Activists accused the department’s curriculum of being ‘steeped in white supremacy’
A group of current and former theatre students at Ithaca College has set an October 1 deadline for the private college in New York to fulfill two of its ten demands.
If these demands are not met, the group has plans to publicly call for the resignation of theatre department administrators and faculty who “repeatedly exhibited racist behavior and white supremacist ideologies” while teaching in the theatre department, according to the initial July 30 letter published on Medium.
The activist group, which calls itself ICTA BIPOC for “Ithaca College Theatre Arts Black, Indigenous and People of Color,” reiterated its threat in a September 22 Instagram post.
“We are ten days away from October 1st,” the group wrote, tagging the theatre arts department’s Instagram account. The last post from the department’s Instagram account is a May 31 statement in support of Black Lives Matter.
The College Fix reached out to ICTA BIPOC twice in the past week over email and Instagram but did not receive a response.
One demand is for the university to create a committee of faculty, staff and students to investigate any complaint of racism by students.
The second demand is for mandatory diversity, “unconscious bias” and racism training for everyone in the theatre department.
University officials have largely remained silent, except for one response on September 10. The Fix reached out to the theatre department multiple times, twice via phone call and twice via email in the past week, but did not receive a response.
The university’s communications office did not respond to two emailed requests from The Fix for comment in the past week nor a voicemail left with Danica Fisher, an associate director of public relations.
Campus officials responded on September 10 to the demands in part. The BIPOC group wrote that the university agreed to appoint two “Equity, Diversity and inclusion facilitators” and to begin “anti-racist work for faculty and staff” according to a September 11 Instagram post.
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Individual members of our collective have received the emailed response letter from Ithaca College Department of Arts. • ICTA BIPOC is continuing to hold the department accountable for their traumatizing actions and neglect. • We recognize the department’s beginning stages of work to become anti-racist and create an equitable environment for ALL students. We look forward to their action plan before October 1.
“We recognize the department’s beginning stages of work to become anti-racist and create an equitable environment for ALL students,” the activist group wrote. “We look forward to their action plan before October 1.”
The group first laid out its demands in July in a post addressed to the university administration and the theatre department.
The post explained how there is a history of racism within the theatre department and the university. It said the theatre department “continues to perpetuate racist internalized beliefs”
The activists accused the department’s curriculum of being “steeped in white supremacy.”
They want the theatre department to hire more minority faculty and cast students in “racially and ethnically appropriate actors.”
The school’s use of classical works is a “message of white supremacy” because the works are generally from “white, cisgendered, able-bodied men.”
Minority students have faced “traumatic treatment” from the theatre department. The result is that minority students have lost their “passion for the craft.”
“It is imperative that you move forward understanding how your actions have lasting effects on current and past BIPOC students.”
“We want Ithaca to be everything it was sold to us as: open-minded, progressive, nurturing and rigorous. This is an opportunity for the faculty to act decisively to protect and nurture its students of color. It is not enough for an institution to not be racist. It must be actively anti-racist,” stated the letter.
The July 30 demand letter also promised that if demands were not met then alumni will not provide donations to the Dillingham Theatre School in the future.
The alumni will advocate against the accreditation of the theatre school on alumni’s resumes, handbooks, or personal websites, and there will be a “public denouncement of the Ithaca College department of Theatre Arts for its lack of responsibility in regards to their BIPOC students,” the activists wrote.
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