Group forms to question Fairmont State decision to end music and theatre programs

Education

A performance at Fairmont State in Feb. 2020

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Following a decision by Fairmont State University’s Board of Governors, earlier this month, to eliminate its music and theatre majors, a group of more than 3,400 concerned citizens, alumni, faculty, students, and local business owners, is speaking out, according to a news release from the group.

“We are saddened by this decision that will have an enormous impact on the campus, the alumni, and the community. We understand that the University is faced with difficult choices, but we have questions about the process that lead to this devastating decision,” said Kurtis Dennison, a 2014 graduate of the Fairmont State University theatre program, who is currently studying at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.

In addition to launching a social media campaign, the group says that it has sent a letter to all Board of Governors members seeking clarification on the May 21 meeting where, without seeking public comment, the board voted to make these “drastic cuts” to the arts on campus. The group also has filed a request for budget and program information through the Freedom of Information Act, the news release said. Minutes for the May 21 meeting have yet to be posted on the Board of Governors website.

“We need to look at the whole picture,” Dennison said. “One of our biggest questions is, What plans are being made to maintain the arts in the community? We hope the BOG and the school’s administration will engage with us in a way that is transparent and productive.”

Since the group was formed Friday, May 22, Falcons Fighting for the Arts’ membership has grown to include more than 3,400 members, it said. The group is planning a variety of safe and socially distant advocacy activities outside of social media, according to the news release.

“The goal for these activities is to spread awareness about the history of these programs and the importance of the arts to students’ education,” Dennison said.

Fairmont State is the birthplace of the International Thespian Society, a high school theatre honorary with over 2.4 million members. Fairmont State’s music program is known across West Virginia for educating quality public school teachers and professional musicians, the release went on to say.

“So many of my former students have contacted me through social media. I am touched and humbled to know that their arts education at Fairmont State was so meaningful. I would hate for future students to lose that opportunity,” Fairmont State Professor of Communication and Theatre Dr. Francene Kirk said.

Dennison encourages the citizens of Marion, Harrison, Taylor and the surrounding counties in north central West Virginia to reach out to the Fairmont State University Board of Governors.

“Write letters; make phone calls; send emails. These programs contribute to the quality of life of our communities,” he said.

The group can be contacted by email.

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