Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Students attempt to save Bachelor of Fine Arts Dance option

Monday, January 25, 2021
Photo by Jelani Days

The prioritization process at Southeast has left some students disappointed after 27 majors and minors were recommended to be deleted.

One of these programs is the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Dance.

The program review process occurs every five years. Provost Godard instituted a non-cyclical review process to account for budget restraints and academic circumstances. Departments were notified of the non-cyclical review in the Spring 2020 semester, and recommendations and justifications were due to department chairs by Sept. 18.

Southeast Dance Coordinator Hilary Peterson was one of the faculty members involved in organizing the curriculum for the BFA in Dance in the fall of 2014. After the Board of Regents approved the recommendations set by Academic Affairs for the restructuring, Peterson had to inform the dance students of the decision to delete the BFA in Dance.

“It was probably one of the hardest emails I have written in my time here at SEMO,” Peterson said.

Peterson arranged for a Zoom meeting to answer students’ questions about the future of the dance program.

According to an email from University Communication Director Kathy Harper, “The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Dance was one of six degree programs that will be deleted due to low completion rates as defined by the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.”

As a result of the deletion of the BFA, the Bachelor of Arts (BA) option will undergo a transformation to offer students the same quality of dance training and education offered by the Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre & Dance. Peterson said the 47-hour BA option will see an increase in course hours as a reflection of this transformation.

Peterson said the BA has traditionally been an option for students who may wish to pursue another major where the BFA has been focused on dance training exclusively. Peterson stressed the deletion of the BFA will not negatively impact the education and training the dance students receive at Southeast.

“[What] I really want everyone … to understand is that students’ education and training remains the No. 1 priority of myself and the faculty,” Peterson said. “We will continue to commit, as we have in the past, to that training and education being as strong as possible.”

Southeast BFA Dance junior Emma Knowlton was just one of the dancers who felt like deleting the BFA was not a step the University should take. After receiving an email from Peterson about a Zoom meeting, Knowlton’s first response was to take action.

“I emailed [Peterson] back, and I said, ‘How do we fight this?’” Knowlton said.

Students have been making efforts to show the University the BFA Dance program is valued at Southeast. Junior Sydney Furney collaborated with Knowlton, junior Cheridan Couty and senior Melody Holt to write a petition opposing the decision to delete the BFA in Dance. Furney said their majors gave them the skills and experience to craft the petition. Furney is pursuing a double major in dance and professional writing. Holt studies dance and creative writing, and Couty is a BFA Dance major.

Furney said she realized her degree was going to change a lot over the next three years. Furney said the best thing to do was to write a petition to get the word out.

As of Friday, Jan. 22, the petition on Change.org had 2,160 signatures. The petition states, “While this review process was deemed comprehensive and collaborative, we feel this is not an accurate description, as the administration failed to speak with any current BFA Dance students about their experience in the program. As a result, current students of the program believe it is not only fair, but imperative to fight this decision and make the voice of every person who has been positively impacted by the program heard.”

The students have set out to do more than submit a petition to the institution. Knowlton said some people have submitted letters expressing the importance of the BFA degree. Couty said some students have reached out to celebrity alumni and hope to potentially receive donations for the program in the future.

Couty, Furney and Knowlton all said they hope these actions will show the Southeast community and administration how valuable the BFA Dance program can be.

In Phase 2 of the prioritization process, recommendations will be made about additional programs. Other actions concerning the programs will come to the attention of the Board of Regents on Feb. 26. To see the full petition, click here. Access to the prioritization documents can be found here.

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