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Keep the Performing Arts Council alive

A large, vaguely brutalist building surrounds a reflecting pool. The sky is dark blue in nighttime. Bright lights shine from inside the large glass windows.
Dusk falls over the reflecting pool of the Lewis Center for the Arts. 
Abby de Riel / The Daily Princetonian

Before my first day as president of the Performing Arts Council (PAC), my predecessor told me that the role would be easy because I could let the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies (ODUS) take the reins. Looking back at my term from February 2022 to February 2023, those words held a kernel of truth. 

I witnessed the Fall 2022 TigerNight go without a dress rehearsal because of orientation conflicts, the cancellation of This Side of Princeton (TSOP) — an arts showcase for accepted students — due to a shortened Princeton Preview, and incomplete Passport to the Arts data followed by lack of communication from TigerCard services. Out of those three events, PAC was only able to contribute a meaningful change to just one: rescheduling TSOP as a virtual event. But that was not because we just let ODUS take over. It’s because we lacked the necessary authority to make changes that would benefit students. Now, with zero candidates running for the most recent election, PAC’s days seem numbered. But the answer to students’ dissatisfaction with arts coordination is not the end of PAC, but rather a stronger PAC with more student engagement.


So what does PAC actually do? The Performing Arts Council serves as the liaison between student performing arts groups and ODUS. Its purpose lies in facilitating communication between student groups and administrators, organizing school-wide shows like TigerNight, and distributing resources — rehearsal studio space as well as Frist and Whitman Theatre performance slots. To note, PAC can assign its performing groups which weeks they can perform, but they have no control over the location or date for University events. Traditionally, all PAC members have experience in student performance groups, which crucially informs their decision making. This sounds fantastic, in theory. So why has PAC frustrated so many student artists over the years?

Crucially, the resources available for each PAC group have continually decreased over time. While more performing arts groups have emerged over the past few years, the number of performing arts spaces are not keeping pace. Between 2018 and 2022, the number of groups increased from 32 to 37. At the same time, PAC has lost the First dance studio and First black box but gained no new spaces. Furthermore, the varying needs across artistic disciplines, group sizes, and performance schedules also mean that compromise almost never results in equality when distributing resources. For instance, Aerial Arts Club only rehearses in New South Main — a very popular dance studio due to its size and flooring — because it serves as the only space that allows for proper hanging of aerial art equipment. However, since many groups don’t get first-choice studios and times, it makes sense that students have concluded that distribution discrepancies signal biased favoritism towards certain groups, rather than considering them an accommodation for others. PAC’s lack of capacity only exacerbates this situation.

But there also exist fixable issues that PAC cannot address because the council only intermediates. It can send plans as a representative of student groups, but the organization lacks executive power or a seat at the table that can actually influence many of the outcomes. For instance, when we organize TigerNight or performance space distribution, we collect all student group information, provide the guidelines, and draft a plan based on said guidelines before sending it to ODUS or the staff facility managers. However, PAC does not get to be a part of the conversation when it comes to the date and location of TigerNight, any initiatives for performance space development — such as the recent lighting updates in the Frist and Whitman Theaters —, nor space to discuss not just the purpose, but also the impact of events like TigerNight.

Furthermore, PAC’s limited authority means that it can only take a reactive role when things go wrong, rather than participating in proactively solving problems. The council does not have enough involvement within the administrative infrastructure. Even when PAC has tried to proactively reach out to administrators in ODUS or arts programs — such as our investigation into Passport to the Arts data for a joint project with USG — it resulted in communication delays or even complete oversight. From this lack of coordination, we failed to execute a lot of our initiatives or to resolve many issues in a timely manner due to lacking necessary information or permission. I believe that if PAC has tangible sway with and access within ODUS, the organization can create significant changes in service of the artistic student body.

If the council is as powerless as I say, then was my predecessor correct? Should PAC give up and leave it all to ODUS? Absolutely not, and history proves it. The rehearsal and performance space managers during my tenure devoted immeasurable hours into organizing schedules and responding to feedback, including excessive amounts of vitriolic comments. Throughout the turmoil, they achieved the best possible outcomes within the constraints. Not only that, they took the extra step by drafting systemic change of outdated distribution systems.

After 500+ emails and dozens of meetings, I can state this with certainty as the former president: The current purpose of PAC is to investigate, compile, and reveal the truth about what happens behind the artistic scene. It would be ideal if PAC had more authority, like an official ODUS position, and could do more. But even if it comes in the form of another apology email over insufficient space, the council needs to exist as the source of insight into the logistical, material, or administrative reasons behind the limitations in rehearsal space or performance opportunities. By providing this information, PAC establishes the foundation for student performers to debate these topics and give informed feedback on the next audition schedule, TSOP, or construction site for artistic space. This helps create a unified and informed student perspective that PAC can accurately depict to the administration. 


I hope our artistic Tigers will consider the following. If PAC ever ceases to exist, not only will students forfeit total control over the distribution of resources, they will lose direct access to a hub of information pertinent to their everyday functions as performers. So, for the next PAC administration: rise to the challenge, find appreciation in the thanklessness, and serve the Princeton artistic community as a representative voice. For everyone else, criticize, support, and keep the Performance Arts Council alive with your involvement.

Sanghyun “Chris” Park ’24 is a former president of the Performing Arts Council. He can be contacted at

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