Precedent strikes down student safety

by Alex Tubridy & Ashley Holmes

Opinion Contributors

Let us formally state that we applaud the members of senate and the work that they do for the student body. They serve as elected officials that are representatives of the students of Canisius, and we trust that careful thought and consideration goes into each item discussed during senate meetings. However, recent events have left us wondering as to whether or not this holds true. Though we can neither agree with nor fully understand the rationale behind all things voted upon by senate, one item in particular has left us scratching our heads; one that Little Theatre brought to attention at this past week’s powwow.

Coinciding with the budget cuts and departmental rearrangements that included the unveiling of the GriffCenter and the dissolution of the assemblage formerly known as CPLD, Little Theatre was, as with many other clubs, thrown into snafu. As the academic year approached, it seemed that the club would hold steadfast and persevere through the turmoil and confusion, until we received a call from our former technical director and Canisius alumnus stating that his position was cut. This was especially shocking, as this had been done without any notice to the club’s Executive Board or advisor. Administration had transgressed an unwritten social law and terminated a position imperative to the club’s operation without so much as an email.

Serving as Canisius’ oldest club, Little Theatre seeks to optimize the involvement and experience of its student members. Students complete most every aspect of each theatrical production. This includes rehearsing, hanging light fixtures, creating costumes, and construction of the set. The position of technical director was immediately responsible for the approval of and safe construction of each set. The termination of this position is perplexing as it is one directly involved with the safety of students. Resultant of the club’s responsibility to build their own sets, Little Theatre members operate more than 10+ different power tools used for construction, including saws, drills, and sanders. Use of tools with the potential to seriously harm a student should not rely on an “educated guess” or a “wing it” attitude. Proper instruction and demonstration of the use of these tools is vital to student safety and should be directly overseen by a professional.

Additionally, the approval of and guarantee that all set pieces are structurally sound and safe for use is something that needs to be done by a professional. For example, the recent production of Godspell included a raised platform five feet from the ground with an eight foot steeple attached to it. To expect students to design and construct a platform that reaches a height of thirteen feet and to expect it to be properly braced and safe for use without consultation of a professional is both foolish and unsensible.

Despite his lack of funding for the previous academic year, our current technical director volunteered his time to Little Theatre to ensure that everything was done properly and efficiently. Though our gratitude for his time knows no bounds, it would be foolhardy for us to expect his continued involvement without proper compensation. We have been working with members of USA on a resolution to seek funding for our technical director in the future. However, we strongly advocate that he receive proper compensation for his work throughout the current academic year.

For this reason, current Little Theatre president Ashley Holmes brought the matter to the attention of senate on Tuesday. After presenting our argument, the appeal was denied, citing an unfamiliar and nebulous “precedent”. This decision seems to reflect a misunderstanding of what we ask, and frankly, appears to represent a lack of concern for student safety. We understand the importance of standards and holding to them, however we feel strongly that our case warrants a special exception as it directly involves student safety. As we continue to collect signatures to petition for our technical director’s payment, we have been granted permission to appeal from the floor at this coming week’s senate meeting. Thus, we hope to concisely elucidate our requests:

  1. Our technical director be compensated for his work for the current academic year with funds from USA. We acknowledge that this would have to be an exception to current financial precedents. We are NOT looking for this to be a permanent solution to the issue, we just want to ensure that he is paid for the work he completed.
  2. Obtain funding for the position of Technical Director of Little Theatre from another source for future years. By funding the position of Technical Director, Little Theatre would be ensured that the position is filled in future years and the safety of students will be given the attention it deserves.

Furthermore, with the academic year at a close, USA has funds leftover that are to be absorbed into the contingency fund. In previous years, the stipend for the position of Technical Director has been $1,606.32. This is the amount we request in our appeal, which is a small portion of this year’s leftover funds.

Student safety is something that Canisius has been actively stressing recently, e.g. the attention drawn to Title IX and the Know the Line campaign. Our request for the funding of our technical director for his previous year’s work is one that we feel senate should oblige if the school is to uphold its image of one that truly cares for the safety and welfare of each student.


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