Like most departments at Temple, the state budget cuts are causing anxiety and uncertainty at Temple Theater.
The School of Communications and Theater has drawn up several contingency plans to deal with the final budget decision expected from the state by the end of May.
“Everything is up in the air,” said Jeffrey Rush, the Associate Dean of SCAT.
One likely change is the loss of a number of graduate assistantships in the design and directing programs in the Theater department. Rush said that the assistantships are being given to the other two graduate programs in SCAT to establish more “equality” in the distribution of the position.
Currently, the Master’s of Fine Arts in Theater has 27 assistantships, the majority of the assistantships in SCAT. The other two programs are a MFA in Film and Media Arts and a Ph.D. in Mass Media and Communications.
“We are very interested in developing the Ph.D. and MFA in Film programs further with additional assistantships,” Rush said.
Theater Promotions and Alumni Relations Director Debbi Ebert said that having graduate assistants to supervise work in the costume and set design shops was necessary for the safety of the undergraduates working in these shops.
A group of theater students have formed the Save Our Program Committee to “prevent the dismantling of Temple’s Theater Department” according to a flyer the group was handing out in front of Annenberg Hall on April 24. The flyer alleges that the loss of graduate assistants would force a cutback from the current seven shows each year to three.
Ebert said that the cutback in the number of shows was only one of several contingency plans that the Theater department has decided upon. Other possibilities include producing smaller shows or hiring staff to replace the assistantships.
The Save Our Program Committee was not available for comment.
A reduction in the number or the quality of productions would be harmful to the Theater department in terms of new student recruitment, Ebert said. A smaller program would lessen the department’s ability to compete with other programs, such as those at universities like Rutgers and Penn State.
“Theaters can’t work without these assistantships,” Ebert said.
Rush said that one possibility is the introduction of an academic internship to the Theater department. These interns would not be teaching in the department and would be paid less, freeing up money in SCAT that could be used to absorb budget cuts. He added that the graduate assistantships may not be cut, depending on the final allocation of funds by the state.
The Save Our Program Committee’s flyer said that SCAT Dean Concetta Stewart, who is currently out of town, had refused to meet with them. Rush said that this was because the SCAT administration was not allowed to meet and discuss graduate assistantship issues while the contract negotiations between the Temple University Graduate Students Association and Temple were in process.
Brian White can be reached at email@example.com