The Citizen-Penguin was active from November 2016 to March 2021. It was the only student-run online press at the time at Juilliard. Reginald, its literary zine, was active from January 2017 to June 2020.
The website, social media accounts, podcast mechanism and brand of The Citizen-Penguin is up for grabs. The Citizen-Penguin is a student and alumni–owned underground newspaper that covers events, ideas and news concerning The Juilliard School (see disclaimer). Current students can email editor AT citizenpenguin DOT com for more information. Before it gets re-activated, it would need: an editor-in-chief, a managing editor, and an informal faculty advisor (with zero veto power).
A Citizen-Penguin sampler:
- Fiona Robberson, Awarded in Beijing Ceremony, Honorary Doctorate for First Lady Peng Liyuan Breaks Precedent for Juilliard
- Mosa Tsay, In Their Element (a photo-essay in response to a WSJ piece)
- Reginald, the Citizen-Penguin’s lit/art zine founded by Jameel Martin
- An Education in Representation,The Wall Street Journal’s Magazine, Asian Underrepresentation, and Race at Juilliard
- The podcast: The Citizen Pengcast interviewing Khady Gueye
- Joseph Peterson, Four Concerns with the Kovner Fellowship [UPDATED]
A few rules that govern the operation of this site per founding agreements with the School:
- Don’t speak for the school (or its student body). Articles and editorials should have enough clarity that they don’t give the impression that The Citizen-Penguin is a mouthpiece for the School, or powerful enough to speak for all students. Our disclaimer: “The views and opinions expressed in The Citizen-Penguin are solely those of its contributors and do not represent those of The Juilliard School or any of its employees. The Juilliard School is not responsible for any of the content found in The Citizen-Penguin or for the accuracy of any information it contains.” (Sometimes, if an employee submits a rebuttal editorial, this isn’t necessarily a true disclaimer, but in those cases, while those employees might be acting as spokespeople, they are still not speaking for the institution. See Hipes on Residence Hall Closure, and Polisi on James Levine .)
- Don’t lie or publish untrue things. The latter is a little more likely since Juilliard doesn’t have a journalism program. Just make sure that all facts have a clear and legitimate source. (Public records from governmental agencies or FOIA requests; quotes from individuals, preferably also recorded, with consent; information from peer-reviewed publications, would all be reasonably interpreted as “legitimate.” While ‘truth’ and ‘doing your research’ has been politicized, a general rubric for journalistic truth has been well-established and that rubric must be prioritized over a political wish to give ‘all sides’ a platform.)
- Be transparent. For example, when holding comments to rule 1 and 2 above, it’s a good idea to tell the reader that a comment was deleted and why. (See comments section on Four Concerns with the Kovner Fellowship.) On that note, don’t allow anonymous comments, and don’t allow comments with new information that you cannot confirm that could be libelous.
- No hate speech.
The search for the new director of Juilliard’s Dance Division has come to an end. Juilliard names Alicia Graf Mack, former leading dancer of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as director of the Juilliard Dance Division.
Photo of Alicia Graf Mack, courtesy of Webster University
Press Release from The Juilliard School:
Juilliard announced yesterday that Alicia Graf Mack, former leading dancer of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will become director of the Juilliard Dance Division on July 1, 2018. Juilliard Dance is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious training programs in the world, offering instruction in both ballet and modern techniques designed to create true contemporary dancers and choreographers.
Ms. Mack, a native of Columbia, Maryland, has also been principal dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet and a guest artist with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. As a dance educator, she is on the faculty at the University of Houston and a visiting assistant professor of dance at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. Ms. Mack is the co-founder of D(n)A Arts Collective, an initiative created to enrich the lives of young dancers through master classes and intensives.
Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi said of the appointment, “Alicia brings exceptional energy, creativity, and enthusiasm to the position of director of Juilliard’s Dance Division. She is an innovative thinker and role model, and I am delighted to know that she will be leading our dance students into the future.”
President Designate Damian Woetzel, a former principal dancer at New York City Ballet and co-chair of the steering committee of the search with Juilliard Provost and Dean Ara Guzelimian, remarked, “The excellence, intelligence, and versatility that have been hallmarks of Alicia’s distinguished career make her the ideal person to shape our dancers of tomorrow. I am honored to welcome this inspiring artist-educator to lead us forward into a new golden era at Juilliard dance.”
