Hannah Reinheart: From the Eyes of a UCSD Theatre Major – Going D1

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Photo courtesy of Hannah Reinheart.

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Recent news of the approval of the vote to increase our activities fees in order to move our Athletics Department to D1, as well as the announcement of the closure of the 50-year-old Undergraduate Art Gallery, has forced me to take a step back and question the importance that UCSD places among different departments on campus. Although I do recognize these are two completely separate issues, the archetype of the situation is all too familiar.

Let me start off by saying this: I am in complete support of the decision to move D1.

I believe that moving to D1 will allow UCSD to gain national recognition, and as a person who comes from a family in which both my parents, my brother, my aunt, my uncle, and three of my six cousins all attend(ed) college on athletic scholarships, I understand the necessity to increase funding and agree that it will be an exciting opportunity for our university to grow within the next decade.

“Creating a “UCSD brand” isn’t about taking away opportunities from other extracurricular activities on this campus or putting all our hopes and dreams into just one singular department…”

Our MFA Visual Arts Program is ranked 13th in the country and our UCSD Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) Theatre program was recently named the 6th best in the world, only after RADA (London) and Carnegie Melon (New York). Arts and Humanities students make up 13 percent of our campus, yet Theatre, Dance, and Visual Arts undergraduate students share the same performance spaces, faculty, and mentorship opportunities as MFA candidates and are still able to craft an amazing program — I can only wonder how it might look if it were fully funded. The recent closure of the Undergraduate Art Gallery, however, one of the only spaces on campus for undergraduates to show their work, makes us the only UC campus without an art gallery and is a troubling contrast to what could be.

San Diego has produced and sent more shows to Broadway than any other city in America. We already have a well-established community that is hungry for theatre and art in the areas surrounding UCSD. Yet, the Theatre & Dance undergraduate program is completely underfunded, decreasing the level of opportunity for our students to put on their own work, build their resumes, and start a portfolio.

Recent reports show that the arts contribute $5.4 billion to California’s economy. Alumni of University of California’s graduate programs are represented in every sector of the arts world, leading and building programs and creating new ideas. California’s entertainment and digital media industries are thriving precisely because of the many writers, musicians, visual artists, and actors the University of California system trains. Yet federal funds are nearly all targeted at research in STEM and medical fields (about 90 percent of the total each year during the past decade). This proportion masks research activity that also occurs in the social sciences, arts and humanities, and professional disciplines, which make important contributions to scholarship, yet have relatively little access to external research funding.

We already know our Athletics Department here at UCSD ranks relatively well against other universities, but as you can see, so does our Visual and Performing Arts Departments. Arts facilities are equally as costly to maintain as athletics facilities, as a singular mic or light could cost upwards of a thousand dollars (most shows use dozens — do the math).

“If you think about it, sports is a form of performance and theatre.”

Going D1 in Athletics isn’t the only avenue in which to create a brand — there are multiple opportunities amongst other departments that can help to promote these types of “student-centered” initiatives that will take our university to the next level, including our Vis Arts/Theatre and Dance Department. If we believe we have to start that brand value by upping our athletics performance in order to retain alumni relations, then we better start tapping into the other performance based departments, like the already established theatre community right here in San Diego.

Creating a “UCSD brand” isn’t about taking away opportunities from other extracurricular activities on this campus or putting all our hopes and dreams into just one singular department, but extending a fair opportunity to all types of extracurriculars and departments in order to continue to create a competitive and holistic university experience. I’m not saying that this D1 vote shouldn’t have been passed — just that I hope the university as a whole can take this same mentality into other sectors in order to challenge and support students from all different departments.

If you think about it, sports is a form of performance and theatre. We all practice and we all use our bodies to tell the best story possible for an audience (if you don’t believe me take a theatre history course. I recommend TDHT 21 with Julie Burelle).

We all want our shot to make our passions come to life at this “student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented, public university,” and I hope to see the same opportunities that are being given now to what are hegemonically seen as visible departments given to other departments in the near future.

Hannah Reinert is a UCSD undergraduate student studying Theatre and Communications.

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