Students at Stony Brook University are rallying in support of the theatre arts department after its chairman said he was told admissions would be suspended because of budget cuts.
However, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which oversees the department, said Sunday that a final decision on the department’s future has yet to be reached.
Department chairman John Lutterbie said he was told Friday by Dean Sacha Kopp that no new students would be admitted to the department. Current students can still complete their majors or minors, and the department will transition into a “service department” in which students can only take courses that also fulfill other Stony Brook University curriculum requirements, Lutterbie said in an interview with Newsday on Sunday. Lutterbie said his office informed students of the change in an email Friday.
“There’s no future for Theater Arts at Stony Brook,” he said.
But Kopp said in an email to Newsday on Sunday that nothing had been decided about the program.
“No final decisions have been made on any program changes at this time,” Kopp wrote. “Should changes be made to programmatic offerings, the University ensures that all current students will be able to complete the course of study in which they are enrolled.”
Informed of Kopp’s comments, Lutterbie said what he was told Friday left him with “the impression that was a definite decision.”
He mentioned the department’s second annual Student New Works Festival, a showcase of dramatic performances held over this weekend. “It has shown to be an amazing experience for students and audiences alike, and unfortunately with these cuts, these opportunities for students will be lost — probably forever.”
More than 1,400 people have signed an online petition, launched Friday on Change.org, urging the university to preserve the department.
Kristen Spencer, 20, a junior majoring in theatre arts, said students had been outside of the performances this weekend asking concertgoers to sign petitions. “Stony Brook in general is a very science-driven school,” she said. “We need to diversify our campus with arts majors.”
Stony Brook’s Department of Theatre Arts has 40 majors, 20 to 30 minors, eight full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty, two lecturers, and three to four adjunct professors. The petition describes the program as a “pillar of the campus community.”
Without majors or minors, the department would lose key courses that “one would usually find in a theater major,” including advanced acting, directing, design, theater history and dramatic literature, Lutterbie said.
“People are incredibly saddened by it, not just people that are majoring in the arts,” said Allie Zigomalas, 20, a junior majoring in art history and history who launched the petition.
“Stony Brook is an amazing university, and it’s a leading SUNY school, and to not offer theatre arts — it’s really upsetting,” Zigomalas said. “It’s one of the oldest disciplines in the history of the world, and it’s a shame that students who love theater can no longer major in it.”