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Black Lives Matter

Update to Our Commitments

September 2020

 

We write to share our progress with respect to the commitments statement published June 2020, particularly with regard to our efforts to center anti-racism in our work. While making plans to begin a school year in which virtually all classes have moved online to proactively limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission in our community, we remain keenly aware of ongoing global violence against Black people; police brutality; overt anti-Blackness on the part of political leaders and in the media; and racism harming Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in public health, housing, education, employment, and many other aspects of daily life.

In addition, since we last wrote on this subject, we have received the dauntless demands of the We See You White American Theatre collective which, we are proud to say, includes many alumni and current faculty members of the School of Drama as signatories. We regard these demands as a generous contribution to the future well-being of our field, and as a vital launching pad to initiate our own analysis with regard to planning a return to both production and in-person training when public health practices permit.

We know that there is much for our community to learn and much to unlearn. We have formed a committee of faculty and staff who will imagine and propose plans for the inclusive, equitable, and safe return to production at Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre, with an emphasis on developing modes of production that do not depend upon or promote oppressive values or discriminatory practices, while proceeding based on best scientific evidence with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This committee’s work will continue throughout the 20-21 academic year and will proceed in concert with our process to develop clear institution-wide, anti-racist policies and procedures enhancing recruitment, admissions, hiring, onboarding, and retention processes, largely based on the cultural assessment of the School and Yale Rep conducted by CookRoss in 2019-20.

In addition, a list of the School’s significant recent work follows.

We invited Assistant Chief Anthony Campbell of the Yale Police Department (YPD) to a conversation on September 16, with the students, faculty, and staff of the School and Yale Rep, to discuss plans for reframing YPD’s strategies and policies in the wake of the report issued earlier this summer, authored by 21CP Solutions.

Over the summer, every department chair worked to develop preliminary coursework in anti-racism, and all students are required to take Drama 3a/b, Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice, this year. The course will meet both within individual departments and across disciplines, with students and faculty members as fellow learners in pursuit of these goals: to identify the roots and branches of racism and white supremacy in the structures and practices of theater-making in the United States, including at Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre; to interrogate where the practices do harm and hinder; and to invest in the future by inviting students and faculty to imagine and uplift systems and cultures that do not depend upon or promote supremacy, to build a more just and equitable field. Four sessions of this course will be open to the full faculty and staff of the School and Yale Rep, and will be led by Lecturer in Drama, Carmen Morgan, Founder and Executive Director of artEquity, and newly appointed Lecturer in Acting, Nicole Brewer, a national leader in the development of anti-racist theater practice.

In late August, a record number of students participated in Facilitation for Social Change, led by Carmen Morgan and our colleagues at artEquity. Forty members of our faculty, staff, and Board of Advisors participated in artEquity’s Beyond Diversity workshop. In the winter, faculty, staff, and students will have the opportunity to continue working with artEquity as first-year students will take Beyond Diversity and continuing students, faculty, and staff will be strongly encouraged to take the Interrupting Microaggressions workshop, first offered in January 2020. As part of our partnership with artEquity, we commit to evaluating the currently offered training arc with specific focus on developing both ongoing and progressive training requirements.

At the end of this year’s orientation for new and returning students, we designated August 28, the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as an all-School day for activism and self-care.

As noted previously, we will continue full-fee support for any member of the student body, faculty, staff, and board to attend the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond Undoing Racism and Community Organizing Workshop; we are working with Long Wharf Theater and Elm City UROC (Undoing Racism and Organizing Collective) to organize a workshop for the arts community in New Haven when public health conditions permit. Throughout the year, we will underwrite faculty and staff registration for Nicole Brewer’s six-hour workshop, Anti Racist Theatre: A Foundational Course.

For students’ financial aid, we have converted most required work-study employment to scholarship support, with the typical work-study requirement declining from over 200 hours per year to about 30 hours of remote work-study per student for 2020-21; simultaneously, we have increased financial aid to account for increases in living expenses and supplies required for students’ online learning; we are prepared to support students with emergency grants related to the impacts of the pandemic; and we commit to a comprehensive review of all financial aid policies and procedures during the 20-21 academic year.