On accepting the position, Alicia Graf Mack said, “I am beyond thrilled to join The Juilliard School and community in this capacity. The opportunity to work with young artists who are on the precipice of achieving their dreams brings me a great sense of pride and responsibility. Looking forward, I see Juilliard’s Dance Division as a place that continues to embrace innovative ideas and new modalities of dance making, while holding steadfast to the legacy and incredible history of the institution.”
“We already know that Alicia is an incredible dancer with a brilliant mind,” said Judith Jamison, artistic director emerita of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “We all know how exquisitely she understands what dance is about in all its forms. But I also love who Alicia is as a person. Sometimes people in companies care only about themselves, but Alicia is the opposite of that. She understood her talent and how she could lift up whatever company she was with. That just emanates from her.”
Arthur Mitchell, co-founder and artistic director emeritus of Dance Theatre of Harlem, remarked, “Not only was Alicia a great dancer, but she’s a phenomenal administrator at the same time—a combination that is rarely found in one person.”
Ms. Mack succeeds longtime division head Lawrence Rhodes, who was artistic director of the Juilliard Dance Division from 2002 until 2017. Taryn Kaschock Russell has been acting artistic director for the current academic year.
About Alicia Graf Mack
Alicia Graf Mack enjoyed a distinguished career as a leading dancer of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She has also been a principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Ms. Mack has danced as a guest performer with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, Beyoncé, John Legend, Andre 3000, and Alicia Keys. In addition, she has performed as a featured dancer in many galas and festivals, including the Chicago Dancing Festival, Vail Dance Festival, Youth America Grand Prix Gala, and the International Stars of the 21st Century at the David H. Koch Theater. She has made numerous national television appearances, including at the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors celebrating Carmen de Lavallade and as a featured guest on The Tavis Smiley Show.
Ms. Mack graduated magna cum laude with honors in history from Columbia University and holds an MA in nonprofit management from Washington University in St. Louis. In 2007, Smithsonian magazine named her an American Innovator of the Arts and Sciences. She is a recipient of the Columbia University Medal of Excellence, an award given each year to one alumnus who has demonstrated excellence in their field of work. In 2008, she delivered the keynote address to the graduates of Columbia University’s School of General Studies.
Ms. Mack is a published writer, having contributed to Dance Magazine, Pointe, and Dance Spirit magazine. She wrote the cover story, “Beyond Role Models,” for Pointe’s June/July 2014 diversity issue featuring Ashley Murphy, Ebony Williams, and Misty Copeland. She also authored the foreword of American Dance: The Complete Illustrated History by Margaret Fuhrer. As a dance educator, Ms. Mack is on faculty at the University of Houston and is a visiting assistant professor of dance at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a co-founder of D(n)A Arts Collective, an initiative created to enrich the lives of young dancers through master classes and intensives.
Evan Yionoulis becomes the Juilliard Drama Division’s sixth director and first ever female leader. She will begin on July 1st.
Press Release from The Juilliard School:
Juilliard today announced that Obie-award winning director Evan Yionoulis, currently professor in the practice of acting and directing at Yale School of Drama and a resident director at Yale Repertory Theatre, will become the school’s Richard Rodgers Director of Drama at Juilliard starting with the 2018-19 academic and performance season. The Juilliard Drama Division, celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, offers a program that encompasses one of this country’s most respected conservatory educations for actors as well as highly successful pre-professional mentoring for playwrights.
Ms. Yionoulis has been on the faculty of Yale for the past 20 years and was Lloyd Richards Professor and Chair of Acting from 1998 to 2003.
In announcing the appointment, Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi said, “Evan’s impressive work at Yale and extensive directing credits make her the perfect person to develop our gifted actors and playwrights as she leads Juilliard’s Drama Division into the future. We were deeply impressed by her thoughtfulness and rich understanding of the educational process in both classic and contemporary work.”
On accepting the position, Ms. Yionoulis remarked, “I am honored and excited to lead Juilliard’s Drama Division into its second half-century, carrying on the school’s great tradition of excellence, and preparing the next generation of actors and playwrights to transform the future of our field through their passion and artistry.”
Joseph Haj, who studied with Ms. Yionoulis and is now artistic director of the Guthrie Theater, said, “Juilliard has made a brilliant choice. Evan is a significant artist and working professional; she has been teaching and mentoring students at the highest level for many years and, not least of all, the human being side is as fully developed as the artistic side. Juilliard could not have done better. I am thrilled for the school and for Evan.”
