Tonight you will hear a presentation about the Buffalo Theater Ensemble. You have the wonderful opportunity to consider the future of one of the true gems that has put College of DuPage on the higher education map and the Chicagoland map. It is our belief that a student attending College of DuPage should have every educational opportunity that a student attending a 4-year public or private institution has. They need to be intellectually challenged like any first or second year college student. The community attends to be engaged not just entertained. We are a unique community college, we should not think like the cliché, but instead we should do everything we can to break that misconception.
What is very important to note is that BTE is on tonight’s agenda because of requests from students, alumni, and members of our community. Since the decision to end the presence of BTE on campus, there have been campaigns for its return. Not driven by the faculty members, who advocated for the project within the administrative structure until they were told “NO”, but by the public. In contrast I’ve not heard anyone advocating for the return of the Waterleaf.
As to whether or not BTE returns to campus must be driven by consideration of the tangible and intangible academic outcomes it provides to College of DuPage students and the COD community; not easily expressed by the charting of profit and losses or attendance. Is BTE important to the Theater program and the College for what it provides as a learning experience? The productions that were presented were not meant to be easy and accessible, they were to challenge the audience in many ways. This is higher education; not high school, not dinner theater. There is an academic obligation to move the audience out of their comfort zone, just as there is in much of our curriculum.
In many ways BTE is representative of the other great things that happen at COD, excellent projects that are faculty planned and led. We see support for some activities, but in recent years we’ve also have seen a number of activities that were faculty-driven disappear, be diminished, or at best misunderstood. Various Music Ensembles and the multi-disciplinary Community Farm, to name just a few. There has been a misguided philosophy that the best and only place for full-time faculty is in the classroom; we’ve endured that for too long. What Faculty do is not linear, we all do many things other than stand at the lectern and present. But, to understand this, that means you must look outside the classroom for a complete view of what faculty bring to COD and expand the vision of what being a college professor is all about.
College of DuPage is a college, a leading institution of higher education. Our success can’t be measured through spread sheets nor confined within business management philosophy; to enhance and guarantee COD’s success as something other than just a cheap alternative to other schools, there needs to be an understanding that faculty do bring incredible expertise to the planning of and accomplishment of the academic mission. You have hired the best faculty, not the most affordable; we should be empowered to lead and innovate. You will be impressed.