Let’s Talk About The Dancing Singing Elephant in the Room
By Jasmine Hanna-Funk
To Whom it May Concern,
Hathaway Brown School owes its history to five founding sisters that demanded lessons in Chemistry and Latin from Brooks Military Academy fighting against misogyny under the notion that every woman deserves an education. You know this story because the Black Box Ensemble writes and performs a skit reenacting this narrative every fall Legacy Day.
Hathaway Brown School has ignored the demands of the undersigned, sisters fighting against gentrification under the notion that every woman deserves an education in the profession she so chooses.
The removal of Improvisation, Black Box Ensemble, Black Box Ensemble Honors, Advanced Songwriting, Advanced Production and Design, Music Theory for Singers, and all but one Dance Technique class is an insult to the illustrious history and foundation the Performing Arts Department here at Hathaway Brown has worked for and shows an utter lack of regard to the contributions these classes have made to the culture and identity of the school.
It must be noted that the concerns of sisters here at Hathaway Brown extend farther people who identify as sisters or as women, and farther than current students. Countless alumnae have benefited from these performing arts programs not just in finding a profession but finding the courage and confidence in other professions they studied here at Hathaway Brown or an array of top tier schools our administration promises to send us to.
We ask the unamed administration who made this decision to consider the school motto boasted on the Hathaway Brown School website that claims all actions by the school are guided by the following statement:
“[This is] a school for scientists and writers and artists and budding entrepreneurs. It’s a training ground for athletes and dancers and musicians and actresses. It’s a place where young people are empowered to ask questions, challenge conventions and explore opportunities.”
We, the undersigned, are scientists, writers, artists, and budding entrepreneurs. We are athletes, dancers, musicians, and actresses. We need our training ground, and we ask the upper school to reconsider their decision.
Recently the administration has responded to the online petiton here, claiming that the recent changes to the course catalog “will actually increase enrollment in these programs.” I’m curious to see how combining classes and limiting the opportunities of students will increase enrollment. What incentive are we providing for students? What advanced and honors classes are we providing for students to aspire to? Why does the performing arts department have to survive a drastic cut to funding for advancement in the future?
Hathaway Brown School has also claimed that there has been “miscommunication and misunderstanding.” There was no official statement regarding the classes and no explanation was given to the teachers currently teaching the programs no longer provided, so I’m not sure there is much to misunderstand.
We walked into the auditorium on Friday hoping to hear an explanation, and we got the same statement commented on the petition’s comment section.
This piece is divided in three sections. The petition I wrote in exhasperation, a breakdown of the response our petition has gotten, and now I have some personal issues I’d like to address.
One year and one week ago, I was signing another petition. For another cause. Against the same administration. And I was thanked for my dedication but ultimately dismissed. Teachers stared from farther down the hall while I sat in front of the reception room and read from the Hathaway Brown website, teachers whispered while we chanted, the administration told me to leave my chair because they had a meeting to go to. But they thanked me for my dedication.
I refuse to pretend that I owe my voice to Hathaway Brown. I refuse to play into the narrative that this PWI, predominantly white institution, has been a microphone to the voices of activism. I am tired, I am overworked, and I mostly certainly should not have to fight for necessities each year wondering what will be taken away the next. And when I leave this school stronger and more determined facing adversity from you, the administration, I will donate to the Performing Arts department. And you will thank me for my dedication.