The Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW Organizing Committee is proud to endorse and support this campaign put forth by graduate students at Harvard/A.R.T.’s Institute for Advanced Theater Training.
Update: In July, as a startling response to the recent Department of Education report which labeled Harvard’s financial support to students as “failing,” Harvard announced it will suspend admissions to the A.R.T Institute for the next three years. Students within the program have been advocating for change for years and have been ignored. As one current student, Shawn Jain, explains it in a recent Op-Ed: “… when Drew Faust became president, Harvard studied this exact issue as part of a task force on the impact of the arts at university, and the report found that to be truly competitive with peer institutions, fully funded M.F.A. (Masters of Fine Arts) degrees were the next step for Harvard. Nine years later and with President Faust set to end her tenure, I agree. ”
Harvard should recognize the challenges these students face and remedy the financial burden for the current class of 2018. Please take a moment and sign our petition.
The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.’s) Institute for Advanced Theater Training is a crown jewel on Harvard’s campus. This small but fierce program of about 45 students consistently ranks in the Top 10 amongst the world’s graduate acting training programs and is housed at one of the preeminent regional theaters in the nation. The A.R.T.’s productions boast 17 Tony Award Wins as of 2017, and it is one of only four remaining major regional theater programs in the U.S. connected to a top-tier acting program (Yale and Brown/Trinity are the only two other Ivy League schools to share that title). The A.R.T. has been an integral part of the creation of the Theater, Dance, & Media concentration for Harvard undergraduates. Above all, The A.R.T. and the Institute uphold Harvard’s tradition of excellence, innovation and exploration in all fields. Harvard should live up to its values and further solidify its growing commitment to the arts.
However, though the training at the A.R.T. Institute is world-class, the resources available to the students, which contribute directly to their well-being and success, are vastly limited. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education’s determined in January that the Institute has failed to meet the standards of the Department’s Gainful Employment Rule. The ruling indicates that upon graduation, students from the Institute are too burdened by student loan debt to make a living in the field in which they have trained. The Department of Education has determined graduates of this program typically devote nearly half of their monthly income to repaying their student loan debt.
A.R.T Institute Student Financing
According to the Hollywood Reporter’s annual report on the “Best Drama Schools for an M.F.A.”, A.R.T. ranked #14 of the Top 25 Best Drama Schools for an MFA in 2015; and #9 in 2016.
Top Ten Ranking, M.F.A. Programs 2016
2) Yale School of Drama
4) Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (London, England)
7) Old Globe at University of San Diego
8) Columbia University
9) American Repertory Theater at Harvard University
10) Bristol Old Vic (Bristol, UK)
While the academic excellence of A.R.T. competes strongly amongst the world’s greatest acting programs, the aid Harvard provides in comparison to its peer institutions does not, as illustrated by the graph below. We have also compiled more detailed information about funding available at these institutions.
Moreover, investing in the arts is not something reserved for universities with world-renowned endowments. A number of other universities have committed to funding their MFA Acting students significantly more than Harvard University. These schools each employ responsible financial aid models, many of which Harvard could consider modeling.
Our success is essential to Harvard’s academic excellence and worldwide acclaim. Since the A.R.T. Institute’s inception, Harvard has been reaping the benefits of this top-tier acting program and yet refuses to provide its students a professional leg up by creating a financial aid model equivalent to its top industry competitors. Moreover, while the theatre community regards the A.R.T. at Harvard training as comparable to that of an M.F.A. degree, despite the endorsement of its own Task Force on the Arts Report nine years ago, encouraging the university offer terminal M.F.A. degrees, Harvard has yet to modify the degree. Students’ futures not only as theatre artists, but also their as future teachers have been impacted over and over again by Harvard’s apparent lack of desire to properly invest in this program.
Our success is Harvard’s success, as our failure is Harvard’s failure. We cannot succeed without Harvard’s help. The federal government has deemed Harvard University remiss in regard to our program, and though we are small, we refuse to let that stand.
The Harvard community looks forward to a public response from the President’s Office announcing that the points on this list will be addressed urgently and concretely.
1. Total tuition and living expense repayment to all students in the Class of 2018 for both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. Harvard University sold students a bill of goods substantially different from what we have received. We committed to getting a degree from an Institute that was ranked highly, with a sterling reputation in theatre and in academia, and one that would continue after we left, providing us with an ever-expanding network. Instead, we will be getting a degree from an Institute that has been lumped together by the federal government alongside brazenly predatory schools like Corinthian, DeVry, and ITT Tech in terms of its financial aid offerings, is no longer top-ranked in the theatre world, and will close its doors for at least the next three years. While every A.R.T. student (past and future) has been affected by this fallout, our class is forced to sit amid the chaos of this failure and live with the consequences of this Institute’s historically poor choices. We did not sign up for this.
2. Confer retroactive Masters of Fine Arts degrees to all students who have received Master’s of Liberal Arts from the Extension School via the American Repertory Theater and A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. As said in the 2008 Harvard Task Force on the Arts report (http://www.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/content/arts_report.pdf ), the University’s next step in becoming an international leader in arts education is to offer the terminal M.F.A. degree. In light of our program closing its doors for three years to retool its structure, upon reopening, it is likely they will begin offering an M.F.A. from Harvard. We request that when Harvard University begins to offer M.F.A. degrees, that all students who have received Master’s’ of Liberal Arts from the Extension School via the American Repertory Theater are retroactively granted the M.F.A. degree. Our current training is of M.F.A. caliber but due to Harvard’s slow-moving bureaucratic structure, the university has been unwilling to confer our training as such.
If Harvard takes these steps, it will demonstrate clearly that the university is not only committed to the future acting students who are not yet even enrolled but also to the living, breathing acting graduate students who are on its campus now.