Loyola Theatre Anti-Racism Action Plan
Over the course of Summer 2020, in conversation and in writing, we have received feedback from former and current Loyola theatre students about the need for more fully collective anti-racist work within our theatre program. We are deeply sorry that our work in these areas has not been as collective and comprehensive as it should be. As educators, we have an obligation to create a just learning environment where the conditions support artistic and intellectual bravery for all. Creating such an environment requires anti-racist work at the core of all we do.
We acknowledge serious past programmatic complacencies around the need for anti-racist action. Changes need to happen on all fronts: in department processes, policies, and committee structures; in course and curriculum design; in classroom environment; in season selection, casting, and other aspects of production; in student recruitment and retention; in faculty and guest artist recruitment and retention; in student and faculty professional development; in overall transparency of communication; and in other areas. We are sorry that often in our program the work of anti-racism has been regarded as a conversation in a specific moment or a specialty or something that comes in and out of focus, rather than a consistent, consciously-chosen priority of all. We regret that there have been group and/or individual failures to acknowledge the nature and extent of the operation of white privilege or the realities of how systems of White Supremacy, colonialism, imperialism, and Western bias have shaped our assumptions or have been inextricable with dominant practices and curriculum in U.S. theatre and beyond. Often anti-racist engagement has fallen to one person or a few, especially to BIPOC students, staff, or professors. We believe that the responsibility to structure and maintain an expressly anti-racist theatre program should fall especially to white faculty, even as such change is also a responsibility of all of us. We will work to hold each other and ourselves accountable. We also look forward to collaborating with those of you who want to be involved in these ongoing processes, but we know that the responsibility here is ours. The existing Loyola Theatre Program Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Statement, generated in collaboration with students, will be one of our guiding stars as we make continued shifts; at the same time, that statement, too, should be regularly reviewed and revised. We are excited about the individual and collective learning, growth, and additional action that lie ahead.
While we need to engage in collective anti-racist engagement specifically, we also need--as part of the broader context of that work--to engage in more comprehensive, collective anti-oppressive action as a program. We are eager to engage in more collective and individual ongoing learning not only about anti-racist pedagogy but also about a range of trauma-informed and oppression-informed practices for our classrooms, production spaces, and the program as a whole. We will seek and embrace opportunities to learn how our classrooms and production practices can be more responsive to the nuances of identity as well as the insights generated by theories and experiences of intersectionality. We will act with an understanding that the most meaningful learning happens in environments that try to take into account the felt realities of how identities overlap, intersect, and mutually inform each other. We will make decision processes more transparent and involve student representatives more fully whenever possible. We will create more opportunities for students and alumni to express their hopes and needs around the maintenance of (and the constant evolution toward) anti-oppressive spaces. We will collaborate more holistically with on-campus offices whose expertise areas include anti-oppressive practices. We will build and more actively highlight an array of pathways for students to express their questions and concerns with confidence that they will be received with careful listening and empathy. We will more actively remind students of how they can access existing systems for raising concerns with the University.
We will also embrace the importance of prioritizing impact over intention, in both interpersonal interaction and program decision-making. We understand that doing so is a fundamental aspect of anti-racist work specifically and anti-oppression work in general. We look forward to listening actively to student experiences so that practices can constantly evolve based on those insights. We acknowledge that, even within anti-racism movements or other movements organizing against oppression, there are of course divergent approaches and points of view. As we move forward, we will remain mindful that, even when a choice may be made with anti-racist intention, it could also still have reverberations that are experienced as counter to that intention. We will facilitate more open community discussion of complexities so that we can engage more collectively and inclusively toward justice.
We can do better. We must do better. We will do better. We recognize that these phrases are being spoken repeatedly in this historical moment, but they are nonetheless sincere and heartfelt. As our action plan below attests, we know that statements are in many ways mere words. Only sustained action will demonstrate our genuine commitment to change. The action plan below is also a living document; it will and must continue to evolve regularly, in consultation with students, alumni, university collaborators, and our broader field. We are also paying careful attention to a range of ongoing and recently initiated movements for racial justice in theatre and in academia, and we will work to actively fold recognition of the insights and demands of those movements into our evolution.
