By: Shoshy Ciment | Editorials  | 

The Stern College Dramatics Society Demands Recognition—Will YU Respond?

If all the world’s a stage, then Yeshiva University might want to clean up its act.

The Stern College Dramatics Society (SCDS), the theater group of the university’s Beren campus, has been rebuffed once more in its attempts to secure academic credit for its actresses in their fall production.

Their uptown counterparts, the men of the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society (YCDS), are still being awarded with up to 2 credits for their work on the play.

According to former SCDS members, this disparity was supposed to end this year as a result of meetings with Dean Karen Bacon about the issue last year. Up until last year, YCDS was run under the jurisdiction of the Dean’s Office, which accounted for their history of getting credit. At the start of the 2017 school year, YCDS was placed under the auspices of the Office of Student life (like SCDS had been for years) and it was decided that neither SCDS nor YCDS would be receiving credit for their work on their plays in the future.

But apparently, things have changed.

“Earn two credits without a heavy time commitment,” read a recently distributed poster that advertised for YCDS’ upcoming play.

“And in case you didn’t hear it the last 5 times, you can earn 2 EASY CREDITS for your involvement with the play! What’s NOT to like?” read another.

Dean Bacon affirmed that such announcements were “made in error” and that the YC Curriculum Committee would enforce an academic component for students involved in YCDS to receive credit for the play.

But yes, members of YCDS will still be getting credit while members of SCDS will not.

And in truth, whether or not Dean Bacon is using the “academic component” clause to help prevent credit from being given to YCDS ticket sellers (Yes, this has happened) or ushers (That too), there is a bigger issue at play here.

Yeshiva University refuses to recognize SCDS and YCDS as equals.

In 2014, representatives from SCDS proposed a syllabus to Dean Bacon that mimicked the exact same conditions in which YCDS members receive credit for their play - an academic component in the form of a paper.

They were, of course, rebuffed.

This past year, when I reached out to Dean Bacon with a request for credit, she explained it was not a “realistic” option.

Don’t be fooled by what appears to be a recent leveling of the playing field. SCDS continues to handle disadvantage after disadvantage; no matter how often they prove themselves to be essential to the university. Yes, gaining the uptown Schottenstein Theater for their performances of Our Town this school year was a win many years in the making. But let’s not forget what led up to that moment: years of performing like nomads in various venues that were practically hostile to any serious attempt at a college-level production.

I got involved with SCDS during my first year on campus. When I heard we would be performing in Koch Auditorium, a room usually reserved for biology lectures and Shabbat meals, I did what any decent actress should. I put on a brave face and delivered the lines.

But being a part of a college production should be about more than just delivering the lines in a poorly lit dining hall with terrible acoustics.

Members of SCDS past and present understood this all too well. It is the reason they fought to secure the uptown theater for future generations of Beren’s premier theater group when they knew they wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits themselves; the reason they never backed down when they were repeatedly told it was never going to happen. It’s the reason I fight against not receiving credit today.

Whether intentionally or not, YU has been breeding discomfort between both dramatics societies for years. In 1990, a rare joint issue of The Commentator and The Observer reported a long history of competition between SCDS and YCDS. That was almost 30 years ago.

More recently, a 2016 Commentator article written anonymously detailed significant disparities between SCDS and YCDS: Budget sizes, theatre spaces, and, you guessed it: the question of credit.

A part of me shudders at the thought of playing into the never-ending cycle of discussing the eternal issue. Someone writes an article, people talk, people forget, repeat.

So allow me to change things up a bit.

This time, we are not requesting recognition. We are demanding it.

To the YU administration: you have seen the fruits of our labor and you have been moved. You have professed to us, the women of SCDS, your admiration and appreciation for all that we do, verbally and via email.

To President Ari Berman: After our final performance of Our Town, you approached my family and me and told us that you were amazed.

If these words meant anything to you, as they did to me, do not let them go wasted. Dignify our work, our passion, and our tears. Equate us with the men of YCDS with whom we now share our space.

Both dramatics societies have shared a commitment to artistic excellence for years. It’s time we share the credit as well.