By Eli Hughes–
The theater arts undergraduate students’ union held an open meeting with the theater faculty on April 22 to discuss issues within the department, which led to the union being formed and their rehearsal being withdrawn. Hashtag show. April 16.
The walkout included performers and undergraduate crew members, including stage direction, theater, lights, costumes and stage design.
“This is a demonstration of the impact of undergraduates on the drama department at U of L. We recognize that this is a drawback for many people involved in this technical process, and c ‘is what we are trying to argue,’ union members said in a leaflet that was left in the theater building and distributed during the walkout.
“We encourage you to go back and try to work. Who is missing? Who is needed in this space that has disappeared. “
One of the issues these students spoke about included the culture of burnout that they believe is fostered by the ministry.
“The undergraduates in this department just felt totally unsupported and exploited. Everyone is exhausted. I know people who graduate and never want to do theater again, ”said Loren Moody, Principal Theater Major.
Aiden Stivers, a major senior in the theater, said the issues were especially big during Tech Week.
“I think it’s important to note that Tech Week in particular has been hell week for a lot of undergraduates,” Stivers said. “Especially undergraduates in technical departments, because we are often placed in leadership roles that we don’t get a lot of training for or where we don’t feel safe and are forced to fend for ourselves and to figure out how to do it. “
The students also reported a lack of communication in the department and said it was something they were hoping to change.
“We have taken steps to start, but this strike is really meant to remind them that we have not forgotten the problems that we have encountered in the past and that many students have suffered and to remind them. the weight that we hold in this department, so that they take us seriously and that they know that fixing our problems is of the utmost importance ”, Colton Bachinkski, second year theater student mentionned.
Other issues mentioned on the student union’s list of grievances include lack of acting opportunities for undergraduates, a history of professors cheating on transgender students, lack of response to allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment; and the lack of preparation of students for their professional careers.
Nefertiti Burton, chair of the theater arts department, said she supported the students’ decision to form a student union, but was baffled by the decision to step down after a time had already been set for it to be. bring together and talk about these concerns.
“The students had immediately accepted and confirmed the meeting, so I was totally confused as to why they would make this decision after scheduling the meeting,” said Burton. “It was particularly troubling since this predominantly white group of students chose to leave the technological process on a production of the African-American theater program that was developed by students to tackle anti-black movements and social justice that dominate our nation’s attention right now. “
Miranda Cisneros, the department’s technical production manager, said she fully supports the students’ decision to form a union, but disagrees with the timing of the withdrawal for the same reasons. She also added that the play focused on racial injustice and the police, so she felt the show deserved everyone’s attention.
“The majority of the undergraduate student union is made up of white students and I think it was a big oversight for them to step down,” she said.
According to Burton, during the April 22 meeting, the students apologized for stepping out during an AATP production and clarified their intentions.
“They explained that this was meant to illustrate how important undergraduates are to the department, and they apologized for taking this step on an AATP broadcast,” she said. declared.
“They said they hadn’t given any thought to what kind of message removing a predominantly white group of students could send and the impact it might have on many in the department. The students also said on several occasions that many of their grievances were related to past circumstances and that they had already seen progress. They expressed appreciation for the faculty and staff and our efforts to make changes.
Following the meeting, Hunter Dischley, a theater major junior, said she had mixed feelings about the response they received. “They seemed receptive to all of our goals and all of that, but they also couldn’t remember some of the things we had told them before.
Cisneros believes that the theater department has made progress bearing in mind the concerns of the unions since the union’s formation and that they will continue to move forward. “As a recent alumnus of this department, I would say the amount of change I’ve seen in the department since I graduated is groundbreaking,” Cisneros said.
Burton said she and the rest of the faculty and staff plan to reflect on what was discussed at the meeting and move forward to address the student’s concerns.
“I learned a lot from the students,” she says. “And I recognize that faculty can do a lot more to enhance the importance and value of undergraduate work in our productions. The students have identified issues with the curriculum and course planning which I will carefully review and adjust if possible. They also spoke about climate and cultural issues in the department in relation to transgender students that I will take immediate action to address.
“I am grateful that students are eager to collaborate with faculty and staff to make the Theater Arts Department a better place to learn and work, and I foresee positive change in 2021-2022.”
Graphic by Eli Hughes // The Louisville Cardinal