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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

UPDATE: Professor Anthony Says 'No Comment'

The School of Dramatic Arts has not responded to the Facebook page which has more than 250 "likes" as of Wednesday.

UPDATE | April 10, 9:42 p.m. PDT: Joe Anthony, one of the two School of Dramatic Arts professors whose employment status with the university has sparked protest and debate Wednesday, refrained from making a public statement.

"I am currently employed through the end of this semester and therefore have no comment at this time," wrote Anthony via e-mail.

UPDATE | April 10, 3:07 p.m. PDT: "No one has been fired," explained Madine Puzo, Dean of USC School of Dramatic Arts, in an attempt to clarify rumors and diffuse tensions swirling both on-campus and on social media regarding the employment of two theater professors.

"There was one professor who was denied tenure," said Puzo, adding that "that is a university decision."

Puzo described her approach to management as always having "an open door." In the aftermath of a Facebook page protesting the so-called firing of popular professors Joe Anthony and Doug Tompos, Puzo said she has called for a full-school meeting, "not to hide."

"Let's talk about this," said Puzo. "Let's try and deal with this together."

To Brian Parsons, who wrote to ATVN via e-mail Wednesday morning, Puzo questioned the reliability of his insight into campus affairs.

"Brian's in England," she said. "I don't know how he would know what's going on in this school."

Puzo praised the faculty for its professionalism, rigor, tolerance and generosity, and explained that the faculty is currently engaged in two distinct processes: a search process as well as peer-to-peer evaluations.

ORIGINAL STORY | April 10, 11:03 a.m. PDT:

Students in the School of Dramatics Arts (SDA) at USC have launched a Facebook page protesting what they say is the unfair firing of faculty members Joe Anthony and Doug Tompos.

According to the page "Protest SDA firing of Joe Anthony & Doug Tompos," students are upset that classes taught by the two professors were not renewed for the Fall 2013 semester.

278 people have "liked" the page since it was created Tuesday.

The official petition located at this Google Doc, has 20 signatures. Organizers said they plan to send a list of student e-mails and testimonials to USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett.

ATVN reached out to Garrett's office and the office of Madeline Puzo, Dean of USC School of Dramatic Arts, for a response to the protest, but had not received a response as of Wednesday morning.

Brian Parsons, former head of undergraduate acting at USC, told ATVN in an e-mail:

"To clarify, Joe and Doug are not offered anything in the fall. As they are term to term they are being de facto fired. There is no good pedagogical or financial reason to fire them. The Dean and the new head of B.A. Acting are pursuing a personal agenda. I was pushed out, a colleague who was very popular was denied tenure and another colleague who was undermined and mistreated left to join another university when the dean was renewed.

[The] culture in the school of drama is toxic and students are not being listened too. Many are switching majors and in the last semester nearly 60 per cent of upperclassmen have dropped acting classes. This is since he new administration started programming and selecting the teachers. Joe and Doug are wildly popular. Check out their student [evaluation reports] and their student numbers. They always have waiting lists. They offer a contemporary and pragmatic approach to actor training. Both of them teach in studios and currently work in the industry. They are truly transformative faculty."

Here is the full text of the group's statement:

The SDA student body and much of the faculty is very concerned with the direction that the leadership is pushing the department in. First two beloved teachers, Lora Zane and Brian Parsons leave for better jobs, Angus Fletcher, arguably the most loved professor in the school is denied tenure and now the two best and most popular teachers (Doug Tompos and Joe Anthony) are being fired. The school wants to offer us out-moded theatre 'technique' based on a misunderstanding of the contexts in which we will work after graduation. In short, the Dean is backing a style of teaching and pedagogy that will not support us at all when we graduate.

The Dean flatly refuses to collaborate with the cinema school apart from a token class and she has no experience of teaching and learning and has never trained an artist in her life, yet she micromanages what goes on in the classroom. She is now backing faculty members who have said that we - the students - don't know what we're talking about when we, the students AND faculty say that we value the work of Joe and Doug. Is this true? Do we really have no idea what is good for us? Or what inspires us? Clearly the teachers that they have put in the upper-level classes this semester didn't inspire us as the classes were cancelled due to low numbers - and yet Doug and Joe always have waiting lists.

