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“Black Choreographers Matter” Petitions to Reinstate UCI Dance Professor


Over 2000 members of the dance community have signed a petition calling for UCI’s Dance Department to allow Donald McKayle to continue teaching at the University of California, Irvine.

McKayle, 85, is recognized as one of the most accomplished dancers and choreographers of his time, named by the Dance Heritage Coalition as “one of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.” Since first joining the UCI Dance Department in 1989, McKayle has been recognized for his excellence in teaching on several occasions, including his winning of a UCI Medal in 2000, the highest honor awarded by UCI.

After McKayle retired in 2010, he continued to teach at UCI under recall as a professor emeritus, a title given to retired professors. Per UCI’s Office of Academic Personnel website, recall appointments are approved for one year at a time and are self-terminating. After undergoing review, a recall appointment may be renewed on an annual basis.

The petition states that while McKayle was not being dismissed from UCI, he was “being stripped of his duties in relationship to the dance department, rendering him unfortunately without purpose.” According to the petition, McKayle was told he could only be recalled a limited number of times, and his current recall is set to end in June.

Under the current Office of Academic Personnel’s Recall Guidelines for Academic Appointees, there is no policy specifying the number of times a recall may renewed.  The only noted restriction is that recall appointees cannot devote over 43 percent of their time per month to their appointment.

Only the Chancellor (or their designee) has the authority to approve academic recall appointments.

In an interview with Orange Coast Magazine published in 2013, McKayle noted that former Chancellor Michael V. Drake had given him his blessing for renewal, and was told “You can be a professor until you’re cold.”

The year after, Drake left to serve as the President of Ohio State University, and was succeeded as Chancellor by Howard Gillman.

The petition asks that, if McKayle is not allowed to remain a professor emeritus, that he be given a new role and title of advisor emeritus so that he may continue working with students.

The creators of the petition emphasize that their campaign is not aiming to damage the reputation of the dance department, and their sole focus is to honor the wishes of McKayle to continue teaching at UCI.


– The previous title stated that Donald McKayle was dismissed from his position; McKayle was never dismissed.

-An earlier version of this article stated that a professor emeritus was given to retired professors who continued to teach. The title is given to retired professors, but they do not necessarily continue teaching.

-As of January 8th, Donald McKayle had been invited to return teaching at UCI, of which he had accepted.