By Ellisa Riddell and Amanda Kaufman
In the wake of sexual assault and harassment allegations that have roiled the entertainment industry in Hollywood, faculty in Boston University’s film and television department are taking steps to address the issue in their curriculum, according Paul Schneider, the department chair.
Schneider said one of the changes the department is making is to revise syllabi for film and television classes to include information about what students should do if they experience sexual assault or harassment.
“All of our syllabi currently have a notice about plagiarism, but there is nothing in our syllabi about harassment, sexual or otherwise,” Schneider said. “We are drafting up some language to put in there so that all of our students and faculty are aware that if anything should arise that they need to come to us and talk to us.”
The department is also implementing workshops to educate film and television students who opt to participate in BU in LA, a semester-long internship program in Los Angeles, after faculty there expressed the need for additional education, Schneider said.
“Some of the faculty felt like there wasn’t enough education for our students before they went out to Los Angeles,” he said. “Maybe it’s all these recent events that have made people think about it more. We thought if we’re sending 60 or 70 students out there every semester, why shouldn’t we try to prepare them a little better for what hopefully won’t happen but what could happen?”
Schneider added that while the department hasn’t received “many reports of anything,” it doesn’t mean students haven’t experienced incidents of sexual assault and harassment, and he encouraged them to “speak up” if they do.
Schneider later wrote in an email that the department recently voted to add assistant film professor Debbie Danielpour as an associate chair to the department who will be in charge of “our initiative to implement education on sexual harassment and assault.”
Samuel Kauffmann, BU film professor, said the film and television department recently teamed up with BU’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center to partner on training sessions for students before they attend the BU in LA program.
“We’ve reached out to the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention group at BU to see if they can help us come up with a training, so that we can then have a training session or two for the students that are going out,” Kauffmann said.
Kauffmann said he thinks sexual assault and harassment education should extend to other areas within the university, particularly the College of Communication.
“This should be a conversation at the College of Communication as well,” he said. “The communication industry is probably susceptible as any other industry.”
Several students studying film and television in COM said they were glad to see the university taking steps to educate students on the topic, and expressed the need for these conversations to take place across other industries and topics of study.
Hayley Mandelberg, a junior, said she thinks it’s important to integrate education on the effects of sexual harassment into the department’s curriculum, especially because entertainment is a male-dominated industry.
“It’s really important to educate everyone on the effects of sexual harassment and how even little things that people say to each other can be interpreted badly and can make people feel uncomfortable or feel like the work environment is not friendly or open or safe,” she said.
Mandelberg also said she’d “like to see more open discussion about how sexual assault and harassment affects people and how if you are a victim you can go about getting help. This isn’t just an issue in Hollywood. It is an issue everywhere. It’s not just filmmakers, it’s politicians, it’s journalists, it’s everyone.”
Dilara Avgen, a COM freshman, said she was glad to see BU’s film department addressing the topic.
“It’s great to educate people about it, both male and female, teaching males the impact that they would have on others,” Avgen said. “Seeing that people are speaking about it and taking action against it give me hope that it will end.”
Emily Kapuścińska, also a freshman, said she thinks BU should extend education on sexual harassment and assault to other fields of study within the university, although the film and television department is a logical first step.
“This should be something for every student, not just film and TV people, however, given how Hollywood is linked to the topic, I think it makes total sense for that to be added to the program, because if we end up working in Hollywood, it’s nice for them to let us know that things like that happen there and we should be prepared,” Kaupscinska said.