Ms. Yionoulis will succeed James Houghton, who was head of the division from 2006 until his death from cancer in 2016.
In addition to her Yale position, Ms. Yionoulis is an award-winning director; she has directed new plays and classics in New York and across the U.S. She has enjoyed collaborations with major American playwrights including Adrienne Kennedy and Richard Greenberg. She most recently directed the critically acclaimed world premiere of Kennedy’s He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box for Theatre for a New Audience, where she previously directed her Ohio State Murders (Lortel Award for Best Revival) and the Off-Broadway premiere of Howard Brenton’s Sore Throats.
Ms. Yionoulis opened Manhattan Theatre Club’s Biltmore Theatre (Broadway) with Greenberg’s The Violet Hour, directed his Everett Beekin at Lincoln Center Theater, and received an Obie Award for her direction of his Three Days of Rain at Manhattan Theatre Club, having directed the premieres of all three at South Coast Repertory.
At Yale Repertory Theatre, she has directed Cymbeline, Richard II, The Master Builder, George F. Walker’s Heaven, Brecht’s Galileo, Gozzi’s The King Stag (which she adapted with her brother, composer Mike Yionoulis, and Catherine Sheehy), Caryl Churchill’s Owners, and numerous other productions including the world premiere of Kirsten Greenidge’s Bossa Nova, and, upcoming, Kiss, by Guillermo Calderón.
Other credits include productions at the Mark Taper Forum, the Huntington, NY Shakespeare Festival, the Vineyard, Second Stage, Primary Stages, Dallas Theatre Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Denver Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and many others.
Ms. Yionoulis has directed Seven, a documentary theater piece about extraordinary women from across the globe who work for human rights in New York, Boston, Washington, Aspen, London, Deauville, and New Delhi.
Her short film Lost and Found, made with Mike Yionoulis, premiered at Cleveland International Film Festival. Their most recent collaborations are the multiplatform project Redhand Guitar, about five generations of musicians across an American century, and The Dread Pirate Project, about the malleability of identity between the digital and natural worlds.
Ms. Yionoulis has received a Princess Grace Foundation Fellowship, Works-in-Progress Grant, and the Foundation’s prestigious Statuette. She serves on the executive board of SDC, the labor union representing stage directors and choreographers, as secretary.
This 2017-18 season Juilliard Drama presented fully staged productions featuring Juilliard’s Group 47 acting students in their fourth and final year in the drama program. The fall season’s productions included Suzan-Lori Parks’s Father Comes Home From the Wars, directed by LA Williams; alumnus Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Everybody, co-directed by Danya Taymor and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins; and Pierre de Marivaux’s Triumph of Love, translated, adapted, and directed by Stephen Wadsworth. In February, Juilliard Drama presented three plays in repertory: Euripides’s Trojan Women, directed by faculty member Ellen Lauren; alumna Katori Hall’s Hoodoo Love, directed by Kym Moore; and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, directed by faculty member Moni Yakim. All performances took place in the Stephanie P. McClelland Drama Theater at Juilliard.
Peaceful Transition Begins at The Citizen-Penguin: Fiona Robberson ’21 & Alaina Surgener ’21 are, as of right now, officially and irrevocably the editors-in-chief of The Citizen-Penguin, and this founding editor-in-chief (me, Scout James ’18) wishes them well!
Fiona Robberson ’21 & Alaina Surgener ’21 are, as of right now, officially and irrevocably the editors-in-chief of The Citizen-Penguin, and this founding editor-in-chief (me, Scout James ’18) wishes them well! The peaceful, scheduled transition follows last year’s selection process.
Listen to Janice & Mish’s podcast episode interviewing the incoming editors-in-chief:
Mish and Janice have a happy surprise in Episode 9. Meet the new co-editors in chief of the Citizen Penguin, Fiona Robberson (MFA ’21) and Alaina Surgener (BFA ’21)! Get the inside scoop on the future of the student-run newspaper, the drama audition process, and Lady Bird.
by Fiona Robberson ’21—Peng Liyuan, the first lady of China, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School on December 6, 2017. Chairman Bruce Kovner and Juilliard President Joseph Polisi travelled to Beijing’s China Conservatory of Music to confer the degree in person. The awarding of the honorary doctorate was surprisingly underreported in the United States, with its sole media coverage coming from Chinese and Singaporean news outlets. As of press time, there was no mention of Peng’s honorary degree on Juilliard’s official website.
