December 2014

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December 2014

News From Lea Asbell-Swanger, USITT President

Working Toward Inclusion

The beginning of December is a good time to reflect on the year and check off the things that have been accomplished as well as make a last push on the things that might be left on the to-do list. Elsewhere in this issue of Sightlines, our Executive Director, David Grindle actually takes us all back to 2009 when last we were in Cincinnati. It's astounding to realize all that's been accomplished in a little less than six years and all involved should be proud of USITT's achievements, but what's even more exciting is that there's no sign that we're slowing down.

In November the board of directors met electronically. Three of the board's five meetings per year are held in this fashion and while it's not perfect (at one point it sounded like we were all aboard a submarine), it allows for discussion to happen more regularly among the entire board. It has been key to keeping all board members engaged, which results in more ideas being moved into actions.

As I hope most of you are aware, USITT has committed to fully supporting its diversity initiative this year and another meaningful step forward occurred as part of the last board meeting. The committee submitted to the board the following.

USITT Diversity Statement

The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) is committed to modeling diversity and inclusion for the entertainment industry. We respect and value diverse life experiences and heritages, strive toward equitable treatment of our members, and support members who nurture diversity and equity in their places of work and in their broader communities. USITT aims to provide its members with opportunities for outreach, education and resources in order to celebrate and incorporate the broad experiences of this collaborative community. We challenge ourselves to question assumptions, expand knowledge, and implement plans to foster a more inclusive entertainment industry. USITT is committed to partnering with organizations, businesses, and individuals that share our dedication to creating and maintaining an inclusive environment with equitable treatment for all.

I'm very pleased to share that the board approved this, but I think it's more important for you to know that much discussion preceded that approval. The reason that the discussion is important is because it is evidence that the board members that you elected hold their responsibility to you and this organization in high regard. They know that you are relying on them to make carefully considered decisions on your behalf, so they ask tough questions and share concerns if they have them.

Most of the time, the actions they are considering are setting directions within which incremental, operational decisions will be made. In other words they are governing, which is as it should be. It's not a perfect system and even with the best of intentions, the board sometimes slips down the rabbit hole of detail and micro-management, but it finds a way out, so projects and initiatives continue their journey forward.

Back to the diversity statement. One of the discussion points among board members was that it was a long statement and there was a feeling that perhaps it was too long to be easily remembered and would be difficult to use in this era of tweets, texts, and sound bites. While that might be true, the reality is that diversity and inclusion are complex, just like the individuals and communities they are meant to engage. Ultimately, the goal is to welcome all people and if a few extra words makes our intention clearer now, we can probably handle that. We can treat it like eating an elephant, which David Grindle likes to remind me happens one bite at a time.

As we look toward the end of this year and the beginning of the next perhaps each of us can bite off a piece of our new diversity statement and make that a part of our personal resolutions? Those we can text and tweet and by doing so build momentum that turns those words into actions.

Finally, we're fast approaching a hectic holiday season for many and I hope that everyone's celebrations are joyous and safe. Happy 2015!

Lea Asbell-Swanger

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