Cal Lutheran’s arts and humanities deserve upgrades


Photo by Marcel Hurtubise - Reporter

The Theatre Arts building is one of the oldest buildings on campus, being brought to campus in 1962, and is a stark contrast to the LED-lit Swenson Science Center.

Marcel Hurtubise, Reporter

With the relatively recent opening of the Swenson Science Center in the fall of 2020, many of the students in arts and humanities want enhancements to their own facilities and wonder how they can make that happen and what exactly they will get out of the university’s 2022-2027 strategic plan.

Liberal arts and humanities are not the most popular majors on campus compared to business and the sciences, however, it does feel like upgrades are in order.

Soiland Humanities was built in 1998; the Preus-Brandt Forum was dedicated in 1985 and the stage barely fit a handful of people that were in a dance class with me.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning & Operations Ryan Van Ommeren said they went through a detailed plan of what the university would like to construct over a 20-year-plus period.

“Performing arts, that’s been recognized as a need for a long time,” Van Ommeren said. “In the recent past… Theater Arts has rented Pacific Arts Center in Thousand Oaks and they do performances here in Preus-Brandt Forum, but it doesn’t have the stage space, like working space, to really do theatrical production.”

Van Ommeren prioritized the creation of a substantial performance space above upgrading the current theatrical and art facilities.

Fifth-year Nathan Sellers said that he does feel a tangible difference in funding between STEM and the rest of the majors, especially in the face of a building like the Swenson Science Center. He said he would like to see more money put into the iCLU Radio.

“Some of the equipment is, not that it’s old, but it doesn’t always work properly. So, sometimes the monitors will freeze or sometimes the different rooms that you use to record won’t communicate well with the other room,” Sellers said.

Unfortunately, the creation of these buildings does not just come from the students wanting it done, or even the university wanting it done. Van Ommeren said that the largest obstacle is money. He said that a theater’s “fly space,” the open space above the stage for special effects mechanisms, is one of the economic obstacles for such a project.

In addition to that, we need someone to come forth with a specific vision of what they would want. Vice President for University Advancement Regina D. Biddings-Muro said that often the idea begins with the people directly affected by the project.

“Under the best circumstances, people who are going to be in that space have a say with that department chair and the dean,” Biddings-Muro said. “Often, I think, there will need to be a compromise because sometimes what we wish we could have we might not be able to afford.”

As much as I, and others, would want something like a grand theater for the school, the plan for building such an area happens on a macro scale that it is not as simple as people saying that we need it done.

Van Ommeren said that, though nothing massive has been donated towards the performing arts, enough has been donated here and there that Operations & Planning held a planning exercise.

“The board has said, ‘yes this is a project you need to be looking at,’” Van Ommeren said. “The next step would be … sort of the board to say to fundraising, ‘go after this project right now. Try to raise money.’”

It may seem like the power of change is totally out of the hands of the students and in the hands of an investor who wants the same project done. However, Biddings-Muro gives props to Associated Students California Lutheran University Government President Greg Pimentel as someone who has brought light to the requests of the student body.

“He has spoken about the things students care about–would like to see upgraded,” Biddings-Muro said. “And I think he’s been heard … I think student voices are absolutely essential and welcome in the conversation around the things that matter to them … There may be other channels but I think that’s a very effective one.”

So while it may look at first glance like the arts and humanities are overlooked in terms of funding, the fact of the matter is that things like funding take a lot of time. Unfortunately, a new theater cannot be blueprinted, funded and built in a week. Or even a year. However, ASCLUG gives students the ability to advocate for what projects they want to be done and the school will look for some way to get donations to achieve it.