Peng Liyuan, the first lady of China, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School on December 6, 2017. Chairman Bruce Kovner and Juilliard President Joseph Polisi travelled to Beijing’s China Conservatory of Music to confer the degree in person. The awarding of the honorary doctorate was surprisingly underreported in the United States, with its sole media coverage coming from Chinese and Singaporean news outlets. As of press time, there was no mention of Peng’s honorary degree on Juilliard’s official website.
A Juilliard degree has never been awarded outside of that ceremony, and never outside of the United States. Peng’s honorary doctorate is the first of its kind.
Peng, an acclaimed soprano and longtime advocate for women’s rights and the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in China, is one of the primary proponents of the Tianjin Juilliard School, a new branch of Juilliard which is expected to open in Tianjin, China, in 2019. Peng last visited Juilliard’s New York campus in November 2015, when she and Polisi first announced their partnership and plans to begin construction in Tianjin. Peng’s honorary degree illuminates questions about the intimate nature of Juilliard’s relationship with China. According to a December 11 article in China Daily, President Polisi delivered a speech at the degree ceremony, saying the award was “not only in recognition of Peng’s accomplishments as an artist but also for her contribution to cultural exchanges between China and the United States.” Peng replied: “I hope cooperation between art schools and organizations of the two countries will be deepened in the future.”
Juilliard has a long, esteemed tradition of awarding honorary degrees to notable alumni and artists, dating back to 1987. Each year, recommendations for honorary doctoral candidates are submitted by faculty and staff, and then finalized by Juilliard’s Board of Trustees. Peng’s selection comes at an interesting time, on the eve of the Tianjin school’s opening. Past awardees have included Yo-Yo Ma, Joyce DiDonato, Tony Kushner, Viola Davis, and John Houseman. The coveted award is typically announced in February and conferred during Juilliard’s May graduation in New York City. A Juilliard degree has never been awarded outside of that ceremony, and never outside of the United States. Peng’s honorary doctorate is the first of its kind.
In a statement, Alexandra Day, Juilliard’s Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications, wrote of the unusual nature of Peng’s award. “Because of various security protocols around a person of Madame Peng’s standing, Juilliard made a decision to allow the honorary doctorate to be awarded in Beijing, rather than New York.” She went on to discuss the importance of this particular award, writing “In this day and age, that any first lady advocates for the arts is something to be celebrated!”
When it opens in 2019, the Tianjin Juilliard School will award a U.S.-accredited Master of Music Degree, the first to ever be offered in China. Prior to conferring the honorary doctorate last month, Polisi had been in Tianjin in June 2017 for the school’s ground-breaking ceremony. This is his final year as Juilliard President.
After a vote of current student contributors, Fiona Robberson ’21 & Alaina Surgener ’21 have been named the incoming Editors-in-Chief of The Citizen-Penguin. To our knowledge, every current student who had contributed to The Citizen-Penguin was offered a ballot to vote among several very qualified candidates.
After a vote of current student contributors, Fiona Robberson ’21 & Alaina Surgener ’21 have been named the incoming Editors-in-Chief of The Citizen-Penguin. To our knowledge, every current student who had contributed to The Citizen-Penguin was offered a ballot to vote among several very qualified candidates. Votes were emailed to and tallied by the current editor (me, Scout James), and by Shereen Pimentel, the Managing Editor of The Citizen-Penguin. The will assume command of the open student platform on February 21, 2018.
Listen to Janice & Mish’s podcast episode interviewing the incoming editors-in-chief:
Mish and Janice have a happy surprise in Episode 9. Meet the new co-editors in chief of the Citizen Penguin, Fiona Robberson (MFA ’21) and Alaina Surgener (BFA ’21)! Get the inside scoop on the future of the student-run newspaper, the drama audition process, and Lady Bird.
The School responds to the recent news regarding James Levine
To the Members of the Juilliard Community,
The Juilliard Orchestra has a scheduled collaborative concert with the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program on February 23, 2018, which was to be conducted by James Levine. In light of recent reports, Mr. Levine will no longer be conducting the concert. We are now actively searching for a conductor to take over the concert.
