Emerson College Performing Arts Department: Show Us You're All In

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On April 10, POWER published a blog post written by freshman Cindy Tsai entitled “The Nuances of Racism in Theatre School.” In this post, Cindy bravely and beautifully related her story of the bias and microaggressions that she experienced in her first semester at Emerson. In response to this blog post, the Emerson administration has done what they always do: send emails, have conversations, make empty promises, and fail to make the necessary changes that will actually impact the lives and experiences of students of color.

In light of this, POWER is calling for the immediate removal of Scott Lafeber from his position as head of the musical theater department. Professor Lafeber’s behavior is inexcusable and a violation of Emerson’s inclusive excellence values. By interacting with a student in such a grossly insensitive manner, Professor Lafeber has failed in his duty as an educator to support the students of his department and empower them to succeed.

Professor Lafeber’s actions are symptomatic of a much larger problem of institutional racism at Emerson. We recognize that his removal will not solve this problem, but we believe that it is a start.

By allowing Professor Lafeber to remain in a position of power at this college, Emerson’s administration is condoning his behavior and treating these incidents as acceptable. We demand that the administration take action and make it clear that Professor Lafeber’s words are not representative of what Emerson College stands for.

In addition, we demand that the administration release a specific and detailed plan of action regarding how they plan to address these issues. The steps offered in President Pelton’s email--diversifying the curriculum, promoting inclusive pedagogy, recruiting a more diverse student body, and recruiting and hiring more faculty of color--have all been promised, multiple times, in the past. Simply reiterating the same actions the college has previously committed to, which have clearly been ineffective, is not a solution to this problem. We fail to see how the college plans to move beyond conversation to create the change that is critically needed. President Pelton’s email also does not include a timeline of when and how the department will be implementing any changes, nor does it offer a date by which the administration will release a more comprehensive plan of action.

The Emerson administration has had ample time since the October 2017 protest to formulate and implement changes. Clearly they have not been able to do so in a way that significantly impacts the lived experiences of students. In October, POWER proposed our own plan of action; now it is time for Emerson’s administration to do the same.