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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Many Students Leave All-School Meeting Unsatisfied

Students addressed their concerns Monday at an All-School meeting regarding the future of the School of Dramatic Arts. 

Taper Hall was packed with students Monday night for a School of Dramtic Arts (SDA) meeting to address the apparent firing of two professors and the future of the school.

Some showed up angered, some showed up in support, and some showed up simply to see what all of the drama was about.

Madeline Puzo, Dean of USC School of Dramatic Arts, opened the meeting with a speech reminding the students that we are all working toward the same goal.

"Ultimately your success is the school's success," said Puzzo. 

This was followed by a speech from Annie Jankowski, president of the Theater Students Association. 

She echoed Puzo's message, reminding students that the faculty have our best interest at heart.

"Do you think our faculty wants to see us succeed?" said Jankowski. 

She then turned the meeting over to theater professor Sharon Carnicke and associate professor Oliver Mayer, who led the discussion.

The open discussion allowed students to approach the two microphones at the front of the room with questions. 

One objection raised repeatedly was the school's failure to provide the names of the professors teaching certain classes during registration.

Junior Kelly Hagen, who switched from the B.F.A. program to the B.A. program says that an ability to choose a specific professor and style of acting was the primary reason she made the change. 

"I feel like I've lost a lot of seniority by not knowing whose class I'm registering for," said Hagen.   "While I have complete faith in all of the full time faculty, no one is more fit to decide what or how I learn than I am and that's why I came to this school where there are all of these free choices for me."

Puzo agreed that the school does not want one "House Style" of acting, but instead offers students several different styles of acting from which to choose.

However, students questioned why both professors apparently being fired teach the same acting style, if Puzo wants to maintain diversity of teaching styles. 

"The direction of the school has been, still is, and will continue to be, to give you an excellent education, a rigorous and deep artistic training, and, I believe, more professional preparation than any other top tier dramatic arts program in this country," said Puzo.

Students in the School of Dramatic Arts launched a Facebook page "Protest SDA firing of Joe Anthony & Doug Tompos" last Tuesday that now has 389 "likes."

The supporters of the page are upset that classes taught by Joe Anthony and Doug Tompos were not renewed for the Fall 2013 semester.

The official petition on a Google Doc currently has 87 signatures and testimonials expressing the students' appreciation for the two professors.

Over the past two years, there have been many changes to the SDA, including the departure of Zane and Brian Parsons and Angus Fletcher's denial of tenure.

With the apparent firing of Anthony and Tompos, students are concerned that the school is favoring a classic "old school" approach to teaching and pushing out anyone with a contemporary voice.

"We are all concerned with the direction our school is headed, its leadership, the lack of funding and many other issues," the SDA Community told ATVN.

The SDA Community, consisting of concerned students and parents, thinks the SDA is not providing "a variety of professors with differing ideologies" and those "who are interested in many voices from which to draw" are being ignored.

"I am appalled but unfortunately not surprised that Dean Puzo has decided to fire two of the men who have been personal supporters and professional mentors to my daughter," one parent's testimonial stated. "It seems to me that USC's leadership needs to pay more attention to what is going on in Dean Puzo's office - she is giving the university a negative reputation."

Dean Puzo said "We take the student evaluations very seriously", and is looking forward to Monday's meeting. The Dean said she wants to remind students that the faculty and dean's office are "in the middle of two lengthy but very important processes which have not yet been finalized. Until then, she says she is not in a position to make any decision.

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