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The Eastern Echo Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

Podcast: Namesake of Quirk Theatre exposed, students react to delayed move-in, universities cope with reduced funding

University officials consider renaming Quirk-Sponberg Theatre, students react to EMU’s decision to push back move-in, and midwestern universities cope with pandemic-related budget cuts.

Liz Hornyak: On this week’s episode, university officials consider renaming Quirk-Sponberg Theatre, students react to EMU’s decision to push back move-in, and CAPS continues to provide their services remotely. I’m your host Liz Hornyak and this is the Eastern Echo Podcast.

Matthew Siegfried, a local historian and EMU graduate, posted some alarming photos to Facebook of Daniel L. Quirk Jr., the Quirk-Sponberg theatre building’s namesake. University officials are now considering renaming the building. 

Quirk was the director of the Peninsular Paper Company, and the president of the First National Bank. He was also a leader in the theatre movement in Ypsilanti. It has come to light that Quirk directed and starred in minstrel shows and performed in blackface. Faced with this revelation, the university is now discussing changing the name, or putting up the historical information on lobby displays. 

EMU senior Darien Vaughn, who has performed in Quirk-Sponberg Theatre, had this to say about the finding:

“It’s pretty hurtful, because the university didn't care enough. Especially with it being a time of unity and spirit, and being a time of trying to fix and trying to make the world better and to heal from things of slavery and Jim Crow and racism. For the university to uphold the name is a little upsetting to me, and a little off- putting, and it hurts a little bit, because we give so much.

“And as Black performers, we love to perform in the space and we love the space, and it hurts that it’s named after somebody who didn't respect us and didn’t respect our culture."

The Echo had the opportunity to speak with Pamela Cardell Cato, Assistant Managing Director in the School of Communication, Media, and Theatre Arts. 

“When you start looking at all of the buildings on campus, this article sort of sparked a curiosity for me, you know? What else don’t we know? What other histories are out there? And I think, obviously, the time was very different when they made the choice to select that person as the namesake. I think there’s a lot of buildings on campus that we could certainly look into, and maybe that option of renaming- maybe more buildings representing women, or people of color.

"Eastern is so committed to diversity and inclusion. It would be really lovely to see the names of buildings on campus reflect that, where we are today. But you also don’t want to completely erase history, so how do you find that balance of bringing things to light and saying, ‘This was a really terrible choice in the past. Let’s talk about this really terrible choice, and how do we go forward better now that we know about this.'“

Geoff Larcom, Executive Director of Media Relations at EMU, told the Echo, “The University is deeply concerned about the racist behavior conveyed in the post. These actions are an affront to everything we stand for as an institution. Our investigation and resulting actions will reflect that deep concern and will be shared with the campus community.”

The Echo will continue to follow this story as new information becomes available. 

EMU’s Counseling and Psychological services, also known as C.A.P.S., will continue its services virtually through Zoom and phone calls as it has been since March. 

Dr. Lisa Lauterbach, the director of C.A.P.S, told the Echo, “We’re all missing in-person interaction with our clients. We went into this business [because] we love that. We’d rather see our clients’ faces to read expressions over virtual measures than to be masked up with limited ability [to interpret faces].”

EMU students have access to:

  • Individual, Couples, and group therapy

  • Emergency Services and crisis intervention

  • Education workshops and outbreak

  • Faculty and Staff Consultation

  • And training for graduate students in mental health professions

CAPS is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. They also offer after-hours crisis counseling after 5 p.m. and during the weekend. You can reach their office at 734.487.1118.

You can visit emich.edu/caps for more information, or can email counseling.services@emich.edu.

Due to the current pandemic, states have had to cut spending, and Michigan is no exception. The Echo’s Digital Media Editor, Liz Erne, looked into what this means for EMU. Michigan has cut university funding by $200 million dollars. According to Todd Ohmer, who is the Executive Director of Financial Planning and Budget at EMU, the university received $77 million in state appropriations in the 2019 fiscal year.

According to EMU President James Smith, the budget difference will be offset by the one-time federal CARES Act funds granted to the state for the fiscal year 2020. EMU has also implemented a seven percent salary reduction among members of its executive board. 

President Smith also announced a reduced work schedule for non-bargained employees, and cited Michigan’s Work Share program as a financial resource to aid such employees. This program allows employees to work reduced hours and still claim partial unemployment benefits. The university has also suspended work-related travel and has delayed or suspended projects around campus. Visit the article on our website to find an interactive map of cuts and other budget implications at universities across the midwest.

Lastly, many EMU students are frustrated with the university’s last minute decision to push back Fall move-in. Students were originally scheduled to move in starting Aug. 27, but the University has decided to postpone until Sept. 17. The decision was made for several reasons:

  • First, EMU has reviewed other universities and how they have struggled to keep students from social gatherings and parties

  • Second, this extension allows a fourteen day period after Labor Day, which gives students the time to self quarantine

  • Finally, President Smith stated in an email to students that the delay allows EMU to establish and expand further COVID-19 testing  

EMU freshman Grace Beebe received the news just one hour before her scheduled move-in time. Beebe told the Echo she spent two days in her dorm in utter confusion. At the time, housing staff had little more information about the situation than what had been publicly announced to students that morning. Eventually, Beebe was told she could leave her belongings in the dorm, return home, and receive a reimbursement.

President Smith responded to criticism in a statement, saying, “We have stated from the beginning our intent to closely monitor the fast-changing impact of this disease and the need to adjust our plans on short notice to new information and government/public health guidance. This decision reflects that continued careful attention.” You can find a link to the full statement on our website. 

Thank you to reporters Ashlee Buhler, Cameryn Eberly, Liz Erne, and Austin Elliot for today’s stories. As always, you can find full lengths articles on everything we discussed today a easternecho.com. Any questions, comments, and tips can be sent straight to our section editor at podcast@easternecho.com.

Host: Liz Hornyak

Produced: Lauren Smith

Script: Jasmine Boyd & Ronia Cabansag