Students from the School of Dramatic Arts launched a Facebook page on Monday protesting the alleged firing of two acting professors, Joe Anthony and Doug Tompos. School of Dramatic Arts Dean Madeline Puzo, however, assured students that “no decisions have been made.”
Plenty of students, however, are still concerned. Since its launch, 298 people have “liked” the Facebook page, titled “Protest SDA firing of Joe Anthony & Doug Tompos.”
On the page, students have not only voiced praise for the two teachers, but many are also organizing petitions and protests in their honor.
According to Puzo, the rumors that the two professors had been fired are based on false assumptions about the teaching schedule for next year.
“Two full-time faculty members left the school last year for other jobs, and we are doing a search for candidates to fill those two positions,” Puzo explained.
All full-time faculty members in the Bachelor of Arts acting program are also currently going through routine peer evaluations. The combination of these two processes, according to Puzo, has made the fall teaching schedule unclear.
“We have posted teachers [on the Web Registration system] for a few of the classes,” Puzo said. “We posted what we felt confident about. Somebody — I don’t know who — looked at the registration and made a conclusion that the two teachers had been fired.”
But Puzo assures students that no one has been fired, and she encourages students to approach her with their concerns.
“The three semesters I spent in class with Joe were the highlight of my USC School of Dramatic Arts experience,” said Andrew Johnson, a junior majoring in theatre.“He inspired and prepared me as an artist more than any of my other professors.”
Most theatre students understand that the two weren’t officially fired yet, according to Matthew Solomon, a sophomore majoring in theatre.
“I think what most people think is happening is that [Anthony and Tompos] have been blackballed,” Solomon said, describing how rumors have been circulating that the two professors’ benefits have been taken away and that they were only offered classes that did not fit with their schedules.
Puzo explained that while faculty evaluations were being finalized, Anthony was offered two classes for the fall semester.
“They didn’t work with his schedule,” Puzo said. “But he also wanted to wait until we were in a position to offer him [a full class load]. So clearly, we have already made an overture to Anthony that we were offering him a position to teach here. Whether or not that was enough for him was up to him.”
Anthony and Tompos are both highly respected and popular professors in SDA, as students said classes taught by them regularly have long waitlists.
Richy Storrs, a sophomore majoring in theatre, said that he was inspired by the two teachers and their influence in his life was felt both academically and personally.
“These are the two best teachers I have ever had in my life,” Storrs said. “They have a really great relationship with students, they have a really fantastic teaching style, they’re both great guys and it all leads to this culmination of the fact that the entire USC theater community really respects them.”
Several students on the Facebook page have threatened to drop the theatre major or leave the university altogether in protest.
But the alleged firing of the two professors is hardly the only concern the students have. Other posts on the page include concerns about where SDA money is spent and other faculty changes.
“One problem that I’ve already run into is the lack of relationship between the School of Dramatic Arts and the School of Cinematic Arts,” said Tina Crnko, a freshman majoring in theatre. “Obviously, these two should be symbiotic.”
Other students, such as Solomon, agree with Crnko that the SDA-SCA relationship is anything but symbiotic.
“I’ve always had an open-door policy,” explained Puzo, who hosts schoolwide events each semester that give students the opportunity to meet with her.
Puzo said she will take the recent sentiments about Anthony and Tompos into consideration but must also consult with her faculty advisers when making employment and scheduling decisions.
“I appreciate [the students’] concern and their affection for these two teachers,” Puzo said. “But I have to listen to the faculty as well as the students when thinking about teachers. I wish the students had felt comfortable to come to me first about this, but they clearly didn’t.”