Fake Allies, Small Victories, and Incremental Change: A Reflection of the Past Year at Emerson

The first assignment I did for POWER was part of the 2017 protests. I was one of several students who volunteered to write a blog about my experience of racism at Emerson, to be published simultaneous to the start of the protest, where other students would be speaking about their experience. I chose to focus … Continue reading Fake Allies, Small Victories, and Incremental Change: A Reflection of the Past Year at Emerson

ONE YEAR LATER – Transferring Musical Theatre Programs Due to Racial Trauma

On April 10 2018, POWER published a memoir written by Cindy Tsai, who was at the time a Freshman in Emerson’s Musical Theatre department. In this post, Cindy bravely and eloquently relayed her experiences with bias and microagressions in her first semester of college.

Following this POWER created a petition calling for the removal of Musical Theatre department head Scott Lafeber from his position. We made this request recognizing that Cindy’s particular interactions with Professor Lafeber were not insular, but instead symptomatic of a much larger institutional issue that could not in fact be solved by his removal–it would, though, be a start.

In the year since, a lot has changed for POWER, Cindy, and the Emerson community. Cindy has found a new creative and academic home at Pace University in New York. POWER has continued to work with faculty, students and administration to create important systemic and cultural change on Emerson’s campus. Last Thursday, it was announced by Performing Arts department Chair Bob Colby that effective Fall 2019, Lafeber would be replaced by Performing Arts faculty member Amelia Broome as head of Emerson’s MT department, but retain his position as a member of the Musical Theatre faculty.

We recognize and respect the fact that change is difficult, and that there will inevitably be dissent and disagreement in the wake of any administrative decision, but the treatment that Cindy has been subjected to by students who she formerly called her peers in the wake of this announcement is simply unacceptable.

To the students in Emerson Performing Arts department engaging in this shameful, distasteful, and frankly, abusive behavior, all you have done is serve to prove Cindy’s point about the culture of the department. You should be embarrassed.

To Cindy, POWER continues to stand behind you. You are seen and supported. Never stop using your voice.

To the rest of the Emerson community at large, learn from this. We can no longer stand by and allow students of color on our campus to be marginalized for choosing to vocalize their experiences. We can no longer ignore this. Do better. Be better.


Cindy Tsai

Written by Cindy Tsai


After my memoir came out last year, I received an outpour of support from all over the country. I received messages of love, support, and above all, similar personal experiences from other students of color in collegiate BFA programs. Thank you for showing me that I am not alone.

It should come to no surprise that with a topic this polarizing, I would receive backlash as well. And I did. Some came from alumni who attended the program I wrote about. Some came from a conservative website with some nasty comments attached. But the bulk of the backlash and bullying I received was from within the program I had written about – from my peers. I will never forget the feeling of knowing that there were over 3,000 people in the country supporting me through my experience, but feeling unsafe in a…

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VMA Equity and Cultural Climate Committee Update

By: Cristina Kotz Cornejo, Professor and Associate Chair of VMA / Kermel Yohannes '19, VMA POWER Senator   Following the first meeting of the VMA Equity and Cultural Climate Committee on March 22, I sat down with Professor and Associate Chair of the VMA Department Cristina Kotz Cornejo in order to discuss her thoughts and … Continue reading VMA Equity and Cultural Climate Committee Update

Singularly Brown

By: Elmer Martinez '19 As a sophomore Lighting Design concentration within the Stage Design and Technology program, I was consistently challenged to produce theatrical designs of quality. Likewise, I was consistently challenged (as I sat in a room of nine students) to keep my composure about being singularly brown. More than socio-economic disconnect in life … Continue reading Singularly Brown

To Be A Student As The Child of Immigrants

By: Julio Cesar Villegas '19 My grandfather was the only child out of his eight siblings to have known what the inside of a school in Cuba looked like. He was the only one to have studied in both a primary and secondary school, and he was the only one that was audacious enough to … Continue reading To Be A Student As The Child of Immigrants

My Experience Is Not Your Debate

By: Caroline Rodriguez '20 I am sick of having to prove racism exists to white people. Whenever race comes up in a class with a white professor, I get tense. Emerson’s demographics are very white; there’s no denying it. So most of the time, classes are made up of a large group of white people, … Continue reading My Experience Is Not Your Debate

Statement From Protest Organizers

On Tuesday, October 24th, hundreds of Emerson students peacefully came together to present a series of demands to Faculty Assembly that addressed a need for action with regard to diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency on campus. We are grateful for the commitment to change shown by the Emerson student body, as well as by faculty … Continue reading Statement From Protest Organizers

Reflections: One Chicano’s Journey Through Emerson

By: Andrew Siañez-De La O '17   My name is Andrew Siañez-De La O, a recent Performing Arts graduate from Emerson. I identify as a Chicano, a Fronteriza, a product of the Borderlands. The following is by no means a comprehensive list of what I’ve experienced at Emerson. It isn’t even just the highlights. The following … Continue reading Reflections: One Chicano’s Journey Through Emerson

PSA: We’re Not All The Same

By: Sydney Rae Chin '19 Emerson’s culture makes racism permissible--whether it's the student body or the professors who teach them. Within the Visual Media Arts department, I’ve encountered quite a few incidents where Asians/Asian Americans were viewed as all the same. However, Asians/Asian Americans have different cultures, even within the same region and/or country. In … Continue reading PSA: We’re Not All The Same