by Dash Phillips
The Director of Student Programs and Services Leigh Rhenquist at Bell College in Carthage, New York was censured this week because a mime created a disturbance on campus.
As the College kicked off its annual “Expressive Arts Week” a mime began his performance in the dining hall. When the mime approached a student and mirrored his eating in pantomime, the crowd seemed amused.
“When he started mimicking ‘Big’ Sam Harlowe and the way he eats, the crowd really laughed,” said junior Fred Carter.
After that, the performance went awry.
Susan Halisted asked the mime where he got his training. When the mime only shrugged his shoulders and made his famous “sad clown” face, she became concerned.
“Why can’t he speak? And he looks so sad!” she exclaimed to the crowd.
Other students began to notice that the mime was completely silent. Concern spread throughout the student diners.
“I noticed that Susan was obviously upset and concerned for the performer. I then saw her dialing on her cell phone,” said Lisa Conover, Halisted’s roommate.
When asked whom she had called, Halisted became animated.
“I didn’t know what to do – I mean he appeared totally unable to speak and so very, very sad. So, I called my mom at home. She always knows what to do,” Halisted asserted. “Mom said that she was getting in the car and coming to campus immediately, but that in the meantime I should dial 911 and explain what was happening. Before she hung up, she told me I did a good job.”
Later, when Halisted learned that the mime wasn’t speaking on purpose, she and her mother became enraged.
“What kind of office would bring a performer to campus who was intentionally unable to speak? I mean I sent my daughter to Bell College because I believed they would reinforce the good manners I tried to teach her at home. When a person is asked a question they should answer it!” said Susan’s mother, Hilary Basleton-Halisted, 47. “I went straight to the College President, Dr. Emile Sartory about this,” she added.
Dr. Sartory was unable to be reached for comment; however, sources referred the media to Harris Nevelton, Chair of the College’s Committee On Programming Safety (COPS). Nevelton did admit that the President referred the issue to COPS.
“We reviewed the situation with the mime,” Nevelton said, “and we believe Leigh Rhenquist acted irresponsibly by hiring the mime without posting warnings such as ‘The mime intentionally does not speak’ and ‘The performer is only performing.’ We have formally censured her for her lack of professionalism.”
Nevelton shared the details of Rhenquist’s censure.
“Ms. Rhenquist will be required to spend one day in complete silence so she can see the effect this behavior has on students. We wish to sensitize staff so that they’ll program more safely,” he said.
While Rhenquist apologized openly to the Bell College community, it was not without explanation.
“I am a one woman office without any support. I was busy planning for next week’s Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, Straight, Transvestite, Questioning and Wondering Ball –and I guess I really didn’t give the mime program much thought,” Rhenquist admitted. “I have said in the past that the lack of support staff in my office would result in something terrible.”
Rhenquist did have a plan for the future however.
“In the coming year, I’ll run a Mime Training Program so students will know what to expect. After all, it’s my job to prepare students for a lifetime of entertainment.”