Open Letter to Sandra Lorenzano, UCSJ

Open Letter to Sandra Lorenzano, UCSJ

March 16, 2012

Vicerrectora Sandra Lorenzano
Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana
Izazaga 92, Centro Histórico
México D.F., México

Dr. Lorenzano,

Today—on the date when the Hemispheric Institute’s 8th Encuentro should have commenced at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana (UCSJ)—we feel compelled to publicly express our indignation regarding UCSJ’s abrupt cancelation of the event, which you communicated to us via email on December 7th. Less than four months before the Encuentro, you justified your withdrawal with a dubious argument about ‘security.’ Yet many international events continue to take place in Mexico City. It is difficult not to suspect that this irresponsible act was due to UCSJ’s decision to yield to political pressures, to succumb to the fear of open debate and critique. We are dismayed at the way UCSJ went against any and all commitment to notions and practices of artistic and intellectual freedom without which no academic institution is worth its name.

Aside from betraying the most basic principles of intellectual and cultural production, the cancellation has resulted in substantial losses (financial and otherwise) not only for the Institute, but also for the many organizations that comprise our network, as well as for the hundreds of people who had been invited or accepted as participants to the event. Who will assume responsibility for this?

In our case, these losses include over a year of work on the part of our staff, the costs of the online application form and multiple planning trips to Mexico City, as well as thousands of dollars in penalties for the cancellation of our hotel reservations, among others. If we had to fully quantify these costs, they would easily reach $60,000, which constitutes a deplorable waste of money given the enormous efforts of all who participate in our network to sustain their artistic, intellectual, and activist endeavors. Who will assume responsibility for this?

The cancelation of the event has also resulted in egregious losses for many others. Dozens of participants had already purchased their airplane tickets. Many of our member institutions had put aside resources for this fiscal year to support the participation of their students and faculty. In many cases, these resources will be lost. Who will assume responsibility for this? A number of artists who had received grants and put together complex itineraries to participate have been forced to return funds and cancel related commitments. In some cases, they have lost eligibility to apply for these grants next year. The opportunity costs for those who had planned to take part in the event are by no means minor. And we cannot forget the many hours and days of labor of work group coordinators, curatorial teams, and the more than 1,200 applicants who completed the application and submitted their proposals. Who will assume responsibility for this?

The actions of the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana clearly demonstrate a lack of professionalism as well as a lack of respect for the work of institutions and individuals with steadfast artistic, intellectual and activist commitments. The harm to UCSJ’s reputation will not easily be undone.

With nothing more to add,

Diana Taylor
Director, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics
University Professor, Departments of Performance Studies and Spanish
New York University