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White students excluded from Arizona State theatre performance

UPDATED

The event was ‘made up entirely of students of color’

The theatre department at Arizona State University recently hosted a cabaret show that explicitly barred white students from performing in it.

“The Color Cabaret” is “an opportunity for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) students in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre to create performances that speak to their own experience,” according to a description for the performance held the last weekend in January.

“The cabaret, held Jan. 29 and 30, was made up entirely of students of color, and the songs performed told a story with heart, grace and a cultural flair representing the diverse community at ASU,” The State Press reported.

“This performance also serves as a fundraiser for the BIPOC student scholarship fund, led by the ASU Music Theatre and Opera Student Organization,” the description stated. “Together we celebrate and highlight what makes us different.”

Students directed the show under the direction of ASU Assistant Professor Nathan Myers. It occurred at the university’s Evelyn Smith Music Theatre. The performing arts department helped put on the performance.

“Thanks to Brian DeMaris and our supportive faculty and staff, we have made it known to our entire community that diversity and equity are the pillars that carry this program,” the program for the show stated. “Through hard discussions and active change, the MTO program has made it clear that all Black, indigenous, and People of Color, no matter the artistic background, are free and welcome to take up space here,” student director Jonice Bernard wrote.

A version of “The Color Cabaret” has been going on since at least 2013, according to an article in The State Press. The university held the show virtually last year due to COVID restrictions.

The College Fix emailed communications officers Katie Paquet and Jay Thorne to ask for comment on Monday but did not receive a response.

The Fix asked if they could confirm white students were excluded and if a university attorney had reviewed the event to ensure it complied with the Civil Rights Act. The federal law “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

After publication of the article, ASU’s media office contacted The Fix and sent the following statement:

The Music Theater and Opera Student Organization (MTOSO) is one of hundreds of registered student organizations at ASU. Like every other registered student organization, MTOSO is responsible for planning and organizing its meetings and programming. And like every other registered student organization, MTSO has committed to operating in a manner that does not discriminate. Consistent with that commitment, the MTSO Color Cabaret was open to all Music Theater and Opera undergraduate, graduate, and vocal performance students.

The email was not signed by any particular member of the media relations team.

The Department of Education recently opened an investigation into American University for offering a course only for black students.

MORE: Harvard downplays role in no-whites-allowed music seminar

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with a comment from the university. 

IMAGE: Izabella Hernandez/The State Press

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and a M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.