July 6th, 2020

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Faculty and Staff of Winthrop University's Department of Theatre & Dance

 
 
 

 

To Winthrop University’s CVPA Department of Theater and Dance:

The documented murders and abuse of African Americans in the last several weeks

have once again called our nation to confront the harsh realities of its racist legacies. It has

asked all of us once again to engage in the levels of introspection needed to both confront and

dismantle institutionalized racism in both professional and academic arenas. It is important to

note that in light of this current resurgence of reform, neither individual nor institutions are clear

of complicity in the centuries-long degradation of and violence against Black and Brown people.

Winthrop University’s Department of Theatre & Dance is no exception to this offense.

On June 4th, 2020, we the alumni and current students of Winthrop University's College

of Visual and Performing Arts, were disturbed by the shallow and performative Facebook post

issued from the WU Department of Theatre and Dance that boldly stated: “BLACK LIVES

MATTER”. This department possesses a long-standing history of dismissing, alienating,

tokenizing, and discriminating against Black and Brown students. Led by chair Daniel Gordon,

the department has and continues to ignore the concerns and needs of its Black and Brown

students, while simultaneously benefiting off of their bodies under the guise of “diversity”.

Through Gordon’s egregious levels of inaction and silence, he has in turn upheld the

discriminatory infrastructure and perpetuated the anti-black culture that pervades his

department; a culture that continues to negatively impact the artistic growth of students of color

at the expense of white comfortability. It has been documented that this program has permitted

the abuse of its students of color at the unmerciful hands of faculty members, denied said

students the right to showcase stories rich with their own cultural heritage on the mainstage,

and inflicted lasting trauma that has hauntingly followed alumni into their post-Winthrop careers.

Therefore, we demand to see changes in policies, curricula, hiring, and faculty training that will

ensure the department’s commitment to protecting and enriching the lives of its Black and

Brown students.

Through collaboration and sharing our experiences, we have identified several

opportunities that were presented over the years to the department chair by students to drive

change. These students and their needs were rejected, invalidated, and brushed aside. This

cannot continue. Therefore, the current students and alumni of the WU CVPA Department of

Theatre and Dance demand the following changes be enacted within the program, changes we

believe will mutually benefit both the department and its students as we work to distance our

department from its racist culture:

● We demand the investigation and termination of any faculty member guilty of

committing racial aggressions, cultural appropriation, and/or utilizing intimidation tactics

of abuse towards BIack/POC students.

We ask for a specific investigation, conducted by an external, independent body,

into tenured professor Stephen Gundersheim for aggressions perpetrated against

Black/POC students, both current and alumni.

 

● For each academic year/performance season, at LEAST two mainstage productions

(one for theatre and one for dance) are written/choreographed by a Black/POC

playwright/choreographer.

● For the department to resolve the imbalance in curriculum that centers white/Western

theatre and dance history/texts/traditions by incorporating more works by Black/POC

choreographers and playwrights, and revising class syllabi to cover the rich histories and

performance traditions of Africa, Asia, and South America.

○ African American Theatre should be a requirement for all theatre students to

graduate and should be taught by a Professor of Color.

 

● Hiring Black/POC full-time faculty members in the performance, musical theatre, dance,

and design/tech concentrations.

In the wake of Anna Sartin’s retirement, a Black/POC design/tech professor

should be hired to replace her position.

○ Until the department's faculty positions are filled with at LEAST 50% Black/POC

professors, the department must bring in a Black/POC guest artist each

academic year to build a relationship with and cultivate talent in the department.

● The immediate abolishment of hair and nail requirements listed in any and all dance

syllabi as they are specifically discriminatory against Black female dancers.

● Institute mandatory anti-racist/Implicit Bias/Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Training for ALL

faculty members.

● For the Student Advisory Council to meet regularly (with representation from at least one

Black/POC student and one Black/POC faculty member) to represent and address

Black/POC student’s concerns/needs in the department.

We make these demands because we believe in the potential of this department. We

believe in its potential to foster real change, create safe spaces for all, acknowledge and care

for the mental and emotional wellbeing of its students, and most importantly, be a champion for

the Black and Brown artistic voice. We know that this department can do better, and it is our

sincere hope that the faculty have already mobilized to make some of the changes we’ve listed

above. However, we fully intend to ensure that these demands are enacted in a timely manner.

The prioritization of white narratives and white experiences must stop. It is not enough to be

non-racist. The department of Theatre and Dance must be anti-racist by recognizing and

dismantling the white supremacy that exists within its own educational institution. No individual

or institution can claim ignorance to the pervasive threats of white supremacy or the systems

that uphold it. Though four-hundred years of damage has already been done, it is never too late

for change. We look forward to learning the department’s strategy and next steps. We demand,

but believe, that they will take this opportunity to step forward and fully exemplify its statement,

Black Lives Matter, with action.

Sincerely,

Present and Past Students of Winthrop University Department of Theatre and Dance

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Founding Signatures

 
 
 

Erica J. Truesdale 

Riley Ketcham

Fatima Camara-Aminu

Corey Sales

Le'ianna Gladden

Aisha S. Addison

Cameron Drayton

Ke'Shawna Brown

Amber Jones

Brianna Young

Brittani Moore

Stacey Packer

Shakira Wiggins

Candiace Rice

Sean Rodriguez 

Leah Smith

Amery Miller

Dani Lilley

Rachel King

Beth Byouk

 
 
 
 
 

Jasmine Gunter

Rodrick Freitas

Kennedy Crosby

Sean Riehm

Loren Mixon

Phylisha White

Andrew White

Sharifa Yasmin

Tessa Zimmerman

Nora Webb

Shivam Patel

Sean Johnson

Philip Calabro

Dane Inez Calabro

Rayana Briggs

Hampton Ballowe

Deonte Streeter

Stephanie Seabrooks

Tim McFall

Zeke Jones

 
 
 
 
 

We have 1000 signatures click on PDF file to view!

Kevin Aoussou

Luna Mackie

Fark Farris

Brittany Mayo Freitas

Dionte Darko

Caylen Michels

Sydney Taie

Sydney Bertsch

William A. Keen

Jordan McKoy

Stephanie Schley

Michelle Perri

Zachary Morrison 

Titus B. Quinn

Lauren Macdonald

Cindy Stowe

Scarlett Miranda

Anna Bello

Jordan Mickle

 
 
 
 
 
 

WANT TO JOIN OUR MOVEMENT?

 
 
 

For additional questions or concerns, please email us at lightsupwu@gmail.com

 
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