No Show for Vagina Monologues: Suspension freezes all College Players productions until March

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For the last 10 years at USF, the month of February has been notable for the College Players rendition of the Vagina Monologues. This year, however, students can expect to miss out on the highly anticipated play.

College Players have been placed on suspension since Dec. 6, 2010. After eight months on probation, the student organization can no longer produce shows or host social events until March 31, 2011.

Student Leadership and Engagement (SLE) and the Performing Arts Department staff support College Players, but believe the number of productions places too much time commitment and liability for the university. Additionally, access to ASUSF funding is frozen. Their probationary period extends until May 1, 2011.

College Players is a completely student-run organization at USF with a five-member staff. The club’s 147 year-long history has given USF  culturally relevant shows like “The Vagina Monologues,” old standbys like screenings of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and most recently a professional level performance like “Wild Party.”

One week before winter finals, SLE Director Greg Wolcott informed the College Players staff, in a letter, that their activities were suspended until March 31, 2011 “in order to advance progress” on the list of operational and organizational requirements.

The suspension came as somewhat of a surprise to College Players staff, though not entirely because executive producer Daniel Sherman was given written warnings before the December letter was issued.

Prior to the suspension, College Players had already been on probation. Wolcott issued College Players a letter on Oct. 26, 2010 to outline the reasons for their probation. (see box after the jump).

In the letter, the issues ranged from missing paperwork and missing attendance to stress placed on the faculty and the university from supporting College Players.

Expected outcomes included cancelling the Gill series — a student written and produced shows like Play-in-a-Day, submitting all required paperwork to resolve past production, and planning future productions and staffing needs. The letter stated, “any infractions of the outlined conditions above will result in immediate suspension of your organization’s recognition status for the spring semester 2011.”

During the probationary period, Executive Producer Danny Sherman said he and the rest of the executive board were diligently producing the documents asked of them, such as procedures for hiring professionals, staff transitions, and more. They shared these documents via Googledocs with SLE, but they never received any comments about the work.

Yet in December, College Players were informed of their suspension because the requirements, stated in the October 26th letter, “have not satisfactorily been met.”

SLE wrote a third letter on Jan. 21, expressing their support of College Players as an organization with strengths in “providing student involvement and learning opportunities … and remaining student-led and building student leadership skills.”

However, the level of administrative energy required to oversee them is difficult to provide. Wolcott wrote, “economic constraints have forced us to ‘do more with less’ and we cannot provide the level of staff and faculty time, in particular, needed to sustain the current level of CP activities.”

College Players Executive Board were confused as to why they are overworking their administrators, when the October letter stated the advisor, Professor Christine Young, was not involved enough in business decisions.

Professor Young, the advisor of College Players, felt it was “premature to comment on CP’s structure and activities” during this transition.

Wild Party by Ilyse
Members of College Players perform an annual musical in Presentation Theater. Above, students sing and dance in “Wild Party,” Fall of 2010. (Ilyse Liffreing/Foghorn)

Over break, Student Life, SLE, and the staff and advisors that support the College Players met “to discuss the activities that can be supported and the resources that can continue to be provided for CP in the future” according to the letter issued by Director Greg Wolcott on January 21st.

Danny Sherman, Executive Producer of College Players, wrote, “I’m also confused why SLE would go to an academic department, in our case PASJ, to determine the conditions of an ASUSF organization, and why no representative from either College Players or Senate were asked to attend.” College Players was not invited to this meeting nor was any representative from Senate.

The university provides tools that outline how student organizations are able to exist and produce work. Wolcott wrote in an e-mail, “The Performing Arts Department, for example, provides the faculty advisor for CP, and the full-time salary of the Director of Presentation Theater, who supports numerous student clubs and organizations. The Department also provides (free of charge) extensive use of Presentation Theater for the College Players during rehearsals, load-in, tech, and performances.”

Through all of the points of dispute spanning numerous letters, the members of College Players were confused at what was being asked of them.

Danny Sherman wrote, “We were asked to rethink our board positions and come up with a new position breakdown, including all responsibilities, and attach budget percentages for each one. I asked for an example format and I was given Senate’s position breakdowns. My board met, we decided to redo some of the positions based on the feedback we got from our advisor, and then we created position breakdowns in the same format as Senate’s. When we submitted them, we were then told that it was not exactly what they were looking for…We keep getting the run-around about the specifics of what SLE is looking for, and then we’re told that the work we are doing is not what was asked of us. It’s a catch-22.”

According to Wolcott from an e-mail, “the issues that are being currently discussed with CP are about size and scope of performances, and the amount of work it takes to support CP from a student perspective, a staff perspective, and an advisor perspective. Student Life and SLE will continue to support CP in terms of advocacy and support, while working with CP’s leadership to adjust their activities and structure to a level that is appropriate for a student organization.”

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

News Editor: Ericka Montes

7 COMMENTS

  1. funny; I don’t remember the administration ever being very interested in the College Players. I mean, who’d want to nurture a 147 year old tradition of being the oldest student-run theatrical troupe west if the mississippi?

    and exactly how is the College Players a huge drain on faculty resources? or is there something else going on? sad sad sad.

  2. As an alumni of USF, a member of CP and a 4 year veteran of The Vagina Monologues, the suspension of the organization completely baffles me. Having been involved in several organizations throughout my time at USF, the College Players were always the most hands on with their members, seeking the general membership’s opinions on almost all decision making, and actively spreading their message across campus year round.

    Although I am upset about their suspension in general, the freeze on the performance of the Monologues is especially upsetting to me personally. Each year, women from all walks of life, in different communities around the world, join together to perform this show around “V-Day,” traditionally Valentine’s Day, a day of empowerment for women, vagina’s, and vagina supporters alike. While I hope that the performance will still be allowed at a later time in the Spring, the young women who hoped to be part of the Monologues this year will miss out on a valuable and empowering weekend, one that shaped my character and confidence into what it is today.

    As a former member of several other Funded Accounts, including Senate, the College Players have always presented a well thought out and reasonable budget, an enthusiastic attitude towards new members, and leadership and organization when planning their shows and activities. Although I am no longer a student, and therefore not on campus to witness this year’s activities, I know the leadership of the CP Executive Board personally, and can’t imagine they would be anything but responsible and receptive to any changes mandated to them by SLE or any other advising body on campus.

    With student involvement in campus organizations steadily growing, the suspension could be detrimental to the spirit of the CP membership, as well as any new students looking to get involved in performing arts who will now be without an outlet to do so.

  3. I’d love to say I’m surprised about this, but just based on SLE’s actions within the last year, this is just but one example of the department’s poor leadership and its need to “foster growth” through suspending/disbanding student groups they once relied on so frequently to cover their multiple ineptitudes – so tragic – crossing my fingers we see a major overhaul within the SLE staff.

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