The Juilliard School is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all members of the community. Sexual misconduct is a violation of trust that can never be tolerated. Our hearts go out to the individuals who have physically and psychologically suffered from acts of sexual misconduct.
Joseph W. Polisi, President
Ara Guzelimian, Provost and Dean
In the Juilliard feature for the Wall Street Journal’s lifestyle magazine, many of the featured students are non-white. Each division is represented. The group seems diverse. Except, that is, for one glaring omission: none of them identify as Asian or Asian American.
It is possible to sit in Juilliard’s Student Multipurpose Room and not see any students. To the southwest, a wall of glass looks out onto the Illumination Lawn, the Pool through the windows of Lincoln Ristorante, and the tops of the trees in the Grove. To the northwest, windows overlook a rarely used walkway and the wide chasm between the SMR and the Student Lounge. Far from the barefoot dancers, rowdy opera singers and discordant practice rooms, this room is where ‘contained’ events at Juilliard take place; opening night receptions, closed faculty meetings, Juilliard ‘Spotlight’ video shoots, and visiting therapy dogs all find safe haven here.
One Monday in December, the day after the first snow flurries of the season, The Wall Street Journal set up shop in the SMR. Two representatives from WSJ. Magazine (tagline: “The Luxury of Choice”), accompanied by an assistant from the Juilliard Development & Public Affairs office, individually met with students during an “open call” for a forthcoming feature on “the people at Juilliard who make it what it is.”
Some students and observers have cried foul on just that: who makes Juilliard what it is, and who decides?
The piece, titled “An Education,” which ran online April 3 (behind a paywall) and in the April issue of the print edition, featured 11 students from across the three divisions. Photographed in various locations around Juilliard, the actors, dancers and musicians are dressed in mostly borrowed clothes, identified by brand in the captions. An Alexander McQueen sweater. A Burberry belt. Prada pants. An Alexander Wang long-sleeve bodysuit. A Gucci vest. In the online version, prices accompany the captions. $3,565. $285. $550. $160. $2,300. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to walk into a room with all this wardrobe. There was so much—clothes, shoes, jewelry,” said Katherine Turner (Drama ’20).
The students look as serious and self-possessed as any model might. “It was so professional,” said Jeffery Miller (Jazz ’18). In the print edition, an introductory paragraph tells of the school’s history, its current leadership transition, and its prestige. The photographs are accompanied by quotes from the students about their hopes, gratitude, passions and crafts. “I thought it was cool that it was more than just pictures,” said Turner. “They get to have a little snippet of who I am as an artist.”
“Wait. Wait, where are the Asians?” —Mosa Tsay (Music ’18)
Many of the featured students are non-white. Each division is represented. The group seems diverse.
Except, that is, for one glaring omission: none of them identify as Asian or Asian American. This school year at Juilliard, one out of every three college students identifies as being primarily of Asian ethnicity. In undergraduate music, ethnically Asian students are the majority. According to the Admissions office, of the 5,500 applicants for next year’s graduate and undergraduate classes who chose to respond, “nearly 20% identified as Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander.”
Given that large population, Fala Chen (Drama ’18) was “expecting to see some Asian faces.” Connor Kim (Music ’18), a first-generation Korean American, called the piece a “blatant misrepresentation,” adding that it “just provides an excuse to dampen our existence.” When Mosa Tsay (Music ’18) scrolled to the end of the article, she thought, “Wait. Wait, where are the Asians?” Tsay said Asian success at Juilliard “is a source of pride,” noting how in Taiwan, she often encounters people who respect Juilliard and are familiar with Taiwanese alumni like the renowned violinist Cho-Liang Lin. The oversight bothered and puzzled her and many students of Asian descent. “Is it because they’ve never set foot in Juilliard?” she wondered of the editors. It’s possible that those who made the final selection hadn’t.
Tsay was taken aback by her own reaction. “I felt sick to my stomach, confused, and as though someone had ignored me,” she wrote. Tsay, who is of Taiwanese descent, took Asian American courses during undergrad at UC Berkeley, where ongoing conversations introduced her to ideas of ‘Otherness’ and ‘Forever Foreigners.’ It’s not a conversation that she hears happening at Juilliard, she said.