We continue to maintain and publish information to all members of the community about reliable channels for reporting and remedy of disrespect, discrimination, and harassment in all its forms.

Wherever possible, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraging supervisors to foster flexible work arrangements for staff who are parents or caregivers.

Our redesigned Yale Repertory Theatre website makes clear the history of our efforts to foster equity, diversity, and inclusion, and shortly will include include a complete Yale Rep production history and archive of programs. Within the next year, we expect to add reports published by Yale on the University’s historic relationship to slavery and the land stewarded by Indigenous peoples of what is now the State of Connecticut.

Later in the fall, we will invite alumni of the School to a series of Zoom conversations with the deans and departments chairs, with particular emphasis on holding space for BIPOC alumni to communicate with the administration about their experience in training. We need to acknowledge, attend to, and address these alums; we must prevent and reduce future racial harm, and work toward relationship repair.

We continue to amplify the work of five local organizations, all led or co-led by People of Color, whose vital work we admire, and whom we encourage you to support as you are able:

 

 

These undertakings would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts and dedication to change of our entire community, particularly the faculty and staff who have been working so hard in trying circumstances for the past five months. In addition to preparations for the temporary conversion to a four-year program and the arrival of 74 new students and interns, departments and individuals have made time for self-study and reflection to combat racism in themselves, in our institution, in the field, and in the wider world. We are grateful to them for their open-hearted commitment to each other, themselves, and the School that brings us all together in joyful service to the art form we love.

We want to express our gratitude for the forthright communications we received from our community. We know that our efforts are by no means exhaustive and we endeavor to practice the deep listening needed to address those parts of our culture that are antithetical to our values.

And so, when we encourage anyone to hold us accountable, it is from a place of humility: we receive your offerings as additive to our own personal and institutional accountability measures.

To ensure ongoing transparency and accountability, we will continue to provide updates to our ongoing efforts. Should you have questions or concerns in the meantime, please let us know.

Sincere best wishes,

Deans Signatures

James Bundy
Dean/Artistic Director

Florie Seery
Associate Dean/Managing Director

Chantal Rodriguez
Associate Dean

Kelvin Dinkins, Jr.
Assistant Dean/General Manager

 

 

Our Commitments

June 10, 2020

 

The crisis that grips our nation is ongoing, as violence against Black people continues and requires our dedicated attention. To be in solidarity with our Black colleagues means taking anti-racist action and holding ourselves accountable—not just in this moment, but consistently as part of our mission and commitment to our community members. We must acknowledge transparently key failings of our school and theatre throughout their histories, as well as sharing our ongoing and new commitments to create equity in our organization.

We are grateful that our efforts have been informed and energized by close questioning and encouragement from alumni and friends, and particularly by the June 1 meeting of the School’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group, attended by approximately 80 students, interns, faculty, and staff. Informed by that gathering, we want to acknowledge with sadness the deaths of Tony McDade and Nina Pop, and the national disgrace of historic and ongoing violence against queer and trans Black people and Black women. Black lives matter.

This is a critical moment for us to speak and the work we have to do must be focused and continuous. We must also make concentrated efforts to listen more deeply, and resist reactive and generally unhelpful attempts to find quick “answers” or “solutions.” Our national crisis is wide in scope: undoing white supremacy demands a long span of attention both to ongoing police brutality, and to governmental policies and practices for which we share responsibility with our fellow citizens.

At the same time, we have an immediate responsibility here at Yale not just to do better, but to do differently. Our organization has not paid enough attention to the lived experiences of Black students, interns, faculty, staff, alumni, members of our audience, and fellow residents of New Haven, nor have we understood the depth of pain that has gone unaddressed in our community both past and present. We know that formal, institutionalized statements offering solidarity without accountability measures are not enough and have the potential to do further harm. Therefore, we commit to:

 

