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Performance, Play & Design Department Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Department of Performance, Play & Design

Strategic Plan

The Department of Performance, Play & Design’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan pertains to faculty, office staff, production staff, undergraduate and graduate students. The plan includes objectives with associated recommended actions for achieving them. All objectives are accompanied by measures of success that can be tracked and analyzed over time.

Current Demographics

In the third week of fall quarter, 2021, PPD’s demographic analysis showed that of 545 undergraduate students (129 in Theater and Dance, 416 in AGPM), some 31.6% identify as being from underrepresented minority groups. These include:

  • African American/Black                  26
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native      6
  • Underrepresented Asian                35
  • Hispanic/Latino                             105

In addition, PPD serves 45 international students (8.3%).

When the programs are examined separately, the breakdown changes slightly: 

                                                                        AGPM       THEA/Dance

  • African American/Black                  16              10
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native      5                1
  • Underrepresented Asian                29                6
  • Hispanic/Latino                              77               28


It is important to note that almost all, but not all, of the Black-identified students in the Theater Arts and Dance programs work to a greater or lesser degree within the confines of the African-American Theater Troupe (AATAT) and Rainbow Theater, who have described a long history of discriminatory practices in their relationships with staff and faculty of the Department. Based on interviews with BIPOC students, reports drafted by AATAT, and recent Town Halls, a history of racial tensions within the Department is emerging, a history that has contributed to the low number of Black students participating in the major.

In terms of gender, all PPD is split 41.8% female-identified, 50.6% male-indentified, and 7.5% who identified as neither female nor male. However, when the programs are examined more minutely, the percentages change significantly:

                                 AGPM                                            THEA/Dance

  • Female       149 (35.8%)                                      79 (61.2%)
  • Male           243 (58.4%)                                      33 (25.6%)
  • X                  41 (7.5%)                                        17 (25.6%)

This DEI Strategic Plan focuses primarily on antiracist initiatives with secondary acknowledgements of gender and sexuality - it therefore does not cover every protected identity mentioned in the Statement on Social Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (see below). The PPD DEI Strategic Plan focuses on those issues that are most pressing for the department, but as we make progress in the coming years we pledge not to forget other (and always intersectional) markers of oppression. We feel that emphasizing the problems facing BIPOC communities will cultivate the kind of problem-solving environment that will enable us to approach other DEI problems with enhanced knowledge and skills.

Plan Overview

Mission Statement. In order to understand the PPD DEI Plan it is necessary to articulate the mission of PPD, which reads:

The UCSC Department of Performance, Play & Design (PPD) collectively embodies a process of rigorous experimentation and socially conscious analysis to create equitable, accessible, and interdisciplinary works and scholarship. We are deeply committed to practices, research, and teaching that speak to the current moment, disrupting oppressive narratives of the past and present, and re-centering historically marginalized communities through narratives, structures, aesthetics, ritual, engagement, and play.

We strive in our department to put our practice at the forefront of the evolving cultures and identities of our society by immersing students in design, production, history, theory, and craft. We integrate these aspects with intersectional feminist, decolonial, and new media strategies and principles to help shape the performance-makers of the future. PPD students are a combined cohort that blends interest in traditional methods with new technologies, defying traditional categorization: experimenting with digital and physical game design, exploring theory on our multiple stages, learning their craft in our labs, studios and shops, and bringing activism, artistry, and agency to their work on campus, online, and beyond.

Revision of the Mission Statement in recent years to reflect these values was an early step in the manifestation of a departmental culture that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable. It is displayed prominently on our website. We are currently engaged in a multi-year, top-to-bottom review of our curriculum to center our pedagogy on antiracist, antisexist, antihomophobic, and inclusive approaches to the art and craft of performance and games. Much of our curriculum has already changed (61A, Ancient and Medieval Theater, for instance, is now focused on “origins of performance in Western and non-Western contexts”).

Our Shared Values. In order to articulate our shared values in reference to DEI issues, the Department published its Statement on Social Equity, Inclusion, and Justice, which reads:

UC Santa Cruz is an Hispanic Serving and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander serving Institution (HSI/AANAPISI) that is located on unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. We acknowledge the harm that settler colonization has caused and acknowledge ways that we as a higher education institution and department have benefited from and perpetuated this harm. We are committed to performance, scholarship, and pedagogy that affirms Indigenous sovereignty and transforms the relationships between land and bodies, hearts and minds.

