity, we have neither publicly nor privately seen any proof that they have done so.

We posted our second open letter to the dance program, which contained a list of demands (Part 12). This was in response to faculty comments about not being able to take action because they did not know what our concrete desires were, to questions directed at us at the Town Hall Meeting on March 13, and to multiple blog comments asking what we wanted.

This same day, student Peer Advisors sent out emails to the dance and theater listservs to invite students to a meeting scheduled for April 6 on the question, “What do students wish to see come from THIS?”

We would like to point out:
  • To date there has been no official faculty response to our demands.
  • The faculty response to passively permit students to self-organize in response to a protest against the administration, without any official direction or guidance, proves a deep avoidance of their responsibility to lead.

Our protest materials were 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. They commented on our blog claiming responsibility for their actions. They threw away the crumpled and torn materials into the recycling and trash bins; a student who was not involved in the taking down of the protest retrieved the discarded materials and commented on our blog saying they were "concerned about the destruction of the protest."


An email signed by Carl Flink and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea was sent to the dance and theatre listservs encouraging students to go to the Peers meeting that had been announced on March 30. In this email, they describe 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." They concluded: "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."

In the Peer Advisors' meeting over the lunch period, students were asked to anonymously write on post-it notes what future steps they want the department to take, and values that they feel the department should have. These post-it notes were collected and divided into the following categories: curricular, outreach, departmental training, student training, pedagogy, and space. The Peers said they would type up and send to the listservs the typed up notes.

We would like to point out:
  • The director and chair disrespected and dishonored the effort that went into our mounting of the protest by describing a complete destruction of our materials as a "change". They also completely ignored the weight of their own previous public statements both in support of the protest, as well as subsequently in favor of student-led removal of material. Burying their only official reaction to this significant disruption of our protest in an email encouraging students to attend a Peer Advisor-organized meeting to discuss solutions to our protest constitutes a willful refusal from our director and chair to take any leadership responsibility. This void of leadership and the encouragement of students to fill it is a tactic to divide and conquer those with less power, and reframes the protest as an intra-student conflict. This is symptomatic of the problems we pointed out in our public statements.
  • We do not understand why the leadership of the dance program needs to continue to look for constructive steps to implement, when suggestions have been given to them at the public town hall, in our second open letter, and through the assistance offered by the Ombudsman’s office and the Office of Equity and Diversity. This continued expression of encouragement for students to do the work of generating actions and goals, without any indication that the department will commit to the actual work of doing them is persistent enough to constitute a derailment.

Minutes from the Peers meeting was sent to the theater and dance listservs.

We would like to point out:
  • The Peer Advisors took on the responsibility of publicly providing all students in the department with the information discussed in the meeting; an act of conscientious documentation that facilitates transparency and community involvement that the faculty have thus far consistently failed to do.

The Dance Peer Advisor sent out an email to the dance listserv announcing a second student meeting, "What Do Students Want To See Come From THIS II", scheduled for April 17.

She also sent out the typed up notes from the April 6 Peers meeting.

We would like to point out:
  • The significant overlap of the student requests to our demands, indicating that what we asked for can not be simply considered the demands of a select, disgruntled few.
  • The lack of official response to requests made from any students, protesters or not.

A White caucus meeting for April 17 was announced on the dance listserv by a White student who ripped down the protest, with purported "support from the dance program," facilitated by a Lisa Albrecht-- a White non-dance faculty member who had previously commented on our blog offering assistance but who did not contact us before or after agreeing to lead this meeting.The workshop description includes the following:

The space we will create is NOT about:

1. Disrespecting anyone (present or not).
2. Going over who said what.
3. Going over who did what.
4. Discussing details regarding all that has happened.

We would like to point out:
  • A speaker presenting on white privilege, racism, and white supremacy did not contact the students of color in the program to inform herself of the environment she was entering into from the point of view of those most affected by the issues.
  • For one of the director's student employees, who has taken responsibility for destroying our protest materials, to announce that a white caucus workshop is supported by the Dance program when no such official statement has been publicly made, implies a connection between some members of the dance program administration and select students that gives those students an unethical power of spokespersonship.
  • The workshop description indicates a situation that prevents the examples of faculty and student responses to the protest being used as examples of White privilege and ineffective alliance in action. This reduces the education to abstract theorizing when the protest needs students in the building to take responsibility for the effect of their attitudes and actions on their real, present students of color peers.
-- us, April 16, 2009 (


We posted in the Barker an open letter to the Office of Equity and Diversity, requesting their involvement, along with our Annotated Timeline of Dance Program Responses.

