Administration should use umbrella groups to improve communication of policies

To the Editor:

If we were to stage a production of “Macbeth” this weekend and wanted to know whether Lennox’s butter knife in the Act III dinner scene was legal according to Yale regulations, how would we know? Would we rely on short quotes from News articles or the Associated Press? Would we anxiously await a phone call from Betty T ordering us to remove all silverware from our show? As the News pointed out in its Wednesday editorial (“Open dialogue is vital to post-VT healing”), the short-lived ban on stage weapons this past week was more than an unfair restriction of student expression — it was a demonstration of the lack of communication between the Yale administration and the undergraduate theater community. Thankfully, the administration has seen the error in its actions and has rescinded the ban. But before this incident is forgotten, we need to initiate dialogue to avoid future friction and ambiguous discourse between university officials and the student community.

We, the Yale Drama Coalition, hope to open up dialogue between Yale undergrad theater students and the administration at large in order to avoid the re-emergence of muddled regulation stemming from an invisible power. As an umbrella organization for student theater, the YDC has already established a vital network of communication to notify students about auditions, performances, and other events. The Theater Studies Department and the Yale Dramatic Association are also instrumental in disseminating such information among students. If the Yale administration wants to take an active role in monitoring the content and processes of undergraduate theater productions, they would do well to utilize these existing networks of communication and enter into dialogue with Yale students.

The YDC and other campus organizations do their best to address the concerns of the Yale theater community but often find their hands tied by the lack of a two-way medium for change. After the administration deems the Off-Broadway Theater’s floor unsafe for dancers, why aren’t students invited to brainstorm a solution to the issue? After the administration alters the application for Sudler funding to counteract abuse, why aren’t we consulted about the revised regulations? After the administration cuts a fight sequence in consideration of audience sensitivity, why aren’t we welcomed to brainstorm other ways to put audiences at ease? What venue, other than the campus newspaper and external blogs, do we have to seek redress and hold debate? Such disregard on the part of the administration for student input shows a more general disregard for our continuing efforts to improve networks of communication and undermines the effectiveness of student organizations and leaders.

What the Yale undergraduate performing arts community needs is an administrative ambassador who will serve as a liaison to the student community. The Office of Undergraduate Productions does not currently fulfill this role, and there is no mention on the OUP Web site of the weapons ban or the revised regulation. In its current incarnation, the OUP merely enforces the rules — it does not justify them or work with students to create them. We need a forum for open discussion. We need to be included and considered in decisions that affect us directly. We need a medium through which to register complaint. We need a person who will not only command but also reply, not only condemn but also repair, not only ban but also endorse. The Yale Drama Coalition and the Yale undergraduate theater community are tired of working hard to strengthen and integrate our community only to have our efforts stepped on and ignored by higher authorities.

Hence, Betty T, future dean of student affairs, and Yale masters and deans, this is our plea to you: Please respect us, please trust us, please talk with us.

Michael Leibenluft ’10

Catherine O’Hagan Blades ’10

April 26

The writers are vice president and secretary, respectively, of the Yale Drama Coalition.