Outrage and baffled curiosity didn’t come only from the students of Asian descent. “It saddened me greatly to see the lack of Asian and Asian-American representation,” wrote one Caucasian student who participated in the shoot. The student didn’t know who would be in the final roster of featured students. “I am still very grateful for being a part of the WSJ article,” posted Taylor Massa (Dance ’20), one of the featured students, “however I am disappointed with the total exclusion of any Asian students.”
Many saw “An Education” as a positive representation of African American students at Juilliard; almost half of the featured students were African American. While some African American students saw it as positive representation, they, too, wondered where the Asian representation was. “It was great to see us represented in such a dope way,” said Miller; but when it came to the Magazine’s choice not to include students of Asian descent, he asked, “How do you miss that?” Turner also appreciated the representation of African American students like herself. She and her family thought it was “super-cool,” but, she added, “it would have also been cool to see people of Asian descent.”
Some students dealt with their frustration by contacting those responsible for the piece. Carlos Avila (BM ’08, MM ’10), a Filipino American alum, sent a letter to the editorial section of The Wall Street Journal, and said that “leaving us out completely in a piece designed to represent the school” was irresponsible.
Tsay tweeted to @WSJMag on April 9, asking, “Was this intentional, to not photograph any Asian students?” Following the advice of one of her professors, she had written an email to Thomas Gebremedhin, the writer of the article, on April 3. She told Gebremedhin that the lack of Asian representation “struck me surprisingly hard in the gut.” She sent a follow-up on April 10. Later, Tsay said she had felt “stuck in this kind of gray area of wanting to do something but not wanting to be perceived to be angry or irrational or emotional.”
Neither Tsay nor Avila have received responses from The Wall Street Journal, WSJ. Magazine or anyone involved outside Juilliard. “Maybe I wasn’t angry enough,” said Tsay.
33 students in total attended the ‘open call’ in December. “It was a very quick process to just take your picture and write down your major and go and see if you’re asked to come for the shoot,” said Turner.
Many music students were unaware of the opportunity because they hadn’t been informed about it. Tsay, too, hadn’t received an email about it. “It wasn’t really an ‘open call,’ in that respect,” she said.
The PR request from WSJ. Magazine had been forwarded to department heads, so relaying the invitation to students was up to their discretion. Dance, Drama, Historical Performance, Jazz, and Vocal Arts students received the information, but the Music Division as a whole did not. “We get dozens of PR requests every year, and quite honestly this one slipped by me,” wrote Dean Adam Meyer, Director of the Music Division.
Alexandra Day, Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications, oversaw the communication between WSJ. Magazine and the students. “We don’t email the student body directly with PR requests, which I have to agree with, even, as a PR person. Because otherwise, you would hear from me probably every 10 days while you’re trying to study, right? So I think that’s an appropriate workflow.” She added that she respects an individual department head’s “prerogative to not bother their students with something like that.”
It might be easy, then, to blame the school for not reaching out to departments where there are more Asian students. However, four students of Asian descent attended the initial meeting, and noting the lack of representation, Day’s office submitted photos of eight additional students, four of whom were of Asian descent. So, in the end, the portfolio of possible students had an Asian percentage close to the school’s applicant pool: nearly 20%. “I can really say, with confidence and pride, we presented a nice section of the student body,” said Day. “In my experience, it really varies by outlet how much you can control or not. We didn’t have say in that in this piece.”
So then, how did it happen that WSJ. Magazine neglected to select any student who identifies as Asian or Asian American?
Many assume the Asian students weren’t selected because of conscious or unconscious bias. One student wrote, “I’m a whitewash Asian so they probably would have picked me for their Asian demographic.” (‘Whitewashed,’ when referring to people, can be a perjorative term for non-white people who ‘act’ or ‘look’ white.)
Availability may have played a part in the decision, since editors were given access to the students’ schedules. As a policy, students aren’t pulled from class for PR opportunities. Indeed, one Asian student who attended the initial meeting had very few breaks during the day. However, one student of Chinese descent whose photo was considered had nothing official scheduled on the day of the shoot.
“I hesitate to assign motive in this instance, or subconscious neglect, because of how complicated it was for them logistically. I don’t want to make excuses for them, either,” said Day.
