Responding to the Call

An Apology to all past and current BIPOC SU Drama Students:

We recognize that for many BIPOC students, change has taken far too long, has not come quick enough and has not gone far enough. We are committed to action, and to meaningful systemic change. We hope that the information shared here demonstrates that action has been ongoing since our receipt of the Call to Action.

The following apology was approved by the SU Drama faculty on September 29, 2020. As befits a statement of this importance, it has since then been undergoing thorough review by all necessary personnel and offices, to ensure that the final statement is one that we can all fully stand behind and to which we can be held accountable.

On June 15, 2020, a public Call to Action was issued to us by alumni and current students to address pervasive structural racism in the department. That call generously and bravely included ten specific testimonials of the harm done by faculty to BIPOC (and especially Black) students during their training, and twenty action steps aimed at helping faculty recognize this harm and prevent it from happening again.

The faculty would like to apologize to its BIPOC alumni and current students.

We know that the testimonials received are only a few selected instances of a larger problem. Through them, we have seen and heard that we and the education we delivered: upheld bias towards whiteness in our curriculum and measures of success; promoted stereotypes and prejudice in our approaches to BIPOC actors and stories; and – because of our power to hold audience in a classroom, determine grades and disseminate artistic opportunities – upheld a model of training that inflicted emotional and artistic harm on BIPOC students. Through both action and inaction, we clearly made BIPOC students feel both individually and collectively invisible, and we required of them more work than we required of white students to meet the needs of a predominantly white curriculum, while simultaneously affording them fewer opportunities. For all of this, we apologize.

We also apologize for our failure to address these problems sooner. In our inaction, we leaned further into our own privilege. We failed to hold each other accountable, and we created a situation in which those who experienced racial trauma then had to relive it, in order to bring it again to our attention and suggest a plan for change.

Neither collective nor individual apologies can undo the pain of your experience. We are mindful that changes made now, and in the future, will yield benefits that cannot be enjoyed by those who are calling us to action at present. We honor that fact by amplifying our commitment to meaningful change.

We, as both individual members of the faculty and as a department overall, have a long way to go to achieve the potential you see in us. We understand that the acceptance of this apology may be contingent on our fulfilment of those commitments that we have already made, and those that we will continue to make. We thank you for the difficult work you undertook to call us to action.

We commit to a transparent and ongoing process. To that end, we have created this page and will publish regular updates here as additional steps are taken.

Respectfully yours,

The SU Drama Faculty

Please note that at its end-of-year retreat, the faculty passed nine motions related to Call to Action responses. Those can be viewed here.

Specific demands in the Call to Action have been addressed as follows:

Current SU Drama Black Performance Major Demands

Current SU Drama Black Non-Performance Major Demands