  • Supporting the efforts of all members of the Yale University community focused on anti-racist artistic and creative practice, management, teaching, scholarship, and campus life, including public safety;
  • Developing curricula in anti-racism for every discipline of the theater taught at the School of Drama, to guide both classroom instruction and production;
  • Centering the creative work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color theater makers in Yale Repertory Theatre commissioning, development, season planning, and production;
  • Ongoing collaboration with faculty member Carmen Morgan and our colleagues at artEquity, to continue and further develop workshops designed to help students, faculty, and staff to understand the practice of anti-racist activism, with added emphasis in 2020-21 on interrupting microaggressions in our community;
  • Continued full-fee support for any member of the student body, faculty, staff, and board to attend the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond Undoing Racism and Community Organizing Workshop;
  • Interrogating and improving our recruitment, admissions, hiring, onboarding, and retention processes with the aims of further lowering barriers to entry and fostering a more inclusive, welcoming, and sustaining community;
  • Analyzing and adjusting our need-based financial aid policies, with specific attention to the economic impacts of COVID-19, to ensure that all students have equitable access to resources in graduate school;
  • Maintaining reliable channels for reporting and remedy of disrespect, discrimination, and harassment in all its forms;
  • Revamping our performance evaluation system to focus on wellness for all employees and, for supervisors and faculty, to develop criteria for measurable anti-racist leadership in the workplace and classroom, as well as the management of curricula, and the creation of syllabi;
  • Greater institutional acknowledgement and celebration of under-recognized histories and events, beginning with marking Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, as an annual day of institutional observance and focus with no other commitments for employees than celebration and/or reflection, effective June 19th, 2020;
  • Explicitly and prominently sharing on our website, and in other communications to our community and the field, the history and progression of our organization’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, including resources for self-study;
  • Promoting engagement of our community with Greater New Haven colleagues who work on the front lines of anti-racist activism, the arts, education, and community organizing, through advocacy, partnership, and resource sharing. We begin today by shining a light on the work of five local organizations, all led or co-led by People of Color, whose vital work we admire, and whom we encourage you to support as you are able:

 

 

In the interest of fairness, we enthusiastically exhort all of our white colleagues and friends to do the lion’s share of the work to make ours an effectively anti-racist organization. Equitable sharing of power demands speech and action as well as humility from those who have benefited most from white supremacy.

So that we can all learn more through self-study, we take this opportunity to advance the work of our current students, recent alumni, and their colleagues who are committing to promoting Black authors, and Black-owned bookshops. Please visit their Facebook Page here.

We will continue to use our positional power to amplify the calls to action of our colleagues who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We believe in the enormous power of theater—indeed, of all dramatic story-telling—to change the world. But we will not rest in our efforts to change our institution, to hasten long overdue redress of wrongs, and to fashion a theater field ever in service to, and enriched by, the extraordinary creativity of Black students, artists, faculty, and staff members with whom we are privileged to collaborate.

We have named only early steps. We know that more are required, including transparent reports here at Yale and nationwide. Our goal is an accountably inclusive and equitable environment for all in our community: we believe that anti-racism must be the illuminating guide to our collective liberation, leading us toward a bright future for our art form.

Deans signatures

James Bundy
Dean/Artistic Director

Victoria Nolan
Deputy Dean/Managing Director

Chantal Rodriguez
Associate Dean

Kelvin Dinkins, Jr.
Assistant Dean/General Manager

 

 

In Solidarity

May 31, 2020

 

In this time of anguish and righteous anger, Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre stand in solidarity with our beloved Black colleagues and friends, teachers, students, alumni, artists, audiences, and fellow citizens in New Haven and around the world.

We grieve the unconscionable losses of life and liberty we have witnessed, including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among countless others. We see and acknowledge the pain of Black people in the United States through four centuries of oppression.

We are outraged by ongoing, state-sanctioned violence against Black people, and by the official posture of the executive branch of our federal government to incite still more racist violence. We also recognize that racism and white supremacy are often perpetuated and supported by institutions.

In alignment with our core values, we bolster our commitment to interrogating our assumptions and work; to dismantling racism and white supremacy in our own school and theater; and to making YSD/YRT safe and equitable places for our Black colleagues—and all of our colleagues of color—to thrive in life and art.

Drama is action: in the wider world, as in the theater, the actions we must take are to believe and lift up the lived experiences of Black people, and to mobilize our privilege in service of justice for them.

The School and the Rep invite your partnership in this work and welcome your candor in holding us accountable.

James Bundy Signature

James Bundy
Dean/Artistic Director

 

Photo Credits

Yale Repertory Theatre photo © T. Charles Erickson.