We would like to point out:

  • The next morning, as of 8:15am the next morning, these postings had already been removed from the glass walls of the Barker. No one has publicly claimed responsibility, and the faculty has not mentioned it in any of their communications.
April 19

The chair sent out an email jointly signed by him and the director, to provide an update "
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."

They said:

In terms of student input on the first matter above, we are currently waiting for the peers/ombudsman'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 the 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.

We would like to point out:
  • The roster of student suggestions from the first Peers meeting that the chair and director are "waiting" for was sent out to the dance and theater listservs 5 days prior, on April 14. If they are referring to the second Peers meeting, another roster of suggestions was not generated then nor was it the focus to do so.
  • Apparently the list of goals and solutions generated at the Town Hall over a month ago was not enough, the list of demands we provided in our second open letter was not enough, and the list of student-generated notes from the first Peer Advisors' meeting was not enough from which the chair and director could find some suggestions of actions that they could begin "to consider". This willful inability to recognize input when it is given is at best incompetent beyond what we know them capable of, or worse, deliberate stalling in order to not have to do anything until the end of the semester.
  • In congratulating the students organizing the White Caucus after the fact and not promoting it themselves beforehand--while the event is proclaimed by the student sending the email to be supported by the dance program--the chair and director are demonstrating their stance of non-commitment and limiting leadership to applauding student efforts while not making any of their own, aside from the director calling the March 13 Town Hall. Meanwhile, the chair and director did not congratulate those faculty members who took the time to attend, particularly affiliate faculty, who were not, presumably, being paid for their initiative, once again indicating their refusal to acknowledge that faculty have self-improvement to do.
  • It is heartening to know that Richa Nagar, College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs, is involved in a dialogue between the Dance Program and the Office for Equity and Diversity. Since Carl Flink said in an interview with the Minnesota Daily more than three weeks ago that the department planned on working with the OED, but is only now "developing" a dialogue, we would appreciate clarification on whether the dance program has involved the CLA administration in order to persuade the OED to participate in this dialogue, or if the CLA administration has been involved in order to ensure that the Dance Program delivers on its commitment.
  • This is the first public announcement that the Peer Advisors positions are in danger of being cut, and it is being made two days after the job application for the next year was sent to the theater email listserv, with a warning that "the structure for the Peer Advisors is subject to change" (Luverne Seifert, in an email dated April 17, 2009). This is the second time this month that official department communication has described a termination as "change"; we do not think the word means what they think it means.
  • This email was sent to the dance majors listserv instead of the dance listserv, presumably because the latter is moderated and even the chair cannot expect his emails to go through immediately, thus delaying effective communication. We would like to note that one of our demands was for the dance listserv to be put on the same automated moderation system, as such is the case with the theater listservs.

We recieved an
email 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:

We would like to point out:
  • Dr. Barceló has been the first official member of the administration who responded to a letter by directly addressing us. This is the first example of an official choosing to communicate with, rather than at us.
  • The Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) had offered its services to the dance program by March 13, and yet more than a month later the chair and director were at the stage of "working with [CLA] to develop a dialogue with" the OED. Given how proactive and swift the OED's response has been since we asked for help, we can only conclude that it was the dance program dragging its feet that caused the delay in action.
  • Dr Barceló including concerns with climate, policies, practices, communication, and governance identified a specific breakdown of the deep, systemic problems we were facing that proved her understanding of our open letters.
  • Dr Barceló asked us to tell her how she could help us, and how the OED's resources could assist us. This demonstrated a practice of effective alliance that we have not seen very often, thus far. Effective alliance begins with the understanding that those affected should define how resources may be made available to them, and by the commitment to take action that respects the requests of those asking.
  • The respect extended towards our 'anonymity', and the willingness to work with it, gave us an assurance of good faith that we had not received from anyone except the Ombudsman. This is what earned our trust, and why we agreed to a meeting with the OED leadership.