We feel that the only way to show the Dean and the school that we do know what we want and what is of value to us as students is to contact the Provost and let our concerns about the school be known. All the best faculty are being fired. We are wasting our time and money studying acting at USC if the best actors are canned. The Dean continues to brush us off and gives us a story about the strength of the new approach. This is absolute rubbish. If the new approach is so good then why have nearly 60% of upper classmen dropped their acting class this semester? We are now getting our parents, alumni and donors involved. We are taking action now before it's too late. It's our School - not the failing Dean's who lost the school of Dance to the music school.

The Dean says that she wants us to be self-initiating artists...well, this is us showing her what that looks like. We'll find out really quickly whether she is true to her word. We have already been summarily brushed off by the SDA administration. However, looking at the hard evidence - student evaluations, waiting lists for Joe and Doug's classes, we believe that we have solid grounds for our protest.

Hopefully that's enough to get reported. We have 220 people involved in this protest so far, the support of 10 school faculty members, a number of parents and alumni and we WILL be heard or take our business elsewhere. Trust us.

- The SDA Students


I agree completely. USC School of Theatre didnt prepare me at all for the real world of acting. Dean Puzo should just be let go. There is probably so many other qualified people who can have her position. My favorite teachers when i was there was Paul Backer and Mary Joan-heck make them deans. There is sooooooooo many issues that the school of theatre has, and its going down the drain because there not fixing it!

I LOVED USC, but thought the theatre program at SC wasn't what i expected.

Not to forget, but there are plenty of students in support of SDA's decision not to offer Tompos and Anthony classes next semester. With the recent departure of the director of acting (Parsons) the school is making many changes to its curriculum in the right direction. Obviously that’s subjective, but students need to remember they didn’t apply here for a specific teacher. They applied here to study acting and should continue to do so. If they wish to study under Tompos and Anthony, both of them have studios in LA that offer classes to actors wishing to only study their technique. As a student and a Trojan, I support this decision!

And let's not forget the huge scandal involving the 2011 Senior showcase where over 30 theatre seniors signed petitions about an unfair audition process for the SDA's agent showcase, and the Dean admitted to wrongdoing. As an SDA graduate, USC's theatre school did not prepare me AT ALL for acting in the real world, and Dean Puzo is entirely to blame. She has absolutely no idea how to run a successful contemporary theatre school. 'Fire her ASAP USC' (a facebook group I would join).

Let us say a few things in response to the Dean:

First of all, the initiative to save Joe Anthony & Doug Tompos is completely independent of Professors Anthony & Tompos. They are in no way fueling or initiating this petition. They are not petitioning students on their behalf nor have they made any contact with us regarding this page.

These two amazing professors have not been offered any classes for next term, and while the dean may say "no one has been fired", for an adjunct faculty member, that is being "fired". Mr. Anthony was offered an evening class slot, during a time when the school knows he is unavailable.

The Dean has asked us to "deal with this together", as if this is some outside force causing this tragedy. These are two beloved professors who are being dismissed. There is nothing to "deal with". We insist that they be offered their normal classes in the Fall, so that all students may benefit from them.

Please note that we have spoken to NUMEROUS sources to verify the validity of our claims. This is fact-based and student-fueled, and we refuse to back down simply because the Dean has said "no one has been fired." There are many ways to be fired. Not being offered classes is one of those ways.

We encourage all students to continue to protest this, to submit their concerns and comments in this forum, and to keep being vocal. We will save our beloved professors.

Furthermore, the Dean says ""Brian's in England," she said. "I don't know how he would know what's going on in this school." Brian Parsons has more insight into what is happening in the SDA based on his 3 years of service than the Dean has at all. The Dean has never once visited a class, leaves at intermission of nearly every SDA show (if she shows up at all) and has never taught an acting class in her life.

While this protest is not directly about the Dean, we encourage her to honor the opinions and thoughts of someone who has intimate knowledge of the goings on of this school, and what has been brewing for a number of years.

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