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Anti-Racist Action Plan Fall 2020 Update

October 21, 2020

Dear School of Drama community,

In June, we shared our Anti-Racist Action Plan. You can read it here.

We are writing today to share an update on this work. We will share updates every four months during the 2020-2021 school year, and reevaluate this sharing structure during the summer of 2021 to determine whether more or less frequent updates are appropriate as we pursue this work long-term. An archive of these updates will be available on the School of Drama Anti-Racist Action Plan webpage. Not every update will address every aspect of the plan. This update will focus on initiatives launching during the fall of 2020. If you have a question about the plan that is not addressed in this update, please email or use the anonymous feedback form.

We are grateful to everyone who has already shared their feedback about the initial plan. Please know that your feedback—positive, negative, or neutral—is a central consideration as we proceed through this work.

Fortifying transparency and accountability
During the first week of fall quarter, we shared a newly created document called UW School of Drama Process for Voicing Concerns. This document provides comprehensive guidance on voicing concerns, seeking support around challenging situations, and making suggestions. All faculty and staff, including part-time faculty and teaching students, are receiving guidance on how to respond to concerns in alignment with this document. Students in positions of responsibility, such as stage managers and deputies, will also receive this guidance. 

Addressing structural racism in hiring
The School of Drama currently has an open position for an Assistant Professor of Playwriting. Steps to combat structural racism in this hiring process include:

  • Requiring all members of the hiring committee to participate in anti-bias training.
  • Strengthening the diversity statement requirement to elicit more specific examples of how the applicant’s past work demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion and cultural competence and understanding.
  • Assembling a hiring committee that is more broadly representative of the School of Drama community, including one graduate student representative and one staff member.
  • Designating one member of the committee monitor the process for adhesion to EDIA best practices.
  • Investing funds and human resources in proactive recruitment of a diverse pool of candidates.
  • Inviting candidates whose experience has prepared them for the position, regardless of whether or not they hold a master’s degree.

Supporting students, faculty, and staff now
In the fall of 2020, we are launching three initiatives to improve support structures for BIPOC students, faculty, and staff:

  • Affinity Groups
    During fall quarter, three initial affinity groups (one for BIPOC members of the community, one for white allies, and one for LGBTQ+ members of the community) will be formed, with the expectation that initial group meetings will happen by the beginning of winter quarter. These groups will be self-governed, but they will be offered resources to help them create goals and shared agreements. Guidelines will also be offered for those who wish to form additional groups, based on the evolving needs of the Drama community.
  • BIPOC Mentorship Program
    This fall, we are launching a pilot mentorship program for our students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. You can read about the mentorship pilot program in detail here. If you are a current School of Drama graduate student or undergraduate pre-major, major, or minor who identifies as BIPOC and you wish to participate, please click through to complete a survey that will help the school understand your needs and preferences. If you are an alum who identifies as BIPOC and you wish to learn more about mentoring a current graduate student, please fill out this survey.
  • Peacemaking Circles
    In recognition of our community’s need for healing and repair, the Drama community will be invited to participate in small-group peacemaking circles lead by Huayruro.
  • Anti-Racist Training (see Deepening our understanding and practice of anti-racism, below)

Decentering whiteness in curriculum
History, Theory, and Criticism: History, theory, and criticism started the project last year of decentering whiteness in the theatre history curriculum (right now, DRAMA 371, 372, and 373 are listed in the catalog as a three-course survey of European and North American theatre). Last spring, faculty collected info on the way the theatre history "sequence" courses are taught at other institutions in the US, including what they've changed in recent years. This fall faculty will continue that project, with the goal of having a revised theatre history sequence in place by the fall of 2021. In the meantime, individual instructors are working to incorporate more global readings into their curricula, for example, Drama 372 (Spring 2021) will newly include Classical Chinese, Japanese, and Indigenous Central American readings, and more than half of the plays on the syllabus for Drama 101 (Fall 2020) are authored by BIPOC/global majority playwrights, including August Wilson, Wakako Yamauchi, and Quiara Alegría Hudes.

Directing & Playwriting: Directing and playwriting faculty are working with the School of Drama librarian to improve library resources, including articles and books on global majority subjects and contributors to support directing students in their assignments, as well as lining up examples of global majority contributions to the canon.

Acting: All full-time members of the acting faculty participated in at least one external training about anti-racism and/or decentering whiteness in acting curriculum during the summer of 2020, with some faculty attending multiple trainings. During the summer, acting faculty began meeting regularly to share resources and discuss strategies for decentering whiteness in the acting curriculum. These meetings will continue regularly during the school year.

Design: Design is integrating into our curriculum classroom exercises that dismantle white supremacist mores of the “body beautiful” in design research and expression. We are deepening our teaching practice by holding ourselves, as design teachers, to two guiding principles when critiquing and evaluating student work in the classroom and in production:
1) To assume a global audience for each project, (unless the student explicitly states otherwise)
2) To promote a design process that recognizes and values the ways in which the race of the performer impacts character, environment, and story

Deepening our understanding and practice of anti-racism
We are engaging Nicole Brewer from Conscientious Theatre Training to conduct an initial training in her Anti-Racist Theatre methodology. This training will take place on December 17th, 2020, and will be required for all faculty, staff, and students.

We recognize all of the training we are doing this year as deepening a long-term commitment to this work. Aided by our external facilitators, we will continue to adapt the department’s training to evolving needs.

We will share our next Anti-Racist Action Plan update on or before February 28, 2021.