Thank you again to our community for catalyzing our collective reflection and action.
Finally, we acknowledge that the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade--among countless other instances of systematic destruction of Black lives--were among some of the most prominent acts of violence that sparked this specific historical moment of more widespread U.S. uprising against racism and anti-Blackness specifically. We state unequivocally that Black Lives Matter and that we have an obligation to help dismantle anti-Blackness in higher education and in the broader world. We also acknowledge that this moment of more widespread institutional reflection happening across the U.S. theatre and the U.S. academy (and other fields and contexts) arrives as a result of anti-racist labor that has been done by BIPOC individuals, communities, and institutions for an achingly long time, work that has historically often gone unsupported or even been actively thwarted or opposed by white people. As we pursue our action plan and continue learning, we will be indebted to insights built or collected by BIPOC activists, organizers, educators, and artists, as well as other people who have experienced systematic oppression. We pledge to honor that history of labor with seriousness of purpose.
Recognizing that the work of anti-racism must be ongoing and requires continuous learning and structural revision, the Loyola Theatre Program will continue to revise and update this action plan. We will be requesting resources from the College of Arts and Sciences and the University to support these initiatives.
These action items represent our collective desire to reflect our values in action more fully and consistently. As the academic year unfolds, some actions specified below may be amended or supplanted by other anti-racism initiatives by the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the College of Arts and Sciences, the university-wide Anti-Racism Initiative, or the newly formed Institute for Racial Justice.
Though this document is labeled as an Anti-Racism Action Plan explicitly, there are some items included below that will intersect with anti-racist work but that also relate to a range of other areas of anti-oppressive work or to other aspects of professional theatre practice: actions related to changing structures around trauma-informed learning, casting, intimacy direction, fight choreography, or other elements of work relevant to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion not always explicitly linked with race any more than with other aspects of identity. We include these categories of action not to conflate them directly with race or anti-racist work specifically, but instead as recognition of the ways that forms of identity, experience, and oppression intersect and overlap. In this respect, some action items work toward the advancement of anti-oppressive structures overall, recognizing that those structures have implications for creating the conditions necessary for sustained anti-racist work.
- We will more regularly review how our curriculum can hold and enact anti-racism as a core program value. A range of revisions to syllabi for Fall 2020 have already taken place and will continue. More substantive changes will be made over time and will especially be a focus of our upcoming program review.
- Expanding on the work that has been happening in some courses already, we will conduct a more comprehensive review of course sequences through the lenses of anti-racist pedagogy as well as a range of other pedagogies focused on social justice, diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. This work will be a focus of our upcoming program review with input from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and insights from professional association resources. Our curricular review will examine not only the theatre major course requirements but also the course sequences for minors associated with our program.
- We will offer a course in Fall 2021 on intersections of race and performance. Reflective of focus requests from students and alumni, this course will also cover recent related controversies, inequities, and anti-racist initiatives in the theatre. This course will be taught by an instructor with specialization and experience in the theory, history, and/or practice of theatre by BIPOC artists. As part of our upcoming program review, we will explore the most effective means for incorporating studies of race in/and performance more permanently into our required curriculum.
- Theatre faculty and production staff will continue to attend training workshops, seminars, and conference panels on anti-racist pedagogy and other forms of programming related to anti-oppressive classroom and rehearsal room facilitation.
- Additional mechanisms for ensuring ongoing DEI-related learning by the faculty and staff will be determined in consultation with the offices of the Acting Assistant Provost for Academic Diversity, the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
- We will invest resources of time and funding in theatre-specific training to help us more comprehensively reflect the following in our classrooms and productions: social justice, anti-racism specifically, and a range of other practices related to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. We will actively incorporate student and alumni feedback in the development of new (or revision of) policies and practices inspired by this ongoing learning. We will invite students into these theatre-specific training opportunities when the circumstances permit us to do so.
