NU parents and arts students petition against inequity in Wildcat Wellness rules


Madison Smith/Daily Senior Staffer

The inside of the Cahn Auditorium, where The Dolphin Show will be performed. Students cannot enter theater spaces during Wildcat Wellness.

Rayna Song, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Several Northwestern parents started a petition during Winter Break objecting to the way Wildcat Wellness protocols treat arts students versus student athletes.

In a Dec. 20 email, Vice President for Operations Luke Figora detailed restrictions during the mandatory two-week quarantine period. All classes and co-curricular activities were shifted to remote on Jan. 1, with limited exceptions. However, some arts students felt excluded after finding some athletes would observe a modified wellness period to allow for practices and some competitions.

“Athletic teams are allowed to practice, play and travel during the two weeks, but theatre students will be unable to rehearse, which reflects an inequity skewed against the arts,” the petition read.

The petition also advocates for Radio, Television and Film students and music students who face similar difficulties. NU’s COVID-19 and Campus update page states some music performance students will also observe a modified wellness period similar to athletes, and can rehearse individually on campus if necessary.

Communication sophomore Lucia Padilla Katz said her dad posted in a Facebook group for NU parents after learning about Wildcat Wellness restrictions. Another parent, Jennifer McCune, then drafted the petition, which has been circulated through different arts groups and sent to University officials multiple times with updated signatures.

Katz, who is a cast member in The 79th Annual Dolphin Show, said she hopes the University can acknowledge and change this inequity so certain arts groups are allowed to rehearse in-person with testing requirements.

“The most inequitable is that (theatre) is what I’m majoring in, whereas the athletic teams, nobody is majoring in basketball,” Katz said. “But this is what I plan for my career to be…so it’s really important that I’m able to get the real opportunities and not have it lost because of COVID.”

McCune said she started the petition even though her son is a McCormick student because Wildcat Wellness is “very isolating and depressing.” She said some other universities are finding ways, such as daily COVID-19 testing, to avoid the quarantine process.

“We have new technologies and knowledge since (last year), including vaccines and testing, so it seems that we could update our policies just as other universities are doing,” she said.

However, some students left anonymous comments on the petition to voice their concerns about how its demands ignore immunocompromised community members. One student commented that asking the University to expand in-person activities and rehearsals during Wildcat Wellness perpetuates ableism. They added that the petition felt like a “slap in the face” to those in the community that are chronically ill or disabled.

A July Daily investigation found theatre students receiving accommodations struggle to find accessibility within the program.

These comments have since been resolved after receiving backlash from other commenters on the petition.

“The validity of this anger and frustration doesn’t outweigh the danger posed to numerous people that also attend NU and deserve to have a safe experience,” one comment read.

Communication senior Owen Kiley, one of the producers for The Dolphin Show, said the team cancelled three performances from Jan. 21 to 23 because of Wildcat Wellness. During the first two weeks of January, cast members cannot rehearse in-person and designers cannot set up the stage because students are not allowed to enter Cahn Auditorium.

The Dolphin Show will perform as scheduled on Jan. 28 and 29, and Kiley said the team hopes to add more performances. Kiley added he hopes the University can implement more “communication and transparency” with theatre students so the two parties can reach a mutual solution when performances are canceled due to the pandemic.

“It’s certainly discouraging that we cannot continue as planned,” Kiley said. “(But) at The Dolphin Show, we understand that the University has to do what’s necessary to ensure the health and safety of students.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @RaynaYu_Song

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