“…the black-white binary continues to be the dominant frame by which Americans see race relations in this country. In that kind of frame, Asians are expendable, or they get used as the butt of an easy joke.” —Ian Shin
Turner argued that every choice makes a statement. “So, I’m curious as to what kind of statement they were trying to make in who they chose.” The incident made many people interviewed for this article consider what diversity means inside and outside Juilliard. Sometimes, the “gatekeepers to mainstream visibility…think diversity is just black and white,” said Turner. However, she said, ethnic and racial “diversity is black, white, Asian, Latino, Native American. The list goes on.”
Ian Shin, a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer who teaches Asian American history at Bates College, wrote that “the black-white binary continues to be the dominant frame by which Americans see race relations in this country. In that kind of frame, Asians are expendable, or they get used as the butt of an easy joke.” He said it was up to Juilliard students to decide whether the piece was offensive or not. “But I do think it was intellectually lazy,” he said.
Whatever it was, the selection process remains unclear. It’s possible those who chose the featured students “never set foot in Juilliard.” The Citizen-Penguin has made multiple requests for comment, and none have been granted. Calls were made, emails were sent, LinkedIn connections were requested and tweets were tweeted to those involved outside Juilliard, including the publisher’s office of WSJ. Magazine, Sarah Schmidt (a managing editor at The Wall Street Journal), Thomas Gebremedhin (the writer of “An Education” and an associate editor at WSJ. Magazine) and even representatives of Zoë Gunter, the photographer. Each request received no response or was delegated elsewhere. Even one Juilliard administrator has received no response to their own follow-up attempt.
human-interest Burberry ad
Though some of the featured students were aware that it would be a fashion-heavy piece, some were surprised. Avery Amereau (Artist Diploma in Opera Studies ’17), who was “humbled” to be included, also wished for a more in-depth piece. “I had the impression it would be like an arts/human-interest piece,” she wrote. “It was more of a fashion advertisement with catch phrases. I say that with complete respect; my opinion is that it could have been a lot deeper.” Chen also hoped for a deeper view into life at Juilliard. “You hear, ‘Oh, you’re a Juilliard student.’ There’s a certain mystique that comes with that name.”
Day often encounters the question of control in the “earned media” space while advising students and alumni on matters of press. (Earned media could be a feature, interview, or review—any press granted by an outside publication or media outlet where Juilliard doesn’t have final say in how the piece appears.) “Would I have rather had thoughtful pieces that were not about fashion? Personally, yes,” said Day. “We wouldn’t have had coverage in The Wall Street Journal in that case. That’s a choice. And I think that’ll be a choice for our artists as they are approached by various outlets that say, ‘We’d like to feature you in these ways.’”
Earned media doesn’t always go well. Day once worked for an opera star, and remembered a feature that turned out to be more fashion-focused than the star expected. “And she kind of sighed and said, ‘You know, would I have wanted them to focus on the price of my Burberry jacket? No. Am I happy that someone who now sees my name and thinks they might buy a ticket and go to their first ever opera as a result?’ That was enough for her. It wouldn’t be for everyone, I guess.”
“For as long as I’m here, I don’t think I’ll ever really shy away unless I consider it a high risk.” —Alexandra Day
Misses notwithstanding, Day still believes in the power of earned media. “For as long as I’m here, I don’t think I’ll ever really shy away unless I consider it a high risk,” she said. She thinks coverage is particularly important in the current political climate, where arts funding is constantly being threatened and coverage of the arts is dwindling. “It’s not only overall representation, as in, ‘Is this accurate? Is this who we are?’ But also, ‘Are you paying attention to us at all?’” She sees Juilliard President Joseph Polisi as an example of someone who uses press opportunities for Juilliard as an opportunity to serve as an ambassador for the arts in general. She said, “I want people to be thinking about the value of the arts, as cheesy as that sounds.”
Still, wrote Day, earned media can be “a lot trickier, since we can’t control how the press represents Juilliard (or any institution).” When it comes to things Juilliard can control, though, she wrote, “We strive to celebrate the entire Juilliard community in all that we do.”
Asian representation in the media
Beyond just representing Juilliard’s diversity, the feature’s lack of Asian representation indicated what some see as a problem in the media at large. One Chinese student was disappointed in the choice to include no students of Asian descent because news outlets like The Wall Street Journal purport to reflect our society’s values. “It’s not the right thing to do,” she said. “A mainstream media leader such as The Wall Street Journal should have thought about it more.” Day said artists and institutions are still dependent upon those media leaders. “The world still relies on the platinum-tier outlets, like the Times or the Journal to create that buzz or awareness,” she said.