We responded via email to Dr. Barceló’s letter to us, in which we wrote:

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 would like to point out:

  • In an email response to us, Dr. Barceló wrote, “You are welcome to post my letter on the blog or post in any other way that would be beneficial,” demonstrating a shared value for transparency that we have repeatedly demanded from the dance administration and that we have been actively engaged in, as we have publicly documented and posted all of our material for anyone to access.


We had a very encouraging meeting with Dr. Rusty Barceló, Dr. Louis Mendoza and Dr. Rickey Hall. Ombudsman Josh Casper was also present.

We reposted our Open Letter to the Office for Equity and Diversity, which had been removed once already, in the Barker as well as in the Rarig Center where the theater program’s administration offices are. We also included Dr. Barceló's response, as well as our subsequent response (see April 21 entry in annotated timeline).

We would like to point out:

  • The postings in the Barker were taken down as of 8:05AM the next morning. At some point the same day, the postings in the Rarig Center were also removed. Again, no one has publicly claimed responsibility, and the faculty has not mentioned it in any of their communications.


We were sent an email from Ombudsman Josh Casper saying he'd been asked if we would post an announcement on our blog for a meeting for students of color in the Theater Arts and Dance Department that would be facilitated by the MCAE (Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence), which is under the umbrella of the OED (Office for Equity and Diversity). This announcement was also distributed by the Peer Advisors to the dance and theater listservs.

They wrote:

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.

We would like to point out:

  • We expressed a need for a safe space for students of Color in our demands more than three weeks prior to this announcement. The dance program ignored this demand, and did nothing to promote this meeting to its students of Color.
  • Within two days of meeting with us and being told that students of Color needed to be prioritized, the OED took the initiative of organizing this meeting through its subsidiary center. Clearly, it did not feel it needed to wait for months before figuring out what action they could take to start the process of dealing with the issues the protest had raised.
  • The administration did not endorse students of Color attending this meeting, whereas they had sent out emails to encourage students to attend the Peer-led meetings and to "congratulate" the students who attended the white caucus. We interpret the dance administration’s silence as an official refusal to acknowledge concerns about climate and to take responsibility for creating a safe space for students of Color. We find this to be illustrative of the lack of support that students of Color in the program receive, and especially in light of the faculty responses to the protest that have contributed to the hostile climate in the Barker.
  • The MCAE very sensitively acknowledged the diversity of opinion of students of Color regarding the protest, and stated its desire to serve everyone's voices, without refusing to discuss the protest and its specifics as the White Caucus announcement did.
  • The fact that the MCAE made the announcement through the Ombudsman and the Peers, and held the meeting in a different building than the Barker, resonates with our own decision to circumvent the dance program, when they are proving to be unresponsive to direct requests, in order to get action taken.


Carl Flink sent out an email to the dance and theater listservs cosigned by him and Dr. Ananya Chatterjea, reporting on their meeting that prior Tuesday with the Office for Equity and Diversity and CLA Deans.

They wrote:

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. ...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.

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.

We wrote a letter to Dr. Barceló the same day, urging the OED to work with the department to move up the date of the next Town Hall meeting. We suggested:

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. ... 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 would like to point out:

