Most students don’t want to attend university longer than they have to, and theatre students are no different. But following the Ministry of Advanced Education’s recent decision to postpone UFV’s theatre major program, students who were planning to graduate this academic year with a theatre major now can’t, and are writing letters to the ministry in response.
The UFV Senate announced at its October 16 meeting that the ministry had decided to not approve six new programs as planned, but send them to the Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB) for further review instead. These programs included the theatre major, a peace and conflict studies major and minor, a bachelor of media arts program, a bachelor of education program, and an agriculture major.
Because of this decision, many students have to pick other programs than they originally intended in order to graduate. Theatre student association (TSA) president Geneva Perkins explained that this decision has a negative effect on many students.
“It’s frustrating to not know what degree we’re going to get,” she said. “What a lot of theatre students end up doing is an English major and a theatre extended minor. It’s a lot about planning your classes and figuring that stuff out, which is really hard to do when you don’t know what goal you’re working towards.”
Although many of these students are choosing other programs, they still want to make their voices heard, and they’re doing just that by writing letters to the ministry, as well as other local politicians. After seeking advice from the theatre department head and members of the political science department, TSA members decided letters were the way to go.
“We recommended writing letters to the ministers of advanced education, as well as local MLAs,” Perkins explained. “Emails are good, but handwritten, mailed letters would definitely have more of an impact.”
In their letters, students expressed how the delay was affecting them personally, as well as emphasizing that the theatre major wouldn’t take any other infrastructure or resources to implement, as UFV already has a thriving theatre program.
“We said that we were really disappointed that the ministry hasn’t approved the major yet, and that it was taking so long,” said Perkins. “The frustration is not knowing why it’s being delayed so long. We really wanted to emphasize why the theatre degree would be a really good asset for the university.”
The letters were sent to Andrew Wilkinson, minister of advanced education; Sandra Carroll, deputy minister; Darryl Plecas, MLA for Abbotsford; and John Martin and Laurie Throness, MLAs for Chilliwack.
Although Perkins has yet to hear from the ministry, she noted that the Abbotsford and Chilliwack MLAs immediately responded to her letters.
“They basically said that it was an issue that they were aware of, and they were going to take steps, talk to the ministers, and see what they can do,” she said. “It was really positive hearing back from them.”
Although Perkins and other students understand that the Ministry may not change their minds overnight, they’re hoping their letters remind them how the program delays are affecting students.
“What I hope is that it shows that it’s more than just a piece of paper sitting on the minister’s desk,” Perkins said. “It’s a decision that affects a lot of people.”