February 24, 2011

Letter to the Editor: On the changes to the Department of Theatre, Film, and Dance

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To the Editor:

Re: “Theatre Department Considers Restructuring Majors,” News, Feb. 17

We’re grateful for The Sun’s interest in the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance as it restructures both its curriculum and its performance and events season. Cornell students and the community at large deserve to be accurately updated as changes take place. That being said, a number of statements in The Sun’s article need to be addressed.

First, some classes may no longer be offered, but new classes are also being created. While there may be fewer classes in some specific areas, there is no reason to assume that there will be fewer classes overall, or that the balance of classes across the department will shift markedly.

Second, what we do will not be less experiential. One of the core values in our department’s new Performance and Media model is to facilitate the integration of theory and practice. The majority of our new curricular rubrics — three out of five — name creative, experiential processes as core elements of our teaching. Also, we will continue to offer multiple ways in which students can be involved in productions.

Third, we are committed to both disciplinary training and cross-disciplinary explorations. We will lose neither depth nor focus, but students will be encouraged to also explore different kinds of movement, performance and media. A central conversation in the Performance and Events committee is how to retain and strengthen our artistic output to more effectively support students’ initiation and development of creative work. We imagine work on an interdisciplinary level that will make the boundaries within our department more flexible and foster future exploration and collaboration, both within and beyond our department.

Fourth, while we said, “We envision that revised departmental major requirements will be in place for students entering Cornell in Fall 2011,” we just learned this will not occur until the following year. The full implementation of these changes will take several years. As a result, our course offerings in 2011-2012 will not look very different from this year’s, although some new or revised classes will begin to appear.

We’re too early in the process to make definitive statements about what the department will look like in a few years. As we move forward, we hope that The Sun will provide depth and insight in its reporting on the department, the restructuring process and the emerging, new production/events season and new curriculum. We are concerned that, despite requests to do so, the article did not include comments from the Chair of the Performance and Events Committee, who would know best how productions might look in the future. The Cornell community depends on careful and balanced reporting; we look forward to working with The Sun to ensure that changes in our department are represented accurately.

Prof. J. Ellen Gainor, curriculum committee chair, theatre, film and dance

Prof. Sabine Haenni, outreach and collaboration committee chair, theatre, film and dance

Prof. Beth Milles, performance and events committee chair, theatre, film and dance

Prof. Amy Villarejo, chair, department of theatre, film and dance