|A Liberal View|
The federal mediator in my complaint against Augusta State University asked to put in writing what I wanted to happen. I sent him this:
Augusta State University to adopt the following policy: “Theatre and Music majors will be given first consideration the casting of all ASU productions, then the Student Body at large, followed, on rare occasions, by faculty or guest artists.” This is similar to the policy at the University of Georgia.
Since this is my last semester as a Communications/Theatre undergraduate and since I have not been cast in a main, professor-directed production, that I be guaranteed a role (any) in the next ASU theatre production.
ASU responded with this:
1. Alternative Statement in Response to Settlement Proposal Item 1:
Augusta State University will adopt the following policy:
The Department of Communications and Professional Writing at Augusta State University routinely offers two main stage productions each year and a program of student one-act plays. Because these productions are developed for a paying audience, a focus on excellence is emphasized. Casting sessions are open to any student, staff, faculty member, member of the community, or guest artist on a competitive basis. Registered students who are in the theatre track of the communications major will be given priority consideration for roles. The director of each production is responsible for final decisions and has the freedom to cast people he/she believes are best for particular roles. Guest artists may be cast to provide students with the experience of working with theatrical professionals. The Department is committed to diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity for all.
2. Alternative Statement in Response to Settlement Proposal Item 2:
While the Department of Communications and Professional Writing has not yet selected the play(s) to be featured in the main stage production for the fall semester 2012, Mr. Greene is enthusiastically encouraged to audition for the production. As a registered student majoring in the theatre track of communications, he will be given priority consideration for roles.
My response to the mediator:
My problem with the first statement is that ASU is not a community or professional theatre company. The students who are registered as drama students are there to learn and practice acting and theatre tech. This cannot be accomplished if they are having to compete with members of the Augusta theatre community and others listed.. This also opens the door for a professor to cast his favorites over an ASU student. I am an actor/director with 47 years of experience on the Augusta stage and even as a student, I couldn’t get cast in any of the three plays for which I auditioned due in part to this dynamic, as well as the age situation. This was quite apparent and obvious in their most recent production of Julius Caesar.
I particularly object to the statements:
“Because these productions are developed for a paying audience, a focus on excellent is emphasized.” Again, ASU is not in the theatre production business. It’s primary focus should be giving its students the tools necessary to pursue acting or other theatre work and this cannot be accomplished unless they are given the opportunity to practice the skills they learn in the classroom. As someone who has run a youth theatre for 10 years, I can attest that excellence can be achieved with inexperienced actors.
“Casting sessions are open to student, staff, faculty member, member of the community, or guest artist on a competitive basis.” Obviously, having students compete with experienced actors such as faculty, some community actors, or guest artists is unfair and puts the student at a disadvantage. It is also a bit disingenuous since guest artists are generally hired and pre-cast as was in the case of ASU’s production of “Kiss Me Kate” a few years ago.
As regards statement #2: I find it a little odd that ASU cites the practices of a community theatre, yet does not have a theatre season prepared until the last minute. I am aware that one of my professors will be the director of the next production and he is probably the most experienced actor/director there and, in addition, he is also a playwright. I find it difficult to believe that he is unable to settle on a play. If he were to choose an all-female show, I would be shut out once again. While I don’t think this professor would retaliate against me for this situation, I feel I must be guaranteed a role as “compensation” for the obvious prejudice and discrimination I have experienced.
I cannot accept these proposals as written.
While I did manage to get them to include giving "priority consideration" to majors, the other statements essentially negate it. The big sticking point is my wanting to be guaranteed a role, according to what I infer from my last conversation with the federal mediator.
The Office of Civil Rights people are mad at the federal mediator for waiting until the deadline to push this. He wanted an extension, but it appears that's not going to happen. It's now back at the OCR. I've been trying to get with my contact to see when this will be ruled out and what realistic sanctions ASU might face if I prevail. I haven't gone to the newspaper with this, but that may be an option in the future.