In early September, Richard Englert, provost and interim senior vice president for academic affairs, initiated a discussion on the idea of combining the theater department – currently within the School of Communications and Theater – with the Boyer College of Music and Dance to create a new college of performing arts.
Englert sent a memorandum to the schools’ faculty asking them to start discussing the restructuring.
The move is currently in the broad discussion phase, and Englert said it is too early to tell what the creation of a college of performing arts would mean for Temple.
“Let’s let the discussion come forward from our faculty,” Englert said. “[They] are very thoughtful and always have the best interest of students in mind.”
Some students favored the idea, but others, such as Chelsea Drumel, a junior theater major, opposed it.
“Financially, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s less important than our relationship with other departments in SCT,” Drumel said. “It would be a disservice to the theater department to try to force creating these new relationships [with the school of music and dance].”
However, some students and faculty from SCT said they feel a new energy and relationship have existed among the theater and communications departments in recent years.
“Besides just sharing a building, we’re actually sharing a vision with [SCT] and doing more projects together,” said Marie Anne Chiment, the theater department’s interim chair and head of design.
“This is basically the provost saying not, ‘Convince me that you should move,’ but instead giving us the opportunity to reaffirm why we are all together. It’s not an accident,” said Robert Smythe, a third-year graduate student studying playwriting.
Since Englert’s request, SCT and Boyer have created committees whose duties include studying the potential effects of this change and bringing a proposal to the provost.
“The Boyer Task Force is an advisory and consultative body, and we will be sharing our study of this question with the provost, the dean, the Boyer Executive Council and the Collegial Assembly,” said Richard Brodhead, the chairman of the Boyer task force committee.
“The question will be explored from the vantage points of both colleges and all the disciplines involved,” Brodhead said.
While the task force is still gathering information about the issue, it will begin its analysis and study phase soon.
Chiment said she presumes SCT will have a proposal within the next few weeks, although it is too early in the process to know for certain.
“In many universities, arts programs are combined in a college of performing arts as the result of a major gift to construct world-class facilities,” Music Studies Chair Maurice Wright said.
“Temple has not yet made such a commitment to the performing arts.”
“We’re open to the idea [of joining a college of performing arts]. We are open to the idea of working with artists of all types. At this point in time, there is no evidence of funding for a new program or a new building,” Englert said. “It’s a lovely idea, but that is all it is right now.”
The timing of the proposition coincides with SCT’s search for a new dean.
“Whenever we start dean searches, we always want to get the faculty talking about what direction we want to go in as a school or college,” Englert said.
Englert drew his proposal from a 2003 visiting team evaluation that recommended the change.
Some students questioned Temple’s joining of its theater and communications departments, a characteristic uncommon to most universities in the country.
“Film and theater work well [together], but SCT also incorporates advertising and public relations, and I don’t know how well they work with theater, so maybe a college of performing arts would be better,” said Giana Marinelli, a senior film and media arts and public relations major. “[All departments in SCT] should connect because each can help the other, and maybe a new dean could help do this, but now there’s definitely a disconnect.”
Smythe said everyone within SCT is interested in telling stories with words and language.
“I’d actually drop theater because it’s really the school of communications,” Smythe said.
“We are one of the few, if not the only one, that puts theater together with the other departments here at SCT,” Chiment said. “If you chose to come to Temple, you come here knowing that.”
Ethan Rioux, a junior jazz performance major, said the departments could benefit from the creation of a college of performing arts.
“Right now, there is a separation between music and dance, so the idea of having theater join those would hopefully inspire more collaboration and benefit everyone,” Rioux said.
Luke Kahlich, a professor of dance, said it’s hard to say how a merger would turn out but that he understands the potential positive effects the change would have on the dance department.
“It would provide additional collaborative opportunities for both students and faculty whose disciplines are increasingly crossing in the professional world and can support teaching and learning outcomes in education and training,” Kahlich said.
With advancements and changes in media occurring so rapidly, some said the arts may begin to change as well.
“We’re looking at media as a way of moving forward,” Smythe said.
“We should always be asking ourselves, ‘What’s on the horizon, where are we going, what the fields might bring to us as opportunities and how do we prepare our students for the world as it is?’” Englert said. “It’s just a great opportunity right now.”
If the current discussions result in a faculty recommendation that favors the change, the Board of Trustees will ultimately make a final decision.
Englert said he looks forward to potentially getting feedback in the next month.
“What I don’t want to do is get a rushed discussion,” Englert said. “What I want is thoughtful discussion.”
Becky Kerner can be reached at email@example.com.