Mills College to continue undergraduate dance major, following near loss of historic program

Dance students at Mills College practice on the lawn on Mills campus; photo taken by Akira Olivia Kumamoto

Dance students at Mills College practice on the lawn on Mills campus; photo taken by Akira Olivia Kumamoto

The Mills College administration announced in a press release Monday that the school will continue to offer an undergraduate dance major.

The decision came after the college’s president, Alicia DeCoudreaux, announced in October that the administration was considering downsizing multiple majors and minors including dance, book arts, and French and Francophone studies.

According to KQED, DeCoudreaux said that the considered cuts were due to the overuse of the school’s endowment to make up for the school’s annual deficit of about $3 million. Interim Provost Sharon Washington sent a statement to Oakland North in October about their considerations. “It is standard for colleges to regularly re-examine their curriculum and Mills is no exception,” Washington wrote in the email. “We are still in the process of collaborating with faculty and students about the best way to build a contemporary liberal arts education with flexible programs and curriculum that will distinguish us as a college and serve our students well into the next century.”

Students and faculty responded to this announcement by participating in four meetings throughout late October and throughout November with members of the administration to voice their concerns. Mills was one of the first colleges in the U.S. to offer modern dance classes. The curriculum’s phasing out would have meant the loss of a historic program.

DeCoudreaux stated in the Monday press release that the historic dance major would be redesigned in order to make the major less costly to the school. According to school administrators, Sheldon Smith, the head of the dance department, had worked with them to adjust the curriculum. His solution includes lowering expenses on course materials, reducing course requirements, streamlining class schedules and taking a more culturally inclusive and interdisciplinary approach to dance.

“Redesigning the dance major is an example of how Mills can retain a contemporary liberal arts education in a competitive environment that demands continuous innovation,” wrote DeCoudreaux in the message.

Further decisions on curriculum changes will continue to made throughout the coming semester.

 

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