As a collective working to integrate this perspective across our curricula, practices and processes, we unequivocally acknowledge that Black Lives Matter. We are committed to an anti-racist and decolonial educational ethos that fosters an artistic environment that is accessible to, and in solidarity with, communities fighting for justice. We acknowledge that the multiplicity and intersectionality of gender, race, cultural affiliation, citizenship status, disability, neurodiversity, sexuality, religion, and economic class is necessary for excellence in our field. We continue to be critical of how white supremacy, settler colonialism, ableism, transphobia, classism, and hetero-patriarchy show up in our curriculum, productions, and hiring practices, as we acknowledge that oppressive ideas and practices have resulted in past harm and that undoing these practices is vital to our students, scholarship, and performance.

This Statement represents the values that define our community of scholars, artists, professors, lecturers, staff, and students. It is displayed prominently on our website. However, we acknowledge that saying “Black Lives Matter,” noting that we are an HSI/AANAPISI, or providing a land acknowledgement does not constitute real progressive action on DEI issues facing our community.

In order to make meaningful change, we must continue to examine our public presence. Our Statement on Social Equity, Inclusion, and Justice makes no mention of our African-American students, for example. As part of these changes, and in the hopes of attracting, retaining, and serving more BIPOC students, faculty, and staff, we pledge to increase our Department’s support of specific performances and scholarship by and for BIPOC members of our community.

Further, we must deeply examine our relationships with the various student constituencies that PPD serves and supports. Tacit agreements and policies of saying “no” have built the shape of the Theater Arts production wing - it will take time and real effort to transform them. One positive note is that we are engaged in actively enhancing our partnerships and collaborations with the African-American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT), Rainbow Theater, and the Student Organization Advising and Resources (SOAR) Productions of Color in order to address historical inequities and discrimination and develop true community going forward. This year (21-22) has been a banner year in the relationship between the Department leadership and AATAT: in the words of one student, “we have seen more progress in nine months than in the previous thirty years.” PPD has a present need to attract, serve, and retain Black faculty, students, and staff.

But we have a long way to go. BIPOC faculty in PPD and the Department Chair are already involved in solving some of these issues in a variety of ways, including gaining new data through the use of surveys, DEI-directed town halls, and listening sessions. We are also maintaining an archive of grievances to direct our efforts moving forward. All of these efforts contribute to a clearer understanding of the problems facing our community as it moves forward.

Our Goals. In order to align with the Division’s plan for DEI, we define our goals according to the key terms of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. That is to say, we commit to increasing the number of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, and students in the Department through recruitment and retention; we challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination; we support a policy of equal opportunity for all persons; and we make deliberate efforts to create a climate where where all individuals feel a sense of belonging. 

Our Challenges. Because any process of restorative justice requires a clear-eyed accounting of the landscape in which we find ourselves, we articulate our challenges to fulfilling our DEI mission here.

  • Our BIPOC students in Theater Arts report that they are treated with hostility and excluded from resources and opportunities by faculty and staff. PPD has actively engaged with students first to assure them that the Department recognizes this situation and is working to amend it. From a new position of mutual understanding, we are building alliances that are aimed toward finding solutions with great urgency.  
  • Our BIPOC faculty report that they are unable to conduct research on campus due to staff bullying and hostility. PPD has assured these faculty that the Department recognizes bullying and hostility as the basis of colonial strategy and that PPD has disciplined and warned staff to be more open and supportive of requests from BIPOC faculty. PPD has scheduled workshops with the support of EEP to continue to reverse this trend.
  • We have a “culture of scarcity” in the Department that has persisted since our production staff was cut almost in half in the mid-2000’s and was never restored. This is a real and serious challenge. However, it mut not be allowed to perpetuate discriminatory practices against students of color or anyone in our community who makes use of our facilities and staff resources.
  • Students in the AGPM program regularly harass non-white non-male faculty in the classroom when teaching feminism, critical race theory, and related topics
  •  Intertwined curricular and production systems are outdated, lack input from the broader community, and are built on practices that perpetuate white supremacy and oppression. We are engaged in creating new curriculum.
  • We lack resources in staffing, teaching, and service time needed to study and make the large-scale changes to these structures of teaching and production to make them more equitable

Plan Implementation Process


In order to fulfill these goals, the faculty and staff of PPD commit to a process of implementation that includes the following key steps.

  • A highly visible launch event (a DEI summit for the entire Department and all associated groups. This will have a good name like Decolonizing Performance, Play & Design)  
  • Annual anchoring events in subsequent years  
  • Regular meetings between the Chair and DEI leaders on campus (Dr. Dees, Dr. Estrada as a start) to share information and develop best practices
  • PPD holds a free and open Town Hall during which students are actively encouraged to share their challenges and experiences with DEI issues, once per quarter (including Summer) or more often if required
  • We lean into performance and games as highly sophisticated and effective tools for advancing anti-racism. 
  • All faculty and staff are required to complete the Diversity Certification (; or the Emergent Strategy Institute; or )We have been promised divisional support in case of enrollment difficulty. 
  • Faculty to develop a clear plan for responding to negative incidents.
    • This plan is to be posted widely around the department for all to see.
    • This plan is to be posted on the website
    • This plan is to be included in all handbooks for faculty, staff, and students
  • Develop opportunities to for alumni and donor engagement and opportunities for DEI initiatives



Our curriculum is, of course, the cornerstone of our work as educators. In order to uphold our shared values, the Department commits to the following steps.

