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Final budget decision withheld

The ASMC feels that the Mills administration is intentionally withholding crucial information that could affect final decisions regarding retention of a drama minor.

ASMC members said they were persuaded to believe that maintaining a minor in dramatic arts is a strong possibility, yet an e-mail from the provost to the faculty last Thursday stated otherwise.

The e-mail announced that the Board of Trustees had approved budget cuts, including the elimination of the dramatic arts major and minor.

According to ASMC academic board chair Erika Rickard, there has been miscommunication between students and administration.

She said that President Janet Holmgren told ASMC members at a meeting Monday, that the provost had already begun and would continue discussing ways to maintain some academic element of the department with the faculty. ASMC members, who met with Holmgren, were given the impression that there was a possibility for a minor, Rickard said.

Michele Roberts, ASMC president, said, “She [Holmgren] told us [that] we are still having conversations about that [retention of a minor] and that it is still too early to decide. I feel confused and disappointed. I feel as student government, that it’s our job to get information out to students. If people are keeping information from us, it’s impossible to do our jobs.”

When questioned, Holmgren directed all academic reduction concerns to the provost, who did not respond by press time.

Rickard said she has communicated closely with drama professor Martin Berman, who said he is still under the impression that there is a chance for a minor.

Nonetheless, Gemman Whelan, drama department head, said Friday that it was “made clear to her by administration that there will be no minor in dramatic arts.” She said that the department will be completely eliminated by May 2004, and the contracts of several department faculty members, including Martin Berman, Deborah Sussell and herself, will be terminated at that time.

Rickard said the ASMC is still hoping for a minor despite the provost’s announcement of the board’s decision, and said that if she later discovers that there was never a chance for a minor, “there will be a lot of student anger based on the intentional miscommunication.”

Since the initial unveiling of drama cuts to the Mills community, the ASMC has been accepting e-mails from students concerned with the fate of the department. According to Rickard, who has accumulated close to 20 e-mails, some students continue to push for a major, refusing the possibility of a compromise, while others would be willing to settle for a minor.

Rickard said that the idea of creating a student run club in place of a minor is also a possibility, but not one strongly supported by most students and faculty. Whelan said that a drama club run by students is no substitute for a department. Rickard added that students are interested in acting and learning dramatic arts, which would be impossible with a student run club. “Students can’t teach themselves,” she said.

Whelan said that a full and thriving drama department, such as Mills’ current drama department would benefit students most, but said that maintaining student contentment and any part of the department “is now clearly not going to happen.”

Freshwoman Cameron Holly, who said she would like to minor in drama at Mills, remains optimistic that a minor will be maintained.

“I think that if we’re going to lose it as a major, we might as well keep it as a minor.”

She said that she would like Mills to keep its current drama faculty if the minor can in fact remain. “There are so many talented teachers, it would be Mills’ total loss to cut any of them,” she said.