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As a theatre lover and participant in the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance, I can not help but take it personally that my college, The College of Arts and Sciences, has decided to impart 1/3 of its 6 million dollar cut on this department out of the 37 departments within the College.
This two million dollar blow is of great concern. After talking with many of my constituents, everyone is worried about how much of an impact this cut will have on the entire University and the greater Ithaca community.
This Theatre department has a motto: everyone is welcome. Just like in the ever-referenced Breakfast Club, the Schwartz center gives the misfits, the needy, the confident and the nerds all a home. Not only are students welcome in this open environment, but the faculty and staff participate greatly as well.
The College stated that they would keep tenured professors in order to maintain the integrity of the department. However, going back to the argument that everyone is welcome in theatre, all people in their respective positions have equally important roles in developing and teaching the arts. It does not matter if the teacher has the title and the degree of tenured professor for their work to be useful, enlightening and in some cases life changing.
The Theatre, Film and Dance department depends on the invaluable skill sets possessed by the stage managers, costume designers, film technicians, Resident Professional Teaching Associates, carpenters, and prop coordinators found within the department. The cut indirectly asserts that the work of these professionals is less significant in the program than that of a tenured professor.
Additionally, the entire University needs to understand that by applying this cut it will not only effectively destroy the department but will “lose students, talent and future professional development opportunities”. Many students pick Cornell’s Theatre, Film and Dance department over many conservatory colleges such as the esteemed New York University Tisch School of the Arts because it offers them a true liberal arts education while still teaching them the fundamental practices of theatre.
An opportunity most students are not given at other institutions is the privilege to work with professional actors through the Residential Professional Teaching Associate Program. These actors teach the Introduction to Acting classes, where students who may not have a background with theatre get to interact with and learn from the life experiences of working artists. The most significant aspect of having these associates is that they act onstage with students in productions, making the Schwartz Center an Equity theatre. This gives students the coveted chance to get Actor’s Equity points to further their theatre careers.
A wonderful part of our department’s lure over conservatories is that we have an astounding amount of opportunities for anyone that wants to act in productions, whether they are theatre, pre-med or engineering majors. There are at least two main stage theatrical productions put on by the Schwartz Center every semester, as well as the black box theatre that is designed to support both professional work and student directed plays. All of these performance opportunities enhance students’ academic experience at Cornell while further developing their craft and if cut will severely harm cultural life on campus.
With many of my constituents’ hurt and disappointment ringing in my ears, this blog is the least I can do in order to express my sympathy and support for the Schwartz Center. I hope that Dean Lepage (the dean of Arts and Sciences) will listen to my plea to appear in front of the Student Assembly in order to address questions concerning the detailed decisions of such a drastic cut. My peers and I would like to know why such a disproportionately large chunk of the budget will be taken from the Theatre, Film and Dance department and when further cuts are coming. I was elected to listen, talk and advocate for all students within the College of Arts and Sciences and as more cuts come, (which they will because 4 million dollars remain to be cut) I will be here to represent you.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.
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