- Theatre faculty and production staff will continue to attend higher-education workshops and theatre-specific workshops on trauma-informed practices and will work to integrate those practices in our classrooms.
- We will refer to the Loyola Theatre Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement as a primary guide to our values regarding recruitment and retention. (Per that statement, anti-racism is one of many DEI-related values that we will enact related to recruitment and retention; this specific action plan, however, focuses primarily on retention of BIPOC students specifically, but with simultaneous plans to be developed to deepen our efforts related to recruitment, retention, and support of all students who are also historically underrepresented in college and university theatre departments.)
- We will develop strategies to more effectively and meaningfully connect with prospective BIPOC students—locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
- We will invest in building a more intensive collaboration with the Office of Admissions to figure out how to support as concretely as possible the ability and desire of BIPOC theatre students to accept offers of admission to Loyola.
- We will work with the university to engage ongoing research around systemic racism and its impact on the national college admissions process and to advocate for change.
- Recognizing that retention of BIPOC students and other historically underrepresented students is intimately linked to sustained commitment to hosting a learning environment that supports the conditions of their thriving, we will pay careful attention to this action plan as one of the most important aspects of working to support the retention of BIPOC students and other students historically underrepresented in our program.
- We will work with a range of campus offices to learn how we can continue to expand our capacity to support the holistic well-being of BIPOC students. In other words, we will continue our learning about how we can enact Loyola’s attention to cura personalis—care for the whole person—through the specific lenses of racial justice and anti-racism.
- Because identities and experiences overlap and intersect, we will continue to value and learn about how a range of other anti-oppressive practices enact cura personalis and social justice more broadly.
- The theatre faculty will hone past prioritization of diversity in scholarship awards and will work with the broader university as well as our funding communities to request that patrons of scholarship funds indicate intention to support the matriculation of BIPOC students specifically.
- We will revise student work-study hiring practices to increase and deepen transparency, diversity, equity, access, and inclusion.
- Search committee members for faculty and staff hires will complete anti-racism training regularly, in line with the Provost Office’s directives and our stated values. That work will in some cases be a continuation of ongoing learning.
- We will seek the advice of professional organizations about the most effective ways to ensure that job notices reach the widest array of BIPOC artists, teachers, and scholars possible.
- We will work with the office of the Assistant Provost for Academic Diversity to ensure that we are doing all that we can to cultivate and sustain an environment that is supportive of BIPOC full-time faculty, part-time faculty, staff, and guest artists.
- In keeping with program planning in Spring 2020, our next full-time faculty search will be for a professor whose areas of expertise include study or practice of theatre made by artists who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color. By September 30, 2020, the faculty will have completed a draft proposal for such a hire so that it is ready when the department is permitted to make its next hire. We will continue to prioritize such areas of expertise beyond that next hire as well.
- In June, as part of the broader Loyola Anti-Racism Initiative, the Provost’s Office announced a plan to utilize cluster hires for professors from racial/ethnic groups that have been historically underrepresented in academia. The Theatre Program will put together a proposal that pursues cluster hiring and demonstrates ways that cluster hires could allow us to meet our DEI goals. Cluster hires may involve collaboration across DFPA disciplines.
- The Theatre Program will dedicate resources to guest lecturer fees aimed at augmenting existing relationships with BIPOC educators and at building new relationships with additional BIPOC educators in the region and beyond.
- This summer we revised our Main Stage Season Selection Process. At the core of that process is the creation of a new Main Stage Selection Committee with robust, consistent, and powerful student representation on that committee. You can review the plan here.
- When filling production positions, the theatre program will prioritize hiring artisans and specialists with a combination of strong teaching skills, anti-racism and anti-trauma training, and expertise in theatrical practice by BIPOC artists.
- The Production Staff will do diligent research to direct production spending toward BIPOC-owned businesses and, when that is not possible, toward other businesses with explicitly anti-racist commitments. Staff will also follow all university policies regarding purchasing.
- Loyola Theatre production will prioritize resources for certified intimacy coordinators and fight choreographers, recognizing the implications of these positions for creating an actively anti-oppressive environment.
