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Fighting Cutbacks

Students are planning to fight a proposal to slash the thearter department budget in half next year.

Angela Henderson, a staff member in the drama department, said the proposal would give $20,000 to the department next year. She said they received about $42,000 this year.

According to President Janet Holmgren, next year’s budget is not final.

The drama department is also facing staff reductions; Henderson, the Lisser Hall theater manager, is scheduled to work only15 hours a week next year, down from 30 hours a week this semester. Gemma Whelan’s full-time director of theater position will be reduced to part-time next year. Whelan said that professor Richard Battle would take over as advisor to the department.

Sophomore Mielle Sullivan said that drama department students are trying to prevent the changes from taking place.

“We’re angry. We’re upset, but we are going to fight this,” she said.

Whelan said that the department would have to limit the number of plays it does to one a year.

Senior drama student Shaye Troha, believes that the cuts will be detrimental. “If we don’t practice, then we aren’t doing theater, she said.

The proposed budget cuts are the result of increasing expenses, which grow faster than revenues, according to Holmgren.

Provost Susan Steele said, “It is my sense that we have too many places that need money and not enough money to go around.”

She said the administration hopes to have the budget reflect the school’s goals.

Last year, the college ran a $900,000 deficit, which was paid by endowment funds that were not earmarked for special projects, said Vice President Elizabeth Burwell in a January interview. Burwell was unavailable for comment at press time.

Steele emphasized that the academic aspect of the drama department should not be altered by the changes.

“Students shouldn’t worry,” said Steele, “the courses they need for their major will still be in place.”

Drama department students and staff said they believed it was impossible to learn to act without performing.

Henderson, who said that Mills theater was so active and exciting that she declared her first year, now teaches students how to build and design sets.

“If you have all this theory and don’t act or build sets, then you are not trained in theater,” she said.

Whelan said that the staff is “very proud of the work we’ve done. It would be unfortunate if this irreparably harms the department.”

The administration hopes the cuts will help focus the department. “We are going to scale back production to make sure that each one is as good as it can be,” said Steele.

Drama students are doing what they can to show the administration they disagree with the plan, said Sullivan.

Troha encouraged the Mills community to come to their play that opens this Friday. “Support this show,” she said. “Support our department.”