  • ·Make antiracist, decolonial theory, and critical race theory part of our curriculum across the board, with regular curriculum review discussions where faculty share resources with each other. Make sure that students are aware of these changes as they develop through announcements and Town Hall meetings. 
  • Working with CITL, provide education on inclusive teaching practices and DEI-driven decision making for faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students, particularly to see an improvement in the student experience for first generation, working class, and disabled students. The Division has promised to advocate for PPD-specific training from CITL. 
  • Do a better job training dramaturgs and designers who can do production histories and put performance works in specifically DEI-oriented productive contexts.
  • Discussing our DEI curricular goals with our students. Facebook / social media as a middle ground. Student reps in committee or faculty meetings - regular if not full meeting


Season Selection and Production Practices

Recognizing that what is on our stages and installations, and how it gets there, is as critically important to our DEI goals as what is in our classrooms, we further acknowledge that BIPOC students are among the most invisible and marginalized from the crux of problem-solving processes. We commit to supporting the involvement of BIPOC students to be front-and-center for the following steps in the upcoming season selection and ongoing production processes.

  • Development is underway of a transparent and inclusive event selection (including plays, installations, performance art, dance, and interactive media presentations) process that increases student participation and faculty oversight and involvement
  • Provide google forms for students to fill out
  • Meet with students quarterly to encourage participation
  • Have student representatives in season discussion meetings
  • Publicization and posting of this process on the PPD website and around the PPD facilities
  • Discuss Season Selection at Town Halls to get student input (first of these sessions will be May 6, 2022
  • In line with changing national regional practices, we will eliminate “10 out of 12” tech rehearsals
  • Produce more works that feature women, BIPOC and LGBTQI2S+ playwrights, choreographers, directors, designers, crew, and staff. 
  • We have begun work to guarantee that the different needs during productions regarding hair/make, gender expression, and cultural/religious practices are met.
  • We have begun to focus on increased dramaturgical support – dramaturgs to lead artistic teams in the following:

o  Critical engagement with controversial content

o   Discussing content and material with artistic team for holistic understanding

o   Creating lobby displays with clear statements of purpose and other contextualizing dramaturgical materials

o   Post-opening discussions about how it’s going

o   Audience talkbacks

o   Production post-mortems involving the entire Department.

  • Bilingual (English/Spanish) pre-production safety announcement
  • Indigenous Land Acknowledgement before performances
  • Develop our outreach program (formerly Shakes-2-Go) to be responsive to needs from the area schools, particularly those serving underserved students. Refocus to recruit, retain students of color, build stronger ties to the communities of color, and diversify our department. Furthermore, this program can engage our students to be artist-advocates to young people, showing them the possibilities of studying art and the important, life changing pathways and opportunities of working in a department. This establishes ownership of the program by the students and advocacy both from and for our students – growing our ecosystem of prospective students, current students, and alumni.


Furthermore, we pledge to continue our ongoing efforts to: 

  • Create a climate where no student, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or social class is denied access to resources in casting, use of facilities, and use of equipment, props, scenery, and costumes.
  • Create a climate in which all students, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or social class feel welcomed and a sense of real belonging as artists and thinkers - one way of doing this would be to create more safety and affirming spaces for dressing rooms and fittings particularly for trans and gender-nonconforming performers.

Accountability Process

In order to ensure that PPD is accountable to its goals, the Department commits to the following steps:

·      Assess DEI climate yearly in the Department via a survey implemented by outside organization in order to:

o   Better understand the frequency and nature of DEI violations involving the PPD community, in order to:

§  Develop meaningful prevention, education, awareness, and restorative (or reconciliation) practices. The specific steps of these assessments will be determined in consultation with the outside agency. 

·      Reviewing the survey results in detail as a faculty and discussing ways to address the issues identified.

·      Host annual public events to announce the results of these surveys

·      The Chair is responsible for making a yearly report to increase accountability

Recruitment, Retention, and Development

We know that representation is one of the most important ways to build communities of color within our department community. As noted above, currently our student body is 31% Underrepresented Minority (URM) students, compared to about 35% campus-wide. Of our 8 staff members, 3 identified as non-white. Our faculty has 5 of 16 identifying as non-white. We commit to increasing these percentages in a variety of ways.