- A range of other action items related to anti-racism but also related to broader anti-oppression work in theatrical production (examples: actions regarding casting practices, definitions of consent, intersections between trauma-informed pedagogy and intimacy direction, etc.) are included under the “Standards and Practices” committee section below.
Reconstituted or New Committees Whose Work Intersects with Anti-Racism
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The Theatre Program will reconfigure its past versions of a Loyola Theatre Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee so that the committee works in a more systematized, robust, ongoing way. The committee will be composed of current students, faculty, and staff. We will determine the most just and equitable way of composing this reconstituted committee in consultation with other campus offices. This committee will be able to request time to bring a question or concern to a faculty meeting. The committee will evolve its focus as it collectively sees fit, but we anticipate that likely areas of focus will include but not be limited to:
- Making ongoing recommendations on how we can live the values of our existing Loyola Theatre program DEI statement through our actions.
- Conducting ongoing review and revision of the existing Loyola Theatre program DEI statement, subject to approval by the Loyola theatre faculty and staff.
- Curating and developing facilitated discussions or other programming in support of the department’s DEI goals.
- Selecting three students to be representatives for the Main Stage Season Selection Committee (and preparing alternates as needed).
- Selecting student representatives to provide feedback during faculty and staff searches.
- Clarifying procedures for students, staff, or faculty to make DEI-relevant suggestions for future programming or aspects of program practices.
- Exploring how to promote awareness and continuing education about anti-racist vocabularies and social justice perspectives from contexts outside the U.S. to avoid centering exclusively U.S.-based perspectives and vocabularies.
- Supporting the Director of Theatre in ensuring that students, staff, and faculty are provided in multiple venues with information about the range of channels available for communicating concerns or filing grievances, at the departmental level and at the university level.
- Communicating that alumni are always welcome to approach the committee with questions, suggestions, or structural concerns. Clear pathways to do so will be highlighted. In addition, via social media, the DEI committee will formally invite alumni to join them for at least one committee meeting annually.
- Standards and Practices Committee. A full description of this committee’s duties can be found in Open Governance. First tasks of this committee that intersect with anti-racism will include but not be limited to:
- Creating guidelines, templates for, and examples of production-specific casting philosophy statements.
- Proposing, if the committee deems advisable, a program-wide casting philosophy statement that identifies base principles or approaches.
- Reviewing all existing production policies and practices (including those related to things like, for example, intimacy coordination and fight choreography) with an emphasis on the need for practices that are anti-racist, trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, transparent, and reflective of other values that enhance accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Alumni Advisory Committee. It is the hope of the Theatre Program that our community of alumni might join us in support of the action items above and our growth to come. Depending on interest and availability from alumni, we look forward to hosting the creation of this volunteer committee, which would be composed entirely of alumni and meet, minimally, semiannually. We recognize the valuable perspectives our alumni hold on 1) theatre industries, 2) adjacent entertainment industries such as voiceover, film, television, and live events, and 3) the application of a theatre degree to other fields. We hope this committee could help facilitate insightful, ongoing two-way alumni communication with the Director of Theatre and engage in support of our anti-racism action plan, values, and growth.
- In consultation with other campus offices, the program will structure a range of approaches for ongoing community conversation related to anti-racism specifically and to other aspects of maintaining our stated values of diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and justice. The DEI committee will help ensure that such conversations occur in an ongoing way.
- Before the start of Fall 2020 classes, the Director of Theatre will identify multiple mechanisms for students to communicate concerns about the Loyola theatre program. Mechanisms will seek to ensure that students feel like the act of expressing concerns is removed from dynamics related to casting and selection for other department opportunities. We will create and draw special attention to a roadmap for how students can access these mechanisms as well as university-wide mechanisms for communicating any questions or concerns related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
These commitments come together to constitute a living document. We aim to deepen, sharpen, refine, and expand them over time, as our ongoing collective and individual learning continue.
To learn more about anit-racist efforts across Loyola University, visit the Division of Academic Affiairs Anti-racism Initiative.
Return to the Transparency Page