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Letter from Sheldon Smith, Head of the Dance Department

Dear concerned students,

We are aware in the dance department of multiple perceptions about who we are, what we do and what we believe in. We are very much aware of the recent Campanil letters and multiple postings either by email or Facebook. As the recently appointed Head of the Department of Dance and Theater Studies, I would like to invite all students that have a concern to come meet the students and faculty of the department so that we can all speak in person and hear each other’s voices. I would like to invite constructive dialogue in a safe space where all voices can feel included in a conversation. I would like to propose a forum in the student union at 12 pm on Mon., Nov. 30.

Let me also acknowledge that I recognize the complexity of what is going on here at Mills and around the world. If there was ever a time for us to find some kind of unity that time is now. There may continue to be areas of disagreement after one short discussion, and I hope that this is the beginning of a series, but I also hope that all will come to recognize that this department is not afraid to adjust itself dynamically in the face of changing understandings around complex issues. We are pretty good at adapting ourselves to contemporary moments. We’ve been doing just that since 1938.

And even though dancers may be used to communicating eloquently with their bodies, we do know how to have a conversation. We would love to do that with as many people as possible. We are here to serve the Mills community and if there are areas of our program that do in fact need to be addressed, let’s do that work together. You might also discover that much already is being done about issue of inclusivity and diversity. Part of the problem may honestly be that the full scope of what and who we are is lost by our isolation down in the basement of Haas. We aren’t crazy about being in a basement either but that will never stop us from welcoming anyone that shows an interest in what we do. Don’t be afraid of us. We are human beings with hearts and minds and bodies that love sharing what we do.

If you can’t be at the forum on November 30, and want to know more about us come watch one of our classes, or better yet, sign up for one of our classes in the spring. Everyone is also invited to come watch our Repco concert Nov. 19-21st at Lisser. This is also a place for dialogue and community building. We will have post-show feedback discussions with the performers and artists that made the work. We will also have areas in the lobby where you will be encouraged to write your thoughts
about dance, our department and the work we are doing.

Let’s pull our comments out of cyber space and into the real world where we can see each other and speak with each other. If anyone has further suggestions for how we can be in dialogue don’t hesitate to contact me directly at:


Sheldon Smith

Head of the Department of Dance and Theater Studies