Arts Alliance removes freshmen representatives from executive board

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter

Arts Alliance has eliminated freshman representatives from its executive board this year as part of a reorganization effort by the theater board.

In the past, the eight student theater boards that comprise the Student Theatre Coalition have reserved space for freshman representatives.

“We seek to reimagine the possibilities for engaging new students and including their voices in our work,” Arts Alliance said in a statement. “We are excited to share with you the first of many steps we are taking towards this end.”

StuCo Co-Chair Tristan Chiruvolu said there had been discussion in the theater community about possibly eliminating FBRs as early as his sophomore year. The Communication senior said toward the end of last year StuCo held an open dialogue session and FBRs were discussed.

“This was an opportunity for anyone who was involved in the theater community to just come to an event in a room and talk openly about their frustrations, concerns and confusions,” he said. “There were conversations going on about whether FBRs were necessary or not, and whether they did more harm to the community than good.”

Communication senior Grace Hamilton-Vargo, who was elected to the new position of community representative to StuCo last spring, organized a poll about FBRs at the end of the last school year. Around 140 people responded to the poll, the majority of whom were part of the StuCo community.

“What I found was that overwhelmingly, even among the people who believed that FBRs were a good thing both for boards and freshmen, the selection process and the way that we treat it as a community was not always ideal,” Hamilton-Vargo said. “A lot of times, freshmen will be going in not really understanding what boards are, or what they do. I remember when I was a freshman, I didn’t understand the difference between what any of the boards were.”

In the past, during Fall Quarter, freshmen would petition for the different groups they were interested in. The application process included a written petition and an interview with the board members. About 50 freshmen applied for an FBR position, and each board had 1-3 positions available.

Starting this year, FBR petitions will be known as fall board interviews. StuCo will release an information packet and each board will detail the changes they are making and describe the position they are looking to fill, StuCo announced on its email list on Oct. 7.

“In the theatre community, a lot of how you are seen and how you are perceived is based on what you ‘get,’” Chiruvolu said. “So basically the notion was that FBRs happen so early on in the year for freshmen, and we just grab a select handful of people and catapult them to this social standing.”

Hamilton-Vargo said a lot of freshmen see it as a social “in” and as a way to make friends, not necessarily as a theater management opportunity.

“You’re going to find that a lot of people in the theater community hate the idea of FBRs,” Hamilton-Vargo said. “You’re also going to find that a lot of people don’t think that way.”

Communication freshman Sam van Loon, said he felt very uneducated on what exactly the responsibility of an FBR is.

“Having a representative from the freshman grade on the board just makes sense as far as keeping us in the loop,” van Loon said. “So eliminating that position doesn’t make sense to me.”

Chiruvolu, who was an FBR for WAVE Productions, one of the student theater boards under StuCo, said the experience was invaluable and “completely changed” how he viewed art, theater and himself.

He said that every year, a fourth of the class leaves, and an entirely new fourth of Northwestern appears, so the population is constantly in flux.

“To accurately represent the student body and the student community, we have to have representatives from that new fourth that enter every year,” he said.

StuCo is planning to have info sessions, send freshmen emails from the StuCo email list, among other things, to make what happens behind closed doors as transparent as they possibly can for freshmen, Chiruvolu said.

“It’s incredibly important to have freshmen there from the beginning in order to share their voices and lend us their unique insight into their college experience,” he said.

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