Students upset over cancelled performance

Students in the U dance department recently sent a letter to administrators protesting the department’s decision to prevent a student with poor grades from performing in a national presentation in New York City.

Because Samuel Hanson, a sophomore in modern dance, isn’t able to attend, his fellow performers aren’t allowed to go either. The students gathered about 70 signatures and sent the letter to administrators, hoping to stimulate a dialogue between the department and dance students.

“I understand why Sam can’t go, but I wish the department would’ve discussed it with us first,” said Jessica Womack, the group’s choreographer.

The piece was created and performed by four U students. The American College Dance Festival Association selected the students to perform the piece for the National College Dance Festival in New York City during June. However, when Hanson’s grades began to drop for the second time in the past year, the department told him he wasn’t allowed to go.

“The (ACDFA) board decided the piece would be too different with a different dancer and said another piece would be picked,” said Womack, a graduate student in modern dance at the U.

Members of the group and students who knew about the situation were upset with how events unfolded because none of the members of the group had a say in the decision process. They decided to send a letter protesting the fact.

“I think the faculty just missed the point of the letter because they sent back a typed response listing department policy,” said Chad Armitstead, a U alumnus and playwright for the piece.

“I feel like it’s affecting me more than it’s affecting the other members of the group,” Womack said after she heard about the decision.

Some students of the dance group met with Donna White, the head of the dance department, last week to discuss how the group could have been involved in the decision process. Womack was one of the students who met with White. Unlike Armitstead and other graduate students, she said she felt the discussion went well and was glad the department was willing to meet with students.

“I’m sad about what happened, but I understand why it did,” she said.

Caitlin Green, Hanson’s dancing partner for the piece, said she understood the department’s decision but was upset that it affected the whole group.

“The faculty didn’t even tell me,” she said. “I heard about it from Jessica.”

Hanson had received a poor grade last Spring Semester and was put on probation. When his grades began to slip this semester, his teachers met with other members of the department and decided against allowing him to go.

According to department policy, a student with one substandard grade (below a C) is put on probation. The student is given one year to improve his or her grades.

“The department allows students to be on probation and still participate in activities, but only if they keep their grades up for the next year,” said Brent Schneider, associate dean of fine arts.

Hanson did well in the first semester but struggled with personal problems in the spring.

“Because of the nature of the problem, I didn’t feel like I could talk with the faculty,” he said.

A few weeks after the group was selected to go to New York, Hanson was called in to meet with White.

“She said that I was in trouble with my classes and asked if I was OK,” Hanson said. “But as I was getting up to leave, she said that tomorrow in the faculty meeting they would decide whether I was eligible to go to New York.”

Armitstead said Hanson’s father is the department chair for film studies and wondered whether that played a part in the decision process.

“Maybe the dance department wanted to make sure Hanson played by the rules, but it could just be coincidence,” he said.

Hanson said he doesn’t think his dad played any part in his punishment.

“He probably feels awkward about it, but he wasn’t involved,” he said.

Hanson said that after the decision was made, he stopped attending classes altogether.

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