Performing Arts and Social Justice Spring 2022 Racial Equity Process Report
Since Spring 2021 events and the ruptures they caused, the Department has been actively reflecting on its producing procedures and renewing its commitment to the mission of the performing arts and social justice major. Building the Department’s cultural competency and capacity for cultural humility, and strengthening anti-racist and anti-bias behaviors, are at the forefront of efforts to restore the Department’s values that serve and support the larger PASJ community.
In spring 2021, PASJ’s three programs (Dance/Music/Theater) co-produced an online concert to celebrate the Department’s 20th anniversary. Alumni were invited to create original performance works with current students, all remotely due to the covid-19 pandemic. One piece, titled Breathe My Black (BmB), was the first piece specifically about the Black experience in PASJ.
The group shared their work-in-progress video on their FaceBook page in which an incident--that happened eight years prior--was recounted. The incident named a harmful and anti-Black statement made by a full-time White faculty member to one of the alumni when they were a student. Although the incident was retold anonymously, full time faculty became aware of the video and quickly, through remarks in the video, identified the faculty member spoken about. Two faculty then responded directly. One contacted and consulted with public safety, and a second relayed that information to the BmB group in a conversation that caused further damage. The harm caused by these actions was further exacerbated by the full-time faculty’s inability to respond directly, effectively, transparently, or in a timely and unified manner to the situation.
Harm to alumni, students, staff, contractors, and faculty was caused during these events, which overshadowed the work’s creative significance and message. Individual faculty members have apologized for their part. Now, the PASJ faculty present this spring 2022 also wish to sincerely apologize to all members of our community harmed by these events and by unsuccessful attempts to address them and make amends. In seeking outside assistance, the Department discovered that the University does not yet have a clear process for racial accountability. The Department is working on building accountability practices and recognizes this is long overdue.
The Department is taking steps to address the harm caused, to educate ourselves, and to change how White-centered culture affects our interactions, choices, and behaviors. We are committed to action, and to meaningful systemic change. We also recognize that this response has not come quickly enough, and does not go far enough. The list below is not comprehensive or static. It will continue to evolve and grow. But we offer it today as a starting place.
Since Spring 2021, the department and/or its members have embarked on the following:
- Undergone an extensive series of group and individual facilitations with DEI Facilitator Lisa Walker
- Received feedback from festival alumni, including “calls for change” that is guiding our discussions and next steps
- Some members of the faculty met several times with Syracuse University Department of Drama faculty, who have been responding to a Call to Action by alumni and current students to address pervasive structural racism
- Shared 2 individual accountability statements last spring
- Created a draft of Department ByLaws; are developing a draft of Accountability Practices; both to be confirmed in accordance with the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Human Resources
- Participated in a series of anti-bias training sessions led by AMPlify
- Individual faculty have and continue to engage in various trainings on anti-racism, anti-bias, and microaggressions
- Requested support for further facilitated conversations and trainings from the CAS Dean’s office
- Requested and were approved to hire 3 BIPOC part-time faculty and 1 BIPOC guest artist residency next academic year (note: the department does not directly hire or terminate faculty. It makes recommendations to the CAS Dean’s office for hiring.)
- Applied to search for a Gerardo Marin Diversity Fellow, a USF program that provides a one-year fellowship to scholars of color who are finishing their PhD dissertation or complete a post-doctorate, and may possibly be retained as a full-time faculty member depending on availability of a line.
- Consulted on anti-racist processes for syllabi evaluation
- Began conversations on revisions to the PASJ curriculum
- Identified cross-listed Core F courses with African American Studies
- Created a draft of a Production Standards Manual for production communication processes
- Performing Arts Student Council (PASC), in collaboration with PASJ and STAGES, was awarded a 6+YOU antiracism grant from the university to counter oppression in the performing arts and beyond
- Theater faculty were awarded a 6+YOU antiracism grant from the university to enhance the collection of BIPOC plays in Gleeson Library
- Created BIPOC student affinity group led by FT BIPOC faculty; white affinity/discussion group in progress
- Initiated this report, to be updated at the end of each year
In Fall 2022 PASJ will hold two Town Hall meetings. These will be an opportunity to be in dialog with you, and to hear questions and ideas on the future of PASJ.
Thursday, October 6
Thursday, November 10
Look for details in early Fall 2022
The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of the University of San Francisco, nor of all PASJ Faculty or Staff Members