Dear NYU Community,
When I opened my inbox last Friday, I was shocked to learn that Tisch New Theatre (TNT) had been suspended by the Tisch Undergraduate Student Council (TUSC) with their immediate appeal rejected by Robert Cameron, Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs.
Struggling to comprehend the administration’s incredibly shortsighted decision, I like so many others found myself talking to fellow students, parents, and TNT members new and old. In Facebook messages and phone calls, we lamented the semester absence of this incredible opportunity for all NYU students and were filled with anger. Yet in this moment, came an important realization: all this frustration we felt would not do any good in easy dialogue with each other. If TNT had any chance of coming back, it would have to come from the administrators and TUSC members who do not share our opinions. If enough people speak up change will happen.
While personal statements and posts bring us to the forefront of our own minds, I urge you to reach out to the NYU administration and TUSC members and tell them not only how you feel but why this decision should be immediately overturned. Below are their respective addresses:
Director of Student Affairs
Caroline Wolfe Papocchia
Assistant Director of Student Affairs
Additionally, you may contact the Dean of Tisch, Allyson Green at email@example.com or 212.998.1541 to go beyond the call. Dean Green holds the power to act unilaterally and reinstate TNT.
Your message can be short, your message can be long, but flooding these people’s phone and email inboxes will send a message sure enough. If you’re looking for what to say, I’ve included three talking points, outlining the impact of TNT as well as rationale for its reinstatement. While emotion speaks louder than words, drawing from this body of proof will only bolster our argument. Many who made the decision have never seen a TNT production, viewed the group as “competition”, or did not want to put in the energy necessary to facilitate the group. Once you have reached out to these individuals, please forward this letter. My fellow seniors and I do not want to miss out on this incredible opportunity.
On their website TUSC states their mission is to “make decisions and serve as the students’ voice to the administration.” Let it be known that this decision does not accurately reflect the student's voices. Let them see how Tisch New Theatre raises reputation of NYU. Reinstate TNT.
Former TNT Member
Staff Photographer at Broadway.com
TNT was suspended on the basis of two violations. While seeking to bring the TNT community together, they did not go in detail about how tenuous the violations were.
The first incident was the club attempting to use a Gallatin dance room to host auditions for Hairspray in December of 2015. The Gallatin rooms had been used in past productions because Phil Colgan, director of Catch Me If You Can was a Gallatin student. The club was operating off precedent. Because of this the club was placed on probation.
The second event occurred during the tech period of Hairspray in March of 2016. Under current rules, every dollar Tisch New Theatre earns in ticket sales or donations must be held under the purview of TUSC (the very group who made the decision to suspend TNT). This means that every purchase and financial move must be approved by TUSC. In the case of transporting lighting and sound materials, TUSC requires clubs to use an NYU approved transportation vendor, which would have been in excess of $500 to use. In comparison, a commercial U-Haul is $40. Every dollar counts when putting on a show in a space that costs over $5000 a day to rent (Skirball). It’s completely understandable that a decision within TNT was made to avoid the rules and rent a U-Haul over a cost inflated “approved NYU vendor”.
TUSC suspended a network of hundreds due to the actions of few. However all these individuals are no longer involved with Tisch New Theatre.
Seeking to make amends, TNT reached out to TUSC for a meeting as soon as possible. Had they been speedy, TUSC would have held a hearing on the incident in the Spring of 2015, but they did not. It didn’t happen in the summer and it didn’t happen when classes began in the Fall of 2016. In fact, it was not until mid October 2016, a full six months after the incident. There’s no way to tell if TUSC’s delays were deliberate but regardless TNT was not permitted to operate while waiting for a hearing. Meaning fundraising and planning for a fall show was halted.
TUSC controls the funds that TNT has worked tirelessly to raise. These are not just ticket sales, but contributions by many donors. Donors gravitated to TNT because they believed in it’s mission and were excited to see the club’s continued growth. By making their decision, TUSC has silenced these donors, alumni, supporters, and ticket buyers. Which is a shame because many of these donors happen to be industry professionals, donors to Tisch itself, and tuition payers. If you happen to fall into one of these categories please let it be known to whoever you’ll be contacting.
Putting on shows within Skirball is not cheap. Not only does TNT make this money back in ticket sales but they have always ended with a surplus. That’s unheard of in the collegiate world, let alone for a student produced show. They makes a return 100% of the time which is a testament to their dedication to keeping costs down (need I go over the U-Haul vs. NYU vendor again?) and effective marketing. This hard earned profit goes right back into the bank account held by TUSC. An organization that has a bad habit of distributing club surpluses when a club has been inactive. This means that there’s a chance that by making Tisch New Theatre inactive TUSC could claim the tens of thousands of dollars of surplus as general surplus and redistribute it effectively bankrupting TNT.
Lastly, regardless of how TNT funds are managed within TUSC, a one year suspension prevents TNT from leveraging their surplus and raising more capital by putting on shows. Let me put it this way, imagine if someone took away your savings account for a year. Now they promised they would give it back after a year but this means you have now lost a year where that money could have been invested and grown in value and paid dividends.
No only has TUSC silenced the support of donors and ticket buyers, but they all but froze the momentum and potential of TNT.
Impact on Students
When students arrive at NYU they are shown the Skirball Center of the Arts, a world class proscenium theatre space. Only to find out when they arrive at Tisch that they will never perform in that space. This makes sense for Tisch since Skirball is expensive and not affiliated with Tisch. It wouldn’t be economical to rent an 850 seat house when Tisch shows struggle to fill 100 seat spaces. There’s no drive within Tisch to market the shows correctly because the faculty have no incentive; they don’t get paid more if their show is better attended or has higher production value. The reason Tisch New Theatre has grown to it’s size and stature is because students have different incentives than faculty. Students don’t have jobs yet, and we are hungry to break out into the industry. Students have the incentive to make the show a commercial success as well as an artistic success.
Not only is Tisch New Theatre filled with Tisch students hungry to make theatre but it is also filled with students from almost every other NYU school. TNT provides an opportunity for students who have multiple passions to continue working in theatre. When I left Tisch after two years to get my double major in Politics, TNT was there. The beauty of being a club is anyone can be part of a production. There’s no need to be registered for a specific class or be close with a certain faculty members. All are welcome. Administrators frequently make efforts to get Tisch students out of the “bubble” and form connections with those outside of Tisch. Tisch New Theatre is doing just that.
TNT gives students the opportunity to perform on the largest stage below 42nd street while creating friendships with students from every NYU school. Tisch New Theatre fills a void.
As fun as college might be, there’s an endgame; to gain the skill set and make the connections necessary for employment post graduation. I have had industry members speak with me at opening nights and even at the Tony Awards who saw either Catch Me If You Can or Hairspray. TNT makes it part of the productions teams duty to invite agents and industry professionals; there were over 20 at Hairspray. It was clear that they were impressed by not only the production value, but the talent. More often than not, student theatre means cramming into a 50 seat black box on folding chairs and being handed a hastility xeroxed program. When you go see a TNT production you are handed a full color glossy program and ushered into a beautiful proscenium house. Performance is paramount, but the experience of the show is also a critical component for many.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this letter and please reach out to any or all of the administrators listed above.