The administration should amend policies that limit performing-arts CIOs to non-academic spaces
Finding a place to practice indoors is no problem for the University’s football team. The University in the spring opened an indoor practice facility that cost about $14.5 million.
For performing-arts groups, however, finding an indoor practice space is trickier. A recent policy change has limited the abilities of performing-arts CIOs to reserve academic spaces for rehearsals. The change has left a cappella groups, dance groups and others scrambling to book rehearsals in student activity spaces such as Newcomb Hall, Ern Commons, the Student Activities Building and the O’Hill Forum. Some groups, dislodged from their typical practice rooms, have taken to running through dance steps and harmonies outside the Chemistry Building.
We do not mean to set up a misleading opposition between the interests of the football team — a multimillion-dollar enterprise — and the interests of the University’s array of performing-arts groups. Their interests are not mutually exclusive. Nor do we wish to haul forward a tired trope of jocks versus theater kids. But it is disappointing to see the University administration manifest its commitment to the arts with a highly publicized talk from Tina Fey, while at the same time cutting off opportunities for arts groups — the very organizations that nourished Fey’s early appetite for theater.
Before this semester, many performing-arts groups relied on classrooms for daily rehearsals. The Provost’s Office, which has control over academic spaces, voiced concerns that rehearsals were disrupting classes. Amplified music was drawing complaints from teachers. Rather than address noise violations as they came, the Provost’s Office moved to issue a blanket policy prohibiting music, movies and auditions in academic spaces. In a Footloose-esque move, administrators also banned dancing.
Even if the noise concerns were valid, the way the Provost’s Office went about establishing the room-reservation policy was misguided. Administrators instituted the policy without seeking feedback from students who would be affected. For a University that prides itself on student self-governance, the failure to consult students marks a significant lapse in judgment. And the policy itself has already led to less-than-desirable consequences. For these reasons, administrators should work with students to devise a solution as soon as possible.
Performing-arts CIOs were blindsided by the policy change. These groups now face two sets of obstacles in securing rehearsal spaces. First, the types of spaces available to them are limited to student activities spaces. Not all of these are suitable rehearsal rooms. Rooms in Newcomb tend to be too small, whereas the Ern Commons is unnecessarily large. Second, the Source notifies groups 36 hours in advance if they were able to successfully book their desired space. If a group’s reservation request is unsuccessful, it is difficult, if not impossible, to book another space in time for a rehearsal.
The policy change has already stymied the abilities of performance-based CIOs to carry out their basic functions. It could also negatively affect non-performance-based groups. Student activities spaces were difficult enough to book before arts groups were forced to rearrange their rehearsal plans. The policy change has forced performance groups out of academic spaces. If CIOs have to compete for already-limited student activity spaces with an exodus of performing-arts groups, student life will suffer accordingly.
Administrators have seemed receptive to criticisms and conversations thus far, which is promising. We urge the Provost’s Office to amend the room-reservation policy promptly in accordance with student concerns.