Academy’s Vocal Critics Fail to Advance in Board of Governors Elections

Academy's Vocal Critics Fail to Advance
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It’s been a turbulent year at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, as an ambitious plan to diversify its ranks led to internal backlash. Some of the most vocal critics have accused the Board of Governors of bowing to outside political pressure when it announced plans in January to double minority and female membership by 2020. Many have also resisted the Academy’s plan, announced simultaneously, to transfer some older members who are no longer active in the business to non-voting status.

The controversy spilled into this year’s board elections, as a handful of members campaigned on a pledge to overturn the board’s actions. But the results of the first round of voting were announced to members on Thursday night, and it appears the internal revolt has mostly fizzled out.

Only one critic of the Board — Bruce Feldman, in the Academy’s public relations branch — finished among the top four contenders in his or her branch, earning advancement to the final round of voting. William Goldstein, who was among the most outspoken opponents, did not advance in the music branch.

“A lot of the people who ran did not address these issues at all,” Feldman said. “They’re running on the old-fashioned, I’m-a-good-guy-vote-for-me.”

Laura Karpman, a candidate in the music branch, did take a firm stand in support of the Academy’s diversity initiative. She advanced to the final round of voting.

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“I think what the Academy is trying to do is be in a leadership position, which is exactly the right place for the Academy to be,” she said. “Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes you get backlash. Sometimes people become afraid. But good leadership is about pushing those boundaries.”

Members in each of the 17 branches will now elect a member from among the finalists. Steven Spielberg is among the four candidates in the directors’ branch. Ed Begley Jr., is running for re-election in the acting branch against Laura Dern, Lou Diamond Phillips and Edward James Olmos. The winners will be announced in mid-July.

“It’s a lot of the same old people who have been around,” said Gary Shapiro, a critic of the board who ran in the public relations branch but was not among the finalists. “I think the Academy has learned a bit from the reaction they got.”

Many of the critics have said they support diversity, but were disturbed at the idea that members could be forced into “emeritus” status simply because they haven’t worked in a while. Some were also offended that it appeared the Academy seemed to be blaming its older members — who are disproportionately white and male — for the lack of non-white nominees.

“Saying the membership is racist — it’s insulting for one thing,” said Stuart Gordon, who ran in the directors branch but was not among the finalists. “When we were made members, it was for life. Now to get into an inquisition — to say ‘prove to me you’ve been working’ — I don’t think we have to. To have to go through that is insulting.”

In a statement, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson defended the board’s handling of the issue.

“We’ve engaged our members in this process – along with other wide-ranging inclusion initiatives – to make sure the Academy remains as relevant in the future of our community as it has been for the past 88 years,” Hudson said.

Since the emeritus plan was first announced, the Academy has revised its criteria and it now appears that very few members will be affected — not enough to affect the overall diversity of the organization. “It’s a handful (of people),” said Robin Swicord, a board member in the writers branch, who is up for re-election.

If members are still at all connected to the industry, chances are their status is secure. “If they have been selling real estate for the last 30 years,” Swicord said, “they won’t be kicked out of the Academy but they’ll be moved to this different status.”

The Academy branches are working on lists of members who will be moved to non-voting status, and are expected to notify those members sometime this summer.

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  1. cadavra says:

    Funny how all those members who joined in the 60s and 70s and enabled films like IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, THE GREAT WHITE HOPE, SHAFT, SOUNDER et al to compete for and often win Oscars are now suddenly a bunch of old racist white guys. Just pathetic.

  2. Bill B. says:

    Why bothering kicking anyone out or changing their status to non-voting members?! Leave them alone. Show them some respect and let them vote. Just add additional minority & female voters to balance things out. I do not believe that the Academy has a limit on the number of voters it can have.

  3. the academy’s visibility is highest during awards season, and that’s where some change is needed. the choice of nominees should not be left to the entire membership in the various categories but rather delegated to smaller, rotating committees whose members would pledge to become familiar with as many eligible performances, etc., as possible. the general perception is that many members simply don’t see many of the eligible performances, etc., so that the nomination process is not reliably functional.

    • EK says:

      Each branch nominates its nominees, not the membership at large. Only once the nominees have been selected does the entire membership vote. So what you advocate already happens.

  4. BillUSA says:

    It was absurd to suggest there was actual racism behind every bit of business the Academy did. One could connect the dots in any way to form a picture they wish to see and while a dearth of diversity may fit under the racism umbrella, it’s position on the periphery suggests that the real racists were the accusers.

    There’s a reason behind a particular comment I usually make when whites are under attack for being white. I often respond to the effect that in the absence of diversity, establish a company to your liking, but it’s another way of saying that if diversity was so successful, it wouldn’t need to be forced.

    It all seemed like a bunch of people using the race card to get a piece of the pie by way of the fashionable trend of whining enough so that they get what they were after. Nature doesn’t work that way. You have to earn your way into the ranks. But in the world of “everybody wins a trophy”, it’s no surprise that the race card is played for anything not having to do with actually improving race relations.

    Why aren’t blacks, Hispanics or Asians the majority in Hollywood who do the moving and shaking? I don’t know. But it isn’t because someone decided that white people have exclusive rights to be there. Whites have to struggle against other whites to maintain their positions once they’ve attained them, so why should some minority be handed an invite because he’s a minority?

    When black colleges, black networks and other exclusively black entities stop being bastions of racism, then race relations will improve. Until then, all the hue and cry about being left on the porch while the party goes on inside will be taken for what it is – nonsense, tokenism, guilt and racism.

    • Peggy says:

      Your stupidity is breathtaking. How on God’s green earth do you think an All Black College is racist? You DO know they were created because WHITE PEOPLE DID NOT LET BLACKS INTO THEIR COLLEGES, ok? Yeah, all white studios who hire all white productions companies who hire white directors who hire white screenwriters COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE RACIST. GOD people are SO STUPID.

  5. EK says:

    As your last paragraph indicates, Academy Branches are currently engaged in culling members for Oscar voting disenfranchisement. Trouble is that no one knows who’s making these decisions nor how they were selected to do so. Presumably it is the branch membership committees but members weren’t informed of that if it’s the case. If not the process is even more mysterious. Judging a member’s ongoing involvement in the industry can be a delicate matter and needs some transparency. Work by members in some branches is less obvious than others and the criteria requires judgement and sensitivity. Truthfully, members were admitted to the Academy for life — or so hey thought — and, as long as they have continued to pay dues and have not otherwise completely disappeared, they are entitled to retain their voting status. Also, age does not equate to bigotry nor does the color of one’s skin signify the rejection by that person of someone of a different hue. Not to mention the fact that someone who has been toiling in the business for ages has an incredible basis on which to form a voting judgement and this compendium of knowledge and experience is a asset to the voting process, not a detriment. Hopefully the list of those removed from the voting roles will be short and extremely well documented. And everyone needs to who know who they are and why.

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