Friday, March 13, 2009

Town Hall Meeting

Today was the Town Hall Meeting.

In attendance:

The Town Hall was announced to the dance major list serve as being mandatory. No attendance of dance students was taken, and not all dance students were present. Most of the dance affiliate faculty and staff were not present.

There were theater students in attendance, both BA and BFA majors. There were also people present who were not part of the Theatre Arts and Dance department, or affiliated with the University of Minnesota.

We found out later that the following people were also present in their official capacities, although their presence was not announced:

Dr. Rusty Barceló, Vice President and Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity
Dr. Rickey Hall, Assistant Vice President for Equity and Diversity
Dr. Louis Mendoza, Associate Vice Provost, Equity and Diversity
Kris Lockhart, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff, Equity and Diversity
Dr. Ilene Alexander, Consultant, Center for Teaching and Learning
Josh Casper, Ombudsman and Associate Director, Student Conflict Resolution Center

Although Carl Flink, Chair of the Department of Theater Arts & Dance, had sent an email to the theater list serve inviting students and faculty to attend the Town Hall, he announced in the lobby beforehand that the program wanted to ensure that dance major students and faculty were seated first, and that fire codes only permitted a certain number of people in the auditorium. He said that the event would be televised on the screen in the lobby of the building for the people who were unable to get inside.

After the majority of the dance program students and faculty had entered, other attendees were permitted to enter, as extra seats were brought in and set up. The final count of people inside the room after the meeting began was not monitored, and there were people who watched the proceedings from the lobby monitor.

Dr. Ananya Chatterjea introduced the meeting, naming the artists of color and anti-racist scholars both hired as professors in the Dance Program and recently invited as Cowles Land Grant Chair Guest Artists. She also provided a brief summary of Dance Program professors’ history of anti-racist artistic and scholarly work. She referenced the email that we had sent out to student organizations on campus, saying that "the intention of this meeting is not what ‘us’ claims". She also said, "We hear your pain...thank you for making it so clear".

She then introduced Dr. Catherine Squires, whom the dance program had invited to be the facilitator for the meeting.

Permission was not given for the meeting to be video taped.

Dr. Catherine Squires introduced the format for the meeting. She asked attendees to form groups (of approx. ten people), separated into students, faculty, and staff. Groups were told to discuss and write down their answers for the following three issues:

1. What questions do you have for people in dance dept or university, questions that the protest brought up for you?
2. What values do you think this program and university should embody/reinforce?
3. What goals/solutions do you have about the curriculum, recruitment etc.

Dr. Catherine squires then explained that she was going to go around in a talking circle format, in which she would stand next to each group who then presented their answers.

When all groups had presented, notes from each group were collected by the Dance Program.

Any additions/corrections to this record are welcome.

Note: We have taken several of the direct references in this post from a set of unofficial meeting notes taken by a dance student that were sent to the Theater and Dance listserves. We delayed making this post in the hopes that official transcripts of Dr. Chatterjea's introduction and the group discussion notes would be made available; this has not yet happened.