KNOX: No room in the inn
Barring performance groups from rehearsing in classrooms stifles the growth of the arts at the University
Two weeks after Tina Fey talked about the importance of the arts in education, I held improv comedy callbacks in my living room. I want to make a “no room in the inn” joke here, but as funny as we are as a group, it was not a funny situation. The students we called back after auditions should not have had to spend the first minutes of their callback moving my living room furniture into the hallway. The students who I have watched dedicate countless hours to this CIO should not have had to flatten themselves against my walls in order to provide a performance space.
I believe we deserve a voice — and I don’t know of a better way for it to be heard. I believe in the importance of adding our story and our voice to this issue.
I joined Amuse Bouche my second semester at this University. As a first-year student who hadn’t yet found confidence, Amuse Bouche taught me to be sure of myself. The alumni who were then in the position of leading the group welcomed me with open arms and taught me more about improv and life at the University than anything else has. We work hard as an organization to provide for this University something that isn’t here in any other capacity. Improv comedy is unique in many ways, and long-form improv exists nowhere else on Grounds. Twice a semester we welcome new students into our group, and every spring we travel to the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival to attend workshops, shows and bond as an organization. We hold three shows a semester for anyone at the University to attend, and we provide free entertainment at countless philanthropy events for other University organizations. Amuse Bouche single handedly has been the most important thing I have been a part of at the University, and now we are struggling simply to function as an organization.
We cannot hold rehearsals in a living room. We should not have had to hold auditions there. We are not a second-class CIO; we are not worth less than a group whose main focus is on “academics.” If I need to explain to someone the specific life skills that improv has given me, allow me to buy that person a cup of coffee and I will do so. I would love the opportunity to open their eyes to how important it is for students to not only have the opportunity to participate in groups like Amuse Bouche, but also to be encouraged to do so. We should be supporting our students. We should be giving them a push toward the arts, and we should not be making it more difficult to sustain them. I will buy as many cups of coffee for as many people as necessary until that message is understood.
Personally, I have never been as disappointed in this University as I was by the decision to blindly implement these changes in practice room policy. As leaders of CIOs we were not informed, and we were not provided other options. We were hung out to dry. As a tour guide for the University I cannot count the number of times I have shared the story of my University experience, and I cannot emphasize enough the positive responses I have heard from both parents of prospective students and the students themselves of what it meant to them. They want to know that this University is a place that does more than tout statistics and academic rigor. Life, after all, is more than that as well. I am a fourth-year student here. I am academically strong. I have worked part-time jobs throughout my time here — many focused on providing support for students who are interested in attending Thomas Jefferson’s legacy of a University. Never before have I felt on this scale the lack of support from my University. At a school where student self-governance is seen as our most important form of governance, I do not see the students’ voice at work here. At a University where we are told during orientation that we will be treated as adults, I want to know who it was in our community of trust that did not trust us to hold rehearsals in a respectful manner.
The lack of a voice, as a small organization, is crippling. I want to leave this University in a better place than it was when I paid my tuition deposit. I want to leave Amuse Bouche in a stronger place than it was when I joined. And I want our voice to be heard as a part of this movement.