  • One way this can be enhanced by developing more strategic partnerships with area high schools and community colleges encouraging underrepresented groups to apply for our programs – AATAT’s Outreach Program is a model for this kind of partnership. The Department’s own Outreach Program could be remodeled to advance this goal as well.
  • AGPM already has a number of contacts with existing groups that work with underrepresented high school students (Gameheads, Digital Nest, COSMOS), campus groups (GDA club, MESA) and would like to expand community college contacts (and do course articulation campaigns) as part of a targeted pipeline initiative. We can also use the Frosh Early Review to target admissions review for diverse candidates.
  • We commit to working with Admissions on increasing diverse applicants to PPD
  • Another way is to continue to actively recruit and retain more diverse graduate students in the MA and MFA programs. In order to ensure diversity, we must advertise specifically to attract diverse cohorts, maintain TAships for graduate students, and streamline access to financial resources for students (using MIP funds to help with rent and develop grants for research and travel for graduate students)
  • In order to increase the number of applicants (and hires) from underrepresented groups for faculty positions, we commit to the following steps.

§  Further trainings in recognizing bias in hiring and mentoring

§  Multiple levels of review of job listings

§  Addition of the following statement to our job announcements:

Given our department’s focus on decolonial approaches to teaching, research, and service, our first round of review will be solely based on (1) the statement of creative practice and research and (2) the statement of contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion. We welcome candidates who understand the barriers facing historically oppressed groups in higher education, and who have engaged in teaching, research, professional and/or public service contributions that promote equity, justice, and antiracist, decolonial practice. We are looking for candidates that demonstrate effective strategies that support the recruitment and success of underrepresented scholars and students, which may take a variety of forms. The rubric that we will use to evaluate the statement of contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion is available here:

o   In order to recruit and retain more diverse staff, we commit to:

§  Increase the number of applicants from underrepresented groups

§  Continue to improve language in job listings to reflect the DEI mission of the Department, stating that our department is decolonial and anti-racist, and that a basic understanding of DEI is not enough, but that expertise in non-Western theater, anti-racist theater and experience with LGBTQ performers is necessary.

§  Require annual anti-bias training for all staff

§  Provide professional development training for staff that improves DEI

o   We commit to sharing antiracist (&c.) resources for students and any visitors on the PPD website

o   We commit to considering these activities:

§  Monthly antiracism play-reading group

§  Teach-ins

§  Recognizing and rewarding community members who actively advance DEI efforts


Providing DEI Solutions to other units

We believe that our experiences can be valuable to other units in the Arts Division. We commit to planning a “Performing/Choreographing/Coding Antiracism” module that can tour to other units. We commit to finding other ideas for outreach to other units.

Ongoing Commitments

·      Acknowledge we have a lot of work to do before everyone can bring their full selves to work

·      Continue to poll faculty in and outside of the Department on best practices

·      Find new ways to encourage innovation in DEI directions

·      Advance the blending of the Theater Arts and AGPM programs to advance DEI discourses

·      Respond directly as issues and negative events occur

·      Showcase the work of BIPOC alumni

·      Be inspired by one another to create a climate that includes love and forgiveness

·      Do not force BIPOC people to shoulder the brunt of the reparation of curricular and programmatic deficiencies

·      Improve mentorship for BIPOC students

·      Improve mentorship for BIPOC faculty

·      Remember that empathy failures are opportunities for compassion

·      Bias toward action!

·      It’s not either/or! It’s both/and! 

·      More cross-listing and collaboration with CRES and Feminist Studies


Resource Requests

·      A Maker Lab that grants access to top-shelf equipment for PPD students

·      Course Release for a professor to develop SOAR into a 5-unit course

·      A permanent course buy-out of 61A for Prof. Chemers to teach an advanced, DEI -focused Dramaturgy course to train student dramaturgs

·      Funds to support DEI dramaturgical activities

·      A DEI Summit Launch Event

·      Annual Anchoring Events

·      Funds to develop opportunities to for alumni and donor engagement and opportunities for DEI initiatives

·      Annual Funds for an outside organization to do a DEI assessment

·      Staff support to replace Tracye’s labor for the Outreach Program/ faculty support to transform the outreach program into a recruitment tool for URM students.

·      Professional Development Training for Faculty and Staff

·      Awards for community members who significantly advance DEI initiatives

  • Funds for the Emergent Strategies or another organization training.
  • Third dressing room for nonbinary actors 

Divisional support for participation in Diversity Certification (; or the Emergent Strategy Institute; or )