By Amanda Leonard || Staff Writer
In response to the release of Encore, a bi-yearly publication created by the Communications Department to promote upcoming arts events at F&M, the Dance Company crafted a petition to have the booklets extracted from displays on campus, and then re-distributed with the cover replaced and the errors corrected. The front, back, and inside covers are stock images purchased by the Communications Department, not photos of F&M dancers, and they do not represent the F&M Dance Company “culturally or aesthetically.”
The images depict the same group of female dancers, wearing black leotards and posing in an abstract formation against what appears to be a studio background.The Dance Company is comprised of individuals of different races, genders and body types, very few of which are represented in the cover image. Moreover, the girls appear to be too young for college, and black leotards they don are most often seen on ballet dancers, a style of dance that is not commonly seen at F&M.
“Ballet is the one of the only types of dance you won’t see here. They could’ve chosen any other dance form,” said Anna McDougall, Dance Company member and Vice President of the Dance Club Executive Board.
Chair of the Theater, Dance and Film department Pam Vail first noticed the cover in question soon after its January 8th release date. After showing the cover to Jennifer Conley, co-director of Dance, Vail e-mailed the Office of Communications to express their shared concerns. They then informed Dance Company students of the issue and inquired about their interest in taking action. Cyanni Hayward, Dance Club Executive Board president, collaborated with the other Board members and wrote a petition that was sent to the entire F&M Dance Company, the Office of Communications, President Altman, Dean Haslett, and several other campus administrators on January 29th. The petition was also posted outside the Roschel dance studios and ended up gathering almost 80 student signatures.
Word about the cover was starting to circle its way around campus. It was discussed in a Sociology class on race relations, brought up by Vail in a faculty meeting, and a Facebook post by Company member Vincente Brambila was shared over two dozen times. He wrote, “As a Dance-Government Joint Major at F&M College, I find the act of buying a stock image of teenage white girls, which HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR DANCE DEPARTMENT, as an act of misrepresentation and FALSE advertisement!”
A primary point of concern for both the Dance Company directors and members was the possibility of prospective F&M students being turned away from the dance program or from F&M in general because they are not able to see themselves with the students on the cover. A student of color in Dance Company admitted that if she had seen the cover as a prospective student interested in dance, she would not have applied to F&M. “Even if we pull all of the encores that we can from campus, there has been damage done, and that’s frustrating,” Vail said.
Jason Klinger, Senior Director of Creative & Brand Strategy and director of the publication stated that Encore is first and foremost for Lancaster residents, and anyone who attended an arts event at F&M and expressed interest in learning more by placing their name on an Encore mailing list. The list is seemingly rather extensive: Bonnie Basso, Public Relations Manager for the arts and Roschel Box Office director, explained that she receives several calls each year from alumni and community members asking to be included.
After the petition and a meeting between Klinger and the Executive Board, it was decided that a postcard that will be sent out to everyone on the Encore mailing list, with a genuine F&M Dance Company photo on the front and the correct Spring Dance Concert dates on the back. Most of the on-campus Encore copies have already been pulled by different departments, and student Box Office employees have been informed to distribute Encore only if someone asks for a copy.
Klinger and the Communications Department have been sympathetic to the Dance Company’s concerns and promised not to use stock photos in the future. He explained that the decision to use stock photos for the last several Encore covers stemmed from a lack of access to photography with the appropriate format and resolution for a cover image. Photographers employed by the college will now expand their work to accommodate these requirements.
Most importantly, the cover brings up the question of how seriously issues of diversity and representation are taken when publications for the college are put together. Klinger meets with the Office of Admissions weekly to ensure that the racial and gender distribution is displayed accurately in the college’s promotional materials. However, he admitted that this situation emphasizes, “a flaw in our process that we need to correct,” which entails taking a close look at all of the iconography around campus to make sure that the images representing the student body have caught up with the slowly growing diversity of the F&M population.
Though this Encore cover missed the mark, it sparked conversation and spurred both student and administrative action to correct a systematic issue.
First-Year Amanda Leonard is a staff writer, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org