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Texas Tech University has responded to a letter penned by students and alumni regarding The J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts' School of Theatre and Dance’s hiring policies.

The letter, dated June 30th, 2020, says Texas Tech’s School of Theatre and Dance has "...historically lacked diversity in faculty, staff, and season selection which has resulted in displays of tokenism, racist depictions of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals on stage, and the further perpetuation of systemic racism, among other problematic behaviors."

The letter, which can be read in full at Scribd, makes a series of demands, including a change in hiring policies that will result in a faculty composed of at least 50 percent black, indigenous, or people of color, by the year 2031. The letter also demands a change in curriculum and mandatory micro-aggression and diversity training for all staff, faculty and students.

The School of Theatre and Dance’s Interim Dean, Genevieve Durham DeCesaro, responded to the letter on behalf of Texas Tech University. "This call to action brings forward valid and urgent concerns and is our first step on a path to change," said DeCesaro.

DeCesaro added that a group has been formed within the School of Theatre and Dance that is examining its curricula and policies. She also said the College of Visual and Performing Arts is currently in a leadership transition and will partner with the university’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to recruit faculty members of color.

Read the full response issued by Texas Tech and Genevieve DeCesaro:

On June 30th, a group of current and former Texas Tech University students submitted a Call to Action document describing a culture of systemic racism in Texas Tech University’s J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Theatre and Dance. In response to that Call to Action and also in recognition of a need to acknowledge and confront former and current practices and policies in the arts, the university, including the President, and college administration issued a statement including the following:

We hear the call and we are prepared to listen and work together to ensure we have a college environment that is welcoming and supportive of all voices.

It is a priority of the present and incoming administration in the J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts to examine historical practices in the units that have a role or impact – accidental, purposeful, inherent or not – in the structures that privilege one community over others. This call to action brings forward valid and urgent concerns and is our first step on a path to change. We, the university and college administration, are committed to walking this path with you. We know this will require strength, perseverance, and adaptability. We are grateful for the students and alumni who have called attention to these issues while simultaneously sharing their willingness to work with us on solutions.
Since that statement was issued, action has been taken. A working group in the School of Theatre and Dance convened in the first days of July and has met frequently since then. This working group presently includes faculty and staff members and will expand to students as they begin their fall semesters. The working group has identified steps that the School of Theatre and Dance can take to examine its curricula and policies and has also communicated directly with representatives of the group issuing the Call to Action. Additionally, the J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts, currently in a leadership transition, will fund arts initiatives that research and give voice to student experiences with racism and other forms of oppression on our campus. Further, we are partners with the university’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and work diligently with that unit to recruit faculty members of color across Theatre and Dance and the schools of Music and Art.

The Call to Action issued by our current and former students is important. The J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Theatre and Dance are committed to change. Actions we have already taken that are described above will be followed by more comprehensive plans that include strategic goals over the coming semester and extending beyond to five- and ten-year goals for addressing and eliminating racism and other forms of systemic oppression from who we are and what we do. I look forward to meeting with students at the start of the fall term to continue this critical work.
Sincerely,

Genevieve Durham DeCesaro

Interim Dean Designate

J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts