Arkansas Tech University administrators and faculty members have worked together and identified spaces for Tech theatre students to continue their studies following the closure of the Techionery theatre workshop.
“In education, we must always put the needs of the students at the forefront of our thinking,” said Dr. John W. Watson, vice president for academic affairs. “It was that principle that caused Arkansas Tech to close the Techionery theatre workshop due to safety concerns, and that same principle has been in practice this week as we have worked to resolve the associated issues. On behalf of the university, I would like to offer my appreciation to Dr. H. Micheal Tarver, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and Anthony Caton, interim head of the Department of Speech, Theatre and Journalism, for their leadership during this process.”
Watson said that the following steps are in place to accommodate the needs of the Arkansas Tech theatre program for the remainder of the 2011-12 academic year:
(1) Classroom space has been identified and assigned for all theatre classes for the remainder of the fall 2011 semester, and similar arrangements are being made for the spring 2012 semester with no anticipated problems;
(2) All course work regarding the construction of sets --- to include any welding and woodworking that might be necessary --- will be performed at the Arkansas Tech Career Center (ATCC) on Highway 7T in Russellville, and students will do that work with ATCC equipment under the supervision of ATCC faculty members;
(3) Students will utilize Witherspoon Auditorium for their fall 2011 production of “Candide,” which will go on as scheduled;
(4) Students will use Witherspoon Auditorium for rehearsals to the extent that is possible based on availability of that facility, and alternative space for rehearsals when necessary has been identified;
(5) Arkansas Tech is engaged in an assessment of the space inside the Techionery occupied by the theatre workshop to determine the best course of action for cleaning the facility and addressing the safety concerns raised in the Sept. 9 report by the Russellville Fire Department (RFD), an assessment that Watson stated will be a “lengthy process.”
Due to concerns resulting from the RFD report, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) has agreed to conduct a review of the theatre option within the Bachelor of Arts degree in speech at Arkansas Tech during the 2011-12 academic year.
That review process had been scheduled for 2017-18, but since ADHE already had plans to review the Arkansas Tech Master of Arts degree in multimedia journalism during the current academic year it agreed to review the theatre program concurrently.
The reviews, which as a matter of procedure will also include a review of the Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication at Arkansas Tech, will be conducted by independent persons from out of state who will be selected by ADHE.
“There are no plans to discontinue the theatre program at Arkansas Tech,” said Watson. “The program review is not directed toward discontinuing the program. It is a process that is required by law, and it is a deliberate and thorough process. We do not anticipate receiving any report concerning the program review until late in the spring of 2012.”