Our commitment to change

A note from the School of Dramatic Arts’ Vice Dean and Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion:

The School of Dramatic Arts acknowledges that there is much work to be done to dismantle the system and culture of inequity that has prevailed for many years at the School, and to assure a safe environment of authentic belonging and community for our BIPOC students, faculty and staff. The following overarching action items and goals for the School have been established as we endeavor to stand for the principles of inclusivity and equity in our classrooms, on our stages and in the university at large. These actions were developed following the CommUNITY Forum focus groups, but this is a framework. We will continually amend and further define these actions with input from the community at our SDA Inclusion and Equity Committee meetings, which all members of the SDA Community are invited to attend. Additionally, we are developing specific action steps for each area and program in the School, as well as metrics of assessment.

Articulating these actions, and our commitment to them, is just the beginning. We must, as a community, participate in continuous open dialogue, be open to change — in ourselves as well as the institution — and exhibit perseverance. We have relied on many of our faculty, staff, students and alumni to shoulder this important work on their own for far too long, and we are long overdue to make crucial changes to the School. There is much to be done. Systemic change will not happen overnight, but through committed action, continued communication, as well as the support and voices of our community, we will see change.


Lori Ray Fisher
Vice Dean
Anita Dashiell-Sparks
Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

USC School of Dramatic Arts EDI Action Items

    In addition to any new professional development training mandated by the university, SDA faculty and staff will be mandated to complete additional training in areas such as equity-mindedness, anti-Black racism, white fragility and building cultures of affirmative consent. This training will be made part of the onboarding process. We will continue to integrate EDI foundational principles and core values into THTR 101, THTR 120 and THTR 125, gateway courses for all freshmen students at SDA.
    June 2020, Academic Year 2020-2021 and Ongoing
    A thorough analysis of current curriculum has begun by the co-heads of undergraduate acting, along with the area heads and program directors, and we will begin to implement best practices of de-colonizing theatrical canon, and de-centering the works and perspectives of the European and white cis-gendered heteronormative male. We will proactively integrate anti-racist pedagogies within curricular content of both performance and critical studies classes and engage students to diverse perspectives and experiences of artists/writers in contemporary and classical genres. We are working to create specific action plans to strengthen and integrate EDI into all areas and programs of the School. We will identify specific metrics of assessment for each action item as an accountability measure towards improvement.
    Phase 1: Academic Year 2020-2021 & New Curriculum: 2021-2023
    A system of anonymous reporting incidents of microaggressions, racist comments, bias, discrimination and harassment will be created and implemented — including follow-up and resolution procedures. Individuals who are not compliant will be sanctioned and held accountable for their actions. SDA’s Definition of Excellence in Teaching was recently modified to include diversity and inclusion as a tenant of excellence in teaching. Faculty are assessed based on this Definition of Excellence, including specific ways the individual demonstrates, integrates, and applies dynamics of diversity and inclusion into their curriculum, teaching, active engagement and learning environment in the classroom or rehearsal hall. These measures of assessment for merit review, and peer review processes are tied to salary, faculty promotion and tenure.
    September 2020 and Academic Year 2020-2021; Ongoing
    An examination and review of current casting protocols for auditions and for productions will be implemented with the goal of being equitable in this process — being mindful of access and opportunity of experiences for all students at SDA. Expectations of inclusivity will be integrated into casting processes across various identities and communicated in the audition memo and orientation process for all directors of productions. We will be thoughtful and intentional in the curation of the SDA production season and examine our process of selection through the lens of equity-mindedness (experiential equity). We will continue to examine ways to balance all constituencies with choice of plays and directors — celebrating diverse identities and experiences across, race, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, socio-economic, gender identity and expression.
    August 2020 and Academic Year 2020-2021; Ongoing
    The Inclusion and Equity Committee of SDA will serve as a task force to continue to support and assess programs and initiatives surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion, and adjust them accordingly. The committee will consist of the associate dean of EDI as chair, faculty and staff representatives across all of the SDA programs, two current students, two alumni and a representative from the SDA Board of Councilors. The Inclusion and Equity Committee will hold monthly meetings during the academic year and all members of the SDA community are invited to attend. Additionally, the School’s Board of Councilors will create an EDI task force to support and advance the School’s EDI efforts.
    September 2020 and Academic Year 2020-2021; Ongoing
    We will assess and revise recruitment practices and job requirements for hiring and will be intentional in our desire to add to our BIPOC members of faculty and directors hired for the School’s season of productions. We will also assess and revise current student recruitment practices. We will outline our target high schools for recruitment and share statistical data related to recruitment and admissions on the School’s website. Our Advancement Team has prioritized raising funds for scholarships for BIPOC students, and will work with the university to build additional funds to hire BIPOC members of faculty.
    Academic Year 2020-2021; Implementation: Academic Year 2021-2022 (depending on university-mandated hiring freeze)
    We will create a Code of Ethics — a set of community agreements with expectations of standards for faculty, staff and students of professional behavior, etiquette and quality/excellence of our work as dramatic artists, as well as the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in our community. The language will address microaggressions, racism and bias previously identified by our students, faculty and staff. Additionally, many in our community have shared examples of profiling and discrimination they have experienced with campus DPS officers. The School is working in partnership with other Schools and organizations facilitating conversations and bias training with DPS to ensure our students, faculty and staff are safe from these unacceptable experiences.
    August 2020; Ongoing
    Working with the Inclusion and Equity Committee, our BIPOC faculty and Board of Councilors, we will explore ways to broaden our Career Center offerings to encompass unique challenges faced by BIPOC artists. We will further develop the School’s mentorship opportunities with a focus on fostering BIPOC connections with our alumni, faculty, staff and Board.
    Current & Ongoing