Many note the absence of Asian faces in much of American Fashion. “Why are Asians or Asian Americans largely invisible in the world of fashion?” wondered Tsay. “That’s really at the heart of it for me.”
Mandy Dyonne Lieveld, a coach for runway models who led a workshop at Juilliard last year, wrote that “in print you see more and more Asian models,” citing Armani’s recent ads as an example. The runway is improving, too, said Lieveld. A trend towards what are considered “unique and different looks” has opened doors for diversity. Economics have helped, too; Victoria’s Secret runway shows had no Asian models in 2009, but one year after opening shop in China in 2015, their runway shows had four Asian models, Lieveld notes.
“I mean, it’s simply about time that we have more Asian faces across all media, be it in print, on screen or on stage.” —Fala Chen (Drama ’18)
But, said Lieveld, in terms of a perfect “reflection of society…we’re still not there yet.”
Chen sees hope ahead for Asian representation in the media. “The growing spending-powers in Asian markets, the Chinese market especially, makes it inevitable that Asian faces will be in higher demand.… I mean, it’s simply about time that we have more Asian faces across all media, be it in print, on screen or on stage.” Shin, too, sees increased awareness and hope in the media in the form of an increasing amount of “some really smart portrayals that play with and challenge stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans.”
an emerging conversation
“An Education” made students wonder about ways in which minorities interact inside and outside Juilliard. In the outside world, the dominant group in many societies often holds onto power by pitting subdominant groups against each other. A recent New York Magazine op-ed by Andrew Sullivan wondered why African Americans couldn’t assimilate into American society as well as Asian Americans could, despite the fact that both had suffered hardships; the piece accepts the idea of the ‘Model Minority‘ as a premise. Kat Chow of Code Switch at NPR wrote in response to the op-ed that “at the root of Sullivan’s pernicious argument is the idea that black failure and Asian success cannot be explained by inequities and racism, and that they are one and the same; this allows a segment of white America to avoid any responsibility for addressing racism or the damage it continues to inflict.” She calls the ‘Model Minority’ myth a “classic and tenacious conservative strategy.”
“Slowly, I see individuals, whether it be digitally or in person…trying to knock down those walls…We have to all be vying for each other.” —Katherine Turner (Drama ’20)
Turner has observed walls between Asian and African American communities outside Juilliard, but notes a shift. “Slowly, I see individuals, whether it be digitally or in person…trying to knock down those walls…We have to all be vying for each other.” To fully knock down those walls, Turner points to a need for deeper change than simply filling quotas. “I want to go to the root of the issue and start to show these communities—Black, Latino, Asian, whatever it might be—that you’re not limited, you know? Or, you’re not excluded from this. If this is something you’re interested in, you can pursue it, train in it, and continue on in your life in it.”
Inside Juilliard, Turner doesn’t see those walls, but notes that there could be more encounters between communities.
Tsay remembers one quiet evening at Juilliard when “everyone was either practicing or at home.” She was sitting by the windows on the fifth floor, overlooking Broadway, with her headphones in. After a while, two African American students sat next to her and started catching up. Their conversation caught her ear when they started talking about microaggressions: insensitive things being said in the classroom, repeatedly not getting called on even though their hands were raised, and not being able to express themselves fully in a group setting. Tsay thought, “‘Wow. This stuff is really happening.’” She didn’t want to admit she had been eavesdropping, but she had wanted to say, “‘I hear you, and I’m so sorry that this is happening.’” She added that those conversations are happening around campus, but they tend to stay between members of the same groups.
Tsay said she often catches herself worried that starting conversations around race might make people uncomfortable. “I think it’s okay. I think they understand, too.” Shin credits these conversations as the source of a recent increase in awareness around Asian representation. “It’s happened because Asian Americans like Constance Wu, along with their allies, have spoken up and demanded fairer treatment,” said Shin. “In that vein, I think it’s great that Juilliard students are raising these issues and challenging a situation that they see as unfair.”
The more Tsay has tried to “figure out” race, or what it means to be Asian American, the more she feels like she’s “looking into this black hole…being drawn into something [she doesn’t] understand.” But that’s not stopping her.
“It’s all very nuanced, and I think it’s just healthy to keep asking questions,” said Tsay. “And that’s what I’m going to keep doing, until someone answers them.”