Umpqua Community College’s board of education unanimously approved a resolution for the continued support for performing and fine arts during its board meeting Wednesday.
Board member Erica Mills brought the resolution forward as a last minute item, following a week of discussions surrounding the music and theater programs at the college and in the community.
“I’m really pleased and grateful that the board unanimously supports the arts and this resolution to help demonstrate that publicly,” Mills said.
An email circulated in the community last week saying the college would be cutting its theater program and minimizing music offerings at the college. Umpqua Community College President Debra Thatcher sent out a statement over the weekend that the arts would not be going away, but that conversations about making changes to the programs were taking place.
During the board meeting, Thatcher reiterated that many of the art programs have low enrollment and bring in little money and that the college is looking to respond to those challenges.
“We cannot sustain programs that have three courses that are constantly having three, four, five students,” Thatcher said. “That’s the whole purpose of what we’re doing now. We need to revise it. Do we need to recruit differently? Do we need new scholarships? Do we need something else?”
She added that it would be unfair to keep performing arts classes with low enrollment, while canceling classes in other programs. “We have minimum program enrollments that we just have to meet,” Thatcher said.
The proclamation called the performing and fine arts at the college an indispensable extension of the education and development of all students and noted that the school board would support continuation and promotion of the programs, and development of policies and programs to promote the arts.
“I just want to provide a little bit of comfort that we do not have the intention of handcuffing administratively at all, but definitely a commitment to our community that we are hearing you,” board member David Littlejohn said. “This is something that the board is supportive of the arts and that we’re going to be working diligently to try to enhance those.”
At the start of the meeting, board chair Steve Loosley read three letters submitted to the board in favor of keeping the music and theater programs.
Loosley said it was time to start working with the community on solutions. During an agenda item about policy changes, Loosley requested a community member be added to the public art committee.
Two task forces, one for music and another for theater, have been established and will start meeting in May.