As schools across the nation announced transitions to online class formats and students were told not to return to campuses, the USC School of Dramatic Arts student base held out some hope. At the moment, it seemed that USC was only doing one to two weeks of online classes. Arts students, especially dance and theatre ones, were utterly crushed by the abrupt change in format. The online class format certainly wasn’t meant to help students attempting to master a craft built on in person communication and interaction. Imagine, then, the SDA students’ reaction when rumors began spreading surrounding the entire semester being fit to the new format by USC.
To be clear, the decision was never in the hands of the SDA. The University as a whole made the call, and from the looks of things, it was the right one. Students feeling outrage were directing it at the School of Dramatic Arts, not for the decision itself, but for the handling of information. The administration of the school is bloated and clumsy, wit nearly double digit numbers of vice deans for one of the smallest schools under the USC umbrella. Additionally, the decision making process of the Dean is somewhat questionable, especially given the lack of transparency involved. This moment was no different. Students heard from their friends that other schools had sent out plans for dealing with the change and that necessary steps to adjust were being taken. Students of SDA on the other hand, had complete radio silence.
Things got worse, though. Students in SDA plays started hearing conflicting messages from directors. These ranged from total confusion to refusal to submit. One show even had a director declare in some comedic cliché,’ The show must go on’. Students were unsure what to tell their parents, what plans to make for the break, and how something that is technically a class would progress over zoom. It wasn’t until nearly a full day after every other school had made a statement that things started to be resolved. What came after was no better than could be expected. Students remained outraged, teachers were confused and unsure how to proceed, and the administration continued to fumble.
This series of events is not, in the grand scheme of things, life changing for these students. While the quarantine and online classes will have significant effects on the education of many art students across the country, this 24-hour period will not. However, it is symptomatic of the many issues with SDA. Directors are loosely attached to the school and want to play by their own rules in an educational institution. The administration is bloated and fails to do its job. And the school, as a whole, needs change from the only people who have a good grasp on the many problems of SDA; the students and teachers need to find a way to make their voice heard and instigate an administrative overhaul.
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