Thursday, March 12, 2009

Responses: March 12, 2009

We were anonymously forwarded an email that Dr. Ananya Chatterjea had sent out to multiple faculty members not only outside the program but outside the university, calling for an "urgent request for support":

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!