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Students, faculty hope to save dance program

Students, faculty hope to save dance program

Students, faculty hope to save dance program
March 10
09:05 2022

The university recently announced plans to phase out the dance program in the next five years due to low enrollment, causing students to advocate for the continuation of the program for future generations. 

Starting in fall 2022, no new students will be accepted into the university’s dance program and only a minor in dance will be offered after the currently enrolled major students graduate. After hearing the announcement, dance junior Hannah Levenson started a petition that has now reached over 5,300 signatures in an attempt to save the program. 

“UNT claims to be an arts college and it’s really disappointing to see our program be systematically destroyed and thrown away instead of anybody trying to make an effort to fix it,” Levenson said. “I was not expecting much to come from [the petition]. I was kind of doing it to say that I tried to make a difference, but the fact that in less than a week we got 5,000 signatures on it – it’s surreal. It makes me feel like we actually have a shot at fighting back.”

The university decided to eliminate the program due to low enrollment rates, which have been declining gradually for the past 10 years, said Tamara Brown, executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. 

“[Enrollment] is now so low that there are not enough students to make all the classes,” Brown said. “This has led to the department having to cancel classes and, in other cases, it has had to combine lower-level classes with higher-level classes just to have enough students in a class.” 

The decision was announced on Feb. 25, when Department Chair Lorenzo Garcia spoke to students during a modern dance class.

Students in Choreography II dance on March 2, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

“Everyone just started crying, it was quite literally the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever witnessed,” Levenson said. “We’re all going to graduate and finish our degrees. It doesn’t really affect us that much, but the fact that no one else gets to experience it is just heartbreaking.”

Current students, alumni and faculty have shared their reactions on social media, with over 20 posts connected to the #SaveUNTDance hashtag on Instagram. An entire page dedicated to the movement, @saveuntdance, has been made on the social media platform

Adjunct professor Amiti Perry graduated from the university in 1998 with a degree in dance and said her experience in the program was totally different from what it is now. While the university plans to continue offering a minor in dance, Perry believes this will not give students the same experience, and failure to promote the minor may cause it to be phased out as well. 

“Although they are currently supporting a minor, if initiatives are not supported to grow that minor, the whole program will go away,” Perry said. “I believe personally that could be a long-term goal for the current administration. The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences does not support us, they don’t talk about us, they don’t believe in what we do.”

Perry said negligence of the program comes from a lack of understanding from higher-ups and the program has been stripped of resources for several years. The temporary dance building is located at the edge of campus with floors are covered in ceiling dust that come apart when temperatures are freezing, Perry said. 

“[The dance building] is falling apart and we can’t get people to come fix things,” Perry said. “The students see that. They want answers and they want a chance. We’re asking for time and for resources.”

Brown said the department will ensure that every student currently enrolled in the program will finish their degree successfully, but students such as Levenson hope to see the program continue for future students coming to the university. 

“What the students are concerned about is the future generation and what they will not have the privilege to experience because a few people don’t like it or don’t want to understand it,” Perry said. “These are challenging times for not just dance. I think that there is more to the story about how the arts, in general, are viewed and how they’re valued.”

Featured Image: Students dance during a Choreography II lesson on March 2, 2022. Maria Crane

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Jillian Nachtigal

Jillian Nachtigal

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