Kelly Durkin 0

Reduce Budget Cuts to the Cornell Theatre, Film and Dance Department

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In a February 1st meeting with the Cornell Department of Theatre, Film and Dance, Dean LePage of the College of Arts and Sciences revealed that, by May 2011, he anticipates a permanent reduction to the A&S budget of $6 million. Additionally, he announced a permanent cut of $1-2million to TF&D’s annual budget (exceeding the $500K cap discussed last semester), $400K of which will cut by this May. This is not a one-time cut; it means people must lose their jobs. This year, the department’s expenditures are $5.25 million. The A&S College supplies $3.9 million with the remainder coming from the department’s own endowment. Protected tenured professor salaries are roughly $2.2 million, while staff and lecturers’ earnings total $2.3 million. Necessary managerial expenditures and graduate assistantships account for the rest. All raw materials for performances are covered by ticket sales, thus making them self-sustaining and separate from the $5.25 million figure. Therefore, the only possible way to accommodate these cuts is by severe reduction in senior lecturer and staff salaries. Such a loss would absolutely compromise a department nationally recognized for performing arts teaching and research. TF&D studies – the book-learning side – are solely handled by tenured faculty. Dean LePage has pledged to leave this area untouched. However, we are completely reliant on lecturers and staff for laboratory classes - acting, dancing, design, technology, and management- as well as production of all plays, shows, and films - everything you think of when you think of the performing arts. The administration fails to recognize how integral these aspects are to learning, and how they are inseparable from a comprehensive study of the performing arts. These threatened classes and productions are our research; these teachers are our research assistants. To lose these subjects would be to critically and irrevocably impact the academic experience of TF&D students. Cornell would be effectively unable to teach practical, craft-specific material, thus undermining the mission of the department’s creation, and truncating a multifaceted subject to only its social science division. What value would a Theatre Film or Dance degree hold if the student has no experience in actual production? With the reduction of lecturers and staff this cut demands, Cornell cannot offer performing arts. We urge the College of Arts and Sciences not to put such a large proportion of the total budget cuts on one department. The students rely on the expertise and instruction of the very people whom the budget reduction would eliminate. It is on their backs that we have become the nation’s third leading undergraduate performance arts program according to Princeton Review’s Gourman Report, and, as Dean LePage said, that we “enrich the community and, most importantly…touch the lives of thousands of undergraduates,” as evidenced by the 1200 student course registrations the department attracts annually. We are sympathetic to the need for budget cuts, and were willing to work with the original maximum reduction proposal of $500K. What we oppose is destroying the department with this increased cut to solve a short-term crisis, while other schools such as Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and UChicago have demonstrated commitments to build-up their program. We hope Dean LePage, in an effort to remain competitive with other top research universities, will be willing to work with us to find a resolution in talks with the department heads and in budgetary committees, where department needs and College policies can compromise. For, as a Liberal Arts school, we should remember that, “along with the sciences and the humanities, the arts – as they are both experienced and practiced – are irreplaceable instruments of knowledge.” (Harvard Task Force on the Arts, December 2008). We, the following, express our opposition to the proposed budget cuts for the Cornell Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. We urge the College of Arts and Sciences to stand by the originally proposed budget reduction of $500,000.

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