Make CCU Theater Safe for BIPOC Students
Make CCU Theater Safe for BIPOC Students
"My overall experience of racism, as a [person of color], within the Theatre Department at CCU was to constantly be disregarded.”
During the summer of 2020, alumni and current students met with CCU Department of Theatre faculty and staff via Zoom regarding the experience and trauma of BIPOC alumni. The purpose of these meetings was to provide a container for the experiences of BIPOC students and alumni. We provided research, testimony, actionable solutions, and educational resources to express the desperately needed changes in the CCU Department of Theatre (weseeyouccutheatre.com). Here are several poignant testimonies from BIPOC alumni and students.
“My freshman year I started American Theatre in Color (ATIC), a club for the black and brown students of this department to come together. It fell apart because we were gaslit by white students and faculty who felt excluded.”
“[I experienced] being called the wrong name for my entire first year of college by most, if not all faculty (whether it be blatant mispronunciations after being corrected repeatedly, or being called by another black students name)."
“[I was] called “sassy” when airing my concerns about discussions in class that are problematic, and the terms “urban” and “ghetto” were thrown around in regards to myself or a student show with a cast of mostly black students."
“Seeing many of the same non-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)/White actors cast in lead roles while some faculty members justify it by saying it all “boils down to talent”. Are they then suggesting their BIPOC actors are not as talented?”
“I’ve heard faculty members say that “they are working so hard” to recruit BIPOC students and are “thinking constantly” about facilitating an equitable educational environment, only to actively neglect and inflict harm on BIPOC students once they are in the program.”
In our efforts to bring the CCU theatre community together to address the racialized harm committed against current and former students, we experienced the same microaggressions, gaslighting, and undermining that is synonymous with our experiences as students. This public petition is a consolidated reiteration of the demands presented in these private meetings and paints the future of the department we all wish to see.
- Establishment of a faculty-to-faculty accountability system along with a department-wide disciplinary policy for perpetuating gossip, segregation between fields of study, defamation of character of students, and personal retaliatory action taken by faculty against students.
- An immediate official investigation and respective response to accumulated statements from students regarding experiences of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault on behalf of faculty/staff; as well as, the immediate removal of any and all faculty/staff who have been previously or are hence forth reprimanded for such actions
- Any and all racially charged encounters (micro/macroaggressions) amongst students or between students and faculty/staff must be addressed by an unbiased party and met respectively with restorative justice measures or disciplinary action.
- Extensive and reoccurring diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training for faculty/staff. This training and discussion of DEI practices must also be extended to the student body and applied as a standard of the department culture with disciplinary consequences if not upheld.
- Facilitation of department wide temperature checks with the student body to address, discuss, and begin steps to rectify racial, social, and cultural issues or challenges experienced by students at least twice a semester in a town hall format.
- Establishment of a department wide protocol for addressing and providing support/resources for students exhibiting signs of or expressing issues with maintaining their mental health and overall well-being.
- Restructuring of classroom curriculums to include educational materials by/for/and about BIPOC theater artists.
- Removal and reconfiguration of outdated/racist/homophobic/discriminatory materials that are not pertinent to the overall success and cultivation of students.
- Intentional material selection in class and on stage for BIPOC students, which is based on the individual students level of training/experience, specific needs for growth, applicable pedagogical/repertory needs, and the artistic/personal identity of each student.
- Establishment of an equal opportunity protocol for all students in all fields of study, both in and out of the classroom, to ensure each student is afforded equitable opportunity and support in regards to showcase/career prospects, guest artist workshops, cultivation of student run organizations/productions/projects, and department facilitated productions.
- Immediate implementation of a department wide ban on encouragement of racial ambiguity, as well as use of terminology and practices that perpetuate this (i.e. colorblind casting).
- Immediate adoption of a-typical casting processes, which do not use erasure of artists racial identity as a casting tool but instead allows racial identity to influence and cultivate unique and diverse artistic experiences for students and audiences.
- Incorporation of individual post-audition feedback sessions and general ‘open door’ policy that allows BIPOC students to discuss concerns regarding casting with faculty/staff.
- A formal public statement issued by the department outlining plans to create a safe work environment for recruiting BIPOC faculty/staff and to hire at least two more BIPOC faculty/staff members by 2025.
- A formal public statement issued by the department providing recognition and apology to BIPOC students and alumni for all inequity and trauma experienced as well as outlining actionable steps presently being taken to address the above demands, which must be posted on all CCU Theater websites, social media pages, and affiliated public platforms.
Without extensive change, we contest that CCU Department of Theatre is not a safe environment for BIPOC students. We will not advocate for any new BIPOC students to attend this program until these demands are met. Much thought and care has been taken on behalf of the students and alumni to work as a community and heal the department on a personal, grassroots level using restorative justice techniques. However, the issues of this department are only a microcosm of the societal realities faced by all BIPOC peoples. Therefore, it is time for our concerns to be made public. Stand with us to demand change in the CCU Theatre Department as a part of a collective effort to transform the entire theatre community as we know it.