Cards “stacked against the theatre department”

Nik Demers

Letter to the editor

The “sunsetting” of the Ashland University Theatre major is something that deeply saddens me, but unfortunately does not surprise me given the way that the Theatre Department has been treated by the Administration over the years. I am a recent graduate of the Theatre program (as of May 2020) so I have seen this department through the last four years and have basically lived inside the Center for the Arts building. I have seen this department push through, despite limited funding and resources to create production after production and turn out well-trained and talented theatre artists. It has been a small department as long as I have been there, but it has always been a strong department despite our numbers. However, it has always been very clear to me that the lack of student enrollment in the Theatre major is by no fault of the department itself. It is the clear complete disregard placed upon it by President Campo and the university administration. 

So, imagine my frustration at the following statement that President Campo made: “The students made this decision more than we did. If students were coming to Ashland in droves for the theater program, it never would have been sunset…” He should be absolutely ashamed of himself for this statement. To blame student enrollment rather than acknowledging his own neglect of the program is ridiculous. 

The theatre department is tucked away in the Center for the Arts building, which has had hardly any work/upkeep done on it since it was built 50+ years ago. The ceiling tiles are stained with water-damage and leak frequently leaving puddles on the floor and the facilities are older and more outdated than most high schools. I have friends who have previously acted as tour guides on campus and they have told me they were asked to not show incoming students the building. Considering these factors, the fact that he has the audacity to blame the lack of enrollment in the theatre program on anything but pure neglect is ignorant of the actual issue at hand. 

The university doesn’t do anything to support the arts, so how are the arts supposed to succeed? Why would students want to pursue a degree in the arts at a university that treats the arts like they don’t matter?

I had many incredible mentors during my time at Ashland, and I am so grateful for everything I have learned from them. I was heartbroken when many of these wonderful people lost their jobs a few months back during budget cuts. They basically wiped out the entire theatre department faculty aside from two people. How can you ever be expected to run a department like that? Time after time the cards have been stacked against the theatre department but they can only hold out for so long with no administrative support. The administration systematically set the theatre program up for failure by constantly devaluing and diverting crucial funding to other areas such as athletics, Esports, etc. They spend millions on these other areas, but won’t put money into basic upkeep on the Center for the Arts building. Ashland University is not a liberal arts school, it is deceptive to say that it is. They have made it abundantly clear that they place no value or priority in maintaining any art based majors or programs.

My time in the theatre program is something I will always look back on fondly. It’s where I met my people. I made friends in that program that I will have for the rest of my life. I have lifelong mentors through the faculty members I had the pleasure of training under. I spent countless hours in that big old building over the past 4 years of my life working on production after production, and I’m so proud of the work I did there. I’m so proud of my peers, and my professors who have accomplished so much and pushed through every hurdle thrown at us over the years. I’m so sorry that this institution has failed you.