Woke ballet at Princeton, Part Two

In Part One of this series, I reported on the plan of student leaders of the Princeton University Ballet to (among other things) “decolonize” their practice of ballet, “deemphasize technique,” and exclude from membership Princeton ballet enthusiasts who are unwilling to engage in their brand of activism. In Part II, I want to consider Princeton’s stance on these matters.

As I understand it, the EDI [equity, diversity, and inclusion] in the Arts Circuit is a group of Princeton alums that works with Princeton’s Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and, as one would expect, Princeton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The EDI Circuit has issued a document called “Action Plan Guidelines.” The document combines contemporary identity politics with old-fashioned Marxist-Leninist-Maoist demands for self criticism and struggle sessions. It’s a fusion of BLM, wokeness, and Marxism. The same is true of a dangerously large portion of contemporary American leftism.

Given the EDI Circuit’s relationship with the university’s administration, I think it’s fair to view these Guidelines as a statement of Princeton’s position. As such, it is more harrowing than the infantile document written by the PUB’s student leadership.

Here is what the Guidelines say:

Your EDI Circuit Action Plan will serve as a clarifying series of steps and analyses that gives your student arts group a foundation for culture, identity, anti-racist strategy, and a greater accountability structure for EDI. The framing is presented as an extensive series of questions that we believe will best serve your student arts group as you consider your identity/brand, how you are in relationship with prospective members and Princeton at large, and what actionable policies and practices will lead to a reality of collective liberation in pursuit of your artistry.

We want this action tool to be a living, breathing resource that can serve as your group’s true north to thinking about how you advocate for healthy culture, racial diversity, and lead critical conversations that help you remain accountable to your membership.


Critical Questions

1. What is your relationship to the land and water? Does your student group have a relationship with the history of the land and water on which it resides?

2. What is your group’s mission?

3. What purpose do you serve on campus?

4. What is your group’s ‘brand’?

5. What is your individual and group understanding of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)? Anti-racism?

6. Do you feel your group has established healthy practices to foster trust and psychological safety?

7. How would you describe inclusion?

8. On a scale from 1-5 how equitable is your group today? Anti-racist?

SECTION 1: Understanding a more equitable, antiracist landscape for Princeton’s arts community

Critical Questions

1. What resources are needed to understand EDI/Anti-racism for students/student groups?

2. How does your group structure and support this critical conversation as part of its own governance?

3. Has your group named commitments or actions that will foster greater EDI?

4. What is holding your group back from taking a more proactive approach to racial equity? (What is lost? What is gained?)

5. How do you intend to address these barriers with current and potential group members?

6. What types of coalition building are possible or needed between arts groups on campus?

7. How does competition affect the life of your student ground and the ecosystem of the arts on campus?

8. Do you have a land acknowledgement practice? How are you building your relationality with living Indigenous people? How are the dynamics of settler colonialism present in your group? How might you decolonize?

SECTION 2: Recruitment / Membership Critical Questions

1. Are you privileged or oppressed in the current recruitment model? Are you satisfied with it? Is it racist?

2. What is the value of racial diversity in your membership?

3. What does success look like?

4. Does recruitment end with membership?

5. Is there space for representation, impact, recognition, leadership for all members?

6. What made you join your student group?

7. What are auditionees/applicants attracted to about your student group (brand, mission, members, etc.?)

8. How does your group interpret and discuss reputation?

9. When you think about whom is represented in your student group…how can you shift the expectation from transactional to relationship building? Are you fostering relationships or filling audition slots?

10. How does competition drive your recruitment efforts specifically?

11. How do group casting and discussions influence your process? Are they equitable processes?

12. What actions or practice sustain a healthy and safe environment for members to be fulfilled within the group during their Princeton careers?

13. How would you rate the retention rate of student involvement from a member’s initiation to a member’s graduation?

SECTION 3: Leadership Critical Questions

1. How has your group’s leadership team been onboarded to the culture of your student group?

2. Where is your leadership in terms of EDI work and commitments?

3. How is leadership accountable to the group with respect to EDI, maintaining a welcoming culture, and ensuring that these values are passed down to future leadership?

4. Is there diversity in your leadership currently? Has there been a history of diverse leadership for your group?

5. How is leadership engaging in these critical conversations with other groups or entities at Princeton?

6. How is your leadership selected?

7. What type of structure or hierarchy has your group chosen to organize leadership and decision making (power)?

8. Are dissenting or conflicting opinions welcomed in your group? How are they addressed? How do you address conflict?

9. How would you describe the communication style of your group?

10. What does transparency mean to your group, and what place does it have in your practice / leadership?

SECTION 4: Artistry / Expression / Repertoire / Collaboration Critical Questions

1. What do you enjoy most about your art form?

2. From your perspective, is your art form inherently inclusive?

3. What does a new member need to audition/apply for your student group?

4. Does privilege/access to resources serve as a predictor in the audition/application process?

5. What role does “talent” play in your group? Does it create an environment that leaves room for “potential”?

6. How do you evaluate the artistry of your group? What are the group’s standards?

7. Is there room to innovate in your group artistically? If so, where? 8. What does your group do that is unique to the Princeton arts scene?

9. How does your group give back to the community?

10. What opportunities for learning or professional development are accessible to your group?

SECTION 5: Building the Anti-Racist Plan

Critical Questions

1. Given the above, what would it look like for your group to be explicitly anti-racist? What would it feel like? Consider all aspects of your student group operation and practice.

2. Consider the current landscape of your group as explored above: the physical and social location, artistic genre, recruitment practices, leadership, and relationship to EDI in your student group.

3. What steps need to be taken to build a bridge between (2) and (1)? Your Anti-Racist Plan should outline the steps needed to get from where your group is today, to becoming a group that is, in every aspect, explicitly anti-racist.

4. What is your accountability structure? It is important to be explicit about the “who” of any actionable steps you are taking as a student group.

5. What are the group’s values that you want to communicate to your stakeholders? How do your antiracist policies signal those values?

6. What is your review process and how will you share/publish this plan? Who will be your objective critics of this plan and how can it be updated? Your antiracist action plan is a living document.

(Emphasis added)

I agree with Rod Dreher’s assessment: “No artist or performer who respects herself, her art, and liberty can possibly submit to the commissars’ questions, and live their creative lives under the yoke of the woke.”

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