Dance education tango

What began as a quiet and simple meeting turned into a loud and complex display of emotions Tuesday as a mirrored dance room of about 30 students questioned the future of their program at USF.

Due to the tightening of the budget, the University of South Florida has had to cut several degree programs, most recently, the bachelor of science in dance education. Ronald Jones, dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, met with approximately 30 students to field questions about the program being lost because of budget cuts.

During the summer, the state issued a budget cut of 3.5 percent, and every department in the university shared in the cut. Since then, all areas of Visual and Performing Arts have been affected. In the last several days, meetings were held with the art, music and theater department students. The meetings were an opportunity for students to ask questions and receive answers about how the cuts directly affect them.

Emotions ran high Tuesday as dancers asked questions about the future of their program.

Out of three degrees in dance, only one was cut from the program. The dancers wanted to know who decided to get rid of their discipline.

“The decision to cut the dance education program was made by myself, President Judy Genshaft and S. David Stamps, the provost,” Jones said.

Jones said that Tim Wilson, former chairman for the dance department, voluntarily reduced his chair position from 12 to nine months in order for that part of his salary to be used for the dance department. In late July, Wilson officially resigned, and the chair position was eliminated.

Senior Jody Kuehner said Wilson was the person who started the dance degree, and he has the credentials for the job. She said she does not understand why his position was the basis for cutting dance education when there are no other qualified teachers with credentials to fill the position.

“Dance is a small department. It doesn’t need a full-time dean to run it,” said Jones, as the room erupted into laughter.

Several students expressed that dancing was what they wanted to do with their lives. They said that after graduation, they will not be going into another career other than dancing. Many of the students spoke directly to Jones, expressing their dismay. The general consensus was that the students did not feel like the dean was supporting them.

One student began to cry when discussing how important the dance program is to her. “I have a family, and I’m just trying to get my degree.”

Kuehner said that although she is not directly affected by the cut, she is very upset about what has happened.

“We understand the budget cuts, but it’s unfair to the students because we have very little information on the issue. The faculty is scared about being fired, so they are not speaking about the cut,” Kuehner said.

Junior Erin Taylor, who is supposed to graduate next spring, said that there was no formal notification of the cut, and until recently, it was just gossip. “I found out from one of the seniors,” Taylor said. “It was real hush-hush. The faculty didn’t talk until the students approached them. I heard we weren’t going to graduate, and I wondered if I would have to transfer.”

Jones emphasized that although his area of specialty is art, he was not opposed to dance.

Jones, who kept answering questions with questions, appeared flustered throughout the meeting. At one point, Jones suggested that the faculty was giving the students issues to inquire about.

“If the faculty is going to feed you questions,-” Jones said. Before he could finish,one student shouted back, “The faculty did not approach the students. We asked questions.”

After much debate, the dean said there were two things that could convince him to go to Stamps and Genshaft and to change his mind. One was if there was a dramatic increase in the budget and an ability to take on new things. And two, if the university would soften its emphasis on research and graduate programs.

Today at 2 p.m. the chairs for the College of Visual and Performing Arts will decide if the dance department will merge with music or the theater department.

  • Contact Kelly Icardiat