  • The first meeting between the dance program administration and the OED took place on April 28, more than a month after Carl Flink publicly stated his intention to work with the OED, and at least six weeks after the OED had offered its assistance. We managed to move from approaching Dr. Barceló for help to meeting with her in less than a week.
  • To hold a meeting 11 days after the last day of classes in the dance program makes this Town Hall even more inaccessible than the poorly attended Spring Break meeting on March 17. The seniors whose input will be unavailable after this, are unlikely to find it meaningful or convenient to attend a meeting two days after their their commencement ceremony.
  • We find it difficult to believe that the dance program needed two consultations with the OED to take the solitary step of scheduling another Town Hall meeting, when the director had stated that the first one was "only the first of such Town Halls this semester" back in early March, failing to deliver on her commitment.
  • Stating that they consider the department to be a “university leader on issues" negates that their leadership is exactly what we are protesting.
  • The chair's hesitant gratitude expressed for "resources, if needed" indicates that he still felt that perhaps the department was capable of handling the situation on its own. Frankly, we find this to be a sign of arrogance.
  • This email referenced the need to take "concrete steps to demonstrate the department’s commitment to a collaborative approach" while ignoring the very simple actions we demanded as proof of good faith engagement. The dance program has been consistently ignoring what we say to them, reducing the protest to vague references of issues raised, without actually engaging with any of the specifics.
  • The dance program is in the strange position of regressing with each meeting agenda--whereas the first Town Hall was called to "outline goals and move us towards certain parameters", the second one is prefaced with a desire to identify a limited group that will then be asked to generate an action plan. We can only presume that these decisions will be based partly on those able to be present at this ill-timed meeting. This desire to handpick the people able to give input also contradicts the administration's previous stance of merely waiting for student generated suggestions to reach them via the Peers-organized meetings.
  • If the dance program leadership, which has been the subject of our protest for the last three months, considers that they are equipped to co-facilitate a meeting designed to discuss the issues we have raised, then they have either not heard, or do not care that we believe them to be incapable of such a task.
  • Despite informing everyone of Dr. Barceló's offer to meet with anyone with concerns, her contact information was not included, nor was there any indication that the dance program would proactively assist to make it easier for students to meet her.
  • Our posting in the Barker was taken down as of 8:09AM the next morning. This is the third and fourth set of materials that have been immediately removed since our protest was ripped down in its entirety. No one has publicly claimed responsibility, and the faculty has not mentioned it in any of their communications.

We posted on the Barker walls our open petition to the chair and director of the dance program.

We would like to point out:

  • Our petition was immediately removed from the Barker early the next morning, before 8am, the time the building officially opens. This is the fifth time that our material has been removed in this manner, and still there has been no administrative response regarding this repeated removal, even though we have been posting notifications of this on our blog, and they are the first people to enter the building every day.
  • None of the letters to the dance administration that were written in response to this petition were forwarded to the listservs. As we were cc'd on the emails, we know that the letters, many of which were not posted in full on our blog, were received by the dance admin. On the other hand, when the Peers received a letter regarding the protest, they promptly distributed it to the theater listserv.

MAY 5, 2009

The chair sent an email to the theater and dance listservs cosigned by him and the director saying they had decided “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


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 distributor of the posting seven days after posting date.

We would like to point out:

  • Despite informing everyone of the Ombudsman's offer to meet with anyone who wanted their voices heard, there was no indication that the dance program would proactively assist to make it easier for students to meet him. In our May 4 petition we asked that they provide a space for him in the building so that he would be most accessible. They seem to have no concern for the voices that will remain permanently unheard once the seniors finish attending their last day of classes.
  • The meeting's agenda has now been stated to be creating an action plan. Those unable to attend it have been told to send their comments to the Ombudsman. Given the program's inexplicable refusal to talk about the suggestions they were already given at the first Town Hall meeting, and by the Peers-organized meeting, and by us, we wonder how much confidence anyone has that sending in further suggestions is worth the effort.
  • The program's spin on creating a space for posting is amusing when all they have done is remove all the older posts on what used to be the student board in the Barker, and the script library bulletin board in Rarig, and rename their official purpose. It is ironic that in all our months of protest, we never found a need to take down other students' material to find space for our own.
  • The sudden reference to University indoor posting procedure to justify the administration's continued tearing down of our protest materials is bizarre given their previous support of the "fantastic images and quotes" and "dynamic event" that provided an "incredible journey". It seems that an "exhibit" which they only have to admire is acceptable, but a "dialogue" they have to engage with is not.
  • It is telling that a seven day posting limit is dictated for material referring to an unresolved, ongoing protest, when previous student postings have remained on the bulletin board for longer than items are allowed to pile up in the lost and found box.

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 doing so verbally as well, explaining that she is doing her job by enforcing the university policy on indoor posting.

We would like to point out:
  • The dance program pretending to “further facilitate dialogues by US” (in the March 5 email from the director and chair) when they have been the ones pulling our postings down is blatant dishonesty. If they actually wished to let our words be read, they could have complied with our demands to repost the documents we asked them to in the space they consider appropriate, distribute the documents to the email listservs, and make hard copies available for all students.
  • 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.