Initially created back in 2013, FLO had strong support from the Geneseo
administration. In the years following its formation, the company successfully
staged one full-length production and one small show each summer. An incredibly
valuable resource for internships, the opera company provided real-world
experiences and opportunities for the college’s music majors–which
are extremely hard to come by in this particular field.
Additionally, FLO offered internship opportunities for non-music majors in
the areas of technical theatre, arts administration, marketing and more.
Through these opportunities, FLO was able to give Geneseo students a
competitive edge that prepared them for real world careers—unlike all
other colleges in the SUNY system, none of which host a professional opera
company. In fact, FLO would have eventually put Geneseo in the same category as
private universities with similar programs.
Just this past summer, FLO developed an educational outreach program for
children as well as a weeklong intensive vocal camp for high school students.
Had the opera been able to continue this growth, there’s no doubt it
would have doubled its internships and opportunities for Geneseo students and
would have become a valuable recruiting tool for the college through its high
The main problem for the administration was the opera’s finances.
Although the opera was growing financially, the college still provided a
portion of the company’s funding and FLO still relied on Geneseo for the
use of its facilities. The opera ran a small deficit this summer and “a
feasible pathway toward financial sustainability has not materialized,”
according to a statement sent by President Battles to the college
This statement is inaccurate, however. In actuality, the administration
failed to consider all options available in order to keep FLO running at
Geneseo. In a gross error on the part of the college, donors were contacted
after the decision had been made to cease funding the opera. Had donors been
contacted before making the final decision, the college may have been able to
erase the opera’s small deficit.
The decision is also concerning in light of Battles’ recent email
request, asking for proposals from students and faculty on how to generate
revenue for the college. Although she requested help from the college community
in this respect, Battles failed to do the same when it came to making the
decision to defund FLO.
Angered and concerned, select students have repeatedly contacted and met
with Battles, asking her to consider the wider impact this decision may have on
both the college and local community.
The college administration acted unilaterally and showed a blatant disregard
for student interests. As students at a liberal arts university, we ought to be
deeply troubled by this apparent disdain for the arts, which are essential for
the complete education of any individual. It was not just an opera company
being questioned, but a source of solace in troubled times, a way to improve
the college’s reputation and a representation of Geneseo’s views on
the arts and humanities.
The mission of the college is supposedly to “advance knowledge and
inspire students to be socially responsible and globally aware citizens who are
prepared for an enriched life and success in the world.” But how can this
goal possibly be achieved when art opportunities and programs are being cut by
those whose job it is to ensure that Geneseo’s students benefit from a
well-rounded, liberal arts education?
Going forward, the college community must strongly and vocally oppose
further cuts to the arts at Geneseo.
This article is reprinted with the kind permission of The Lamron, the Geneseo student newspaper.