New film dept. amid continuing controversy
By Laura Katsirdakis
SOAP OPERA CENTRAL, ER, THE WESTERN
FILM PROGRAM RESOURCE ROOM. Three film students keep a
close eye on the screens.
On Oct. 1, an open e-mail was sent to all English department
faculty members announcing the Film Studies Program Committee
had unanimously passed a motion to endorse and approve the
creation of an independent department of film studies.
The decision comes after a summer in which three out of four
full-time professors in film studies left Western, as reported
by The Gazette on Sep. 26.
"There is a sense that the timing is right [for film
to have autonomy]," said Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic.
It is fairly uncommon to create a new department, he confirmed,
but it is not unheard of.
"The loss of [the three film professors] is bound to
have had some effect [on the progress toward film's autonomy]
but I don't want to overstate it because this would ignore
all the work that has been done to get this far," explained
Allen Gedalof, English professor and vice-president of the
University of Western Ontario Faculty Association.
There is no provision in the collective agreement for the
creation of a new department, Gedalof said. In this case, a
joint committee of administration and UWOFA will handle issues
such as the establishment of a hiring committee and the appointment
of a chair for the new department, he said.
In an open letter to the English department, the three former
Western film professors wrote:
"Several months ago we left [Western] with regret; we
were feeling unable to continue our work there. Now the Administration
has suddenly declared its intention to grant the film program
autonomy because the program has ostensibly reached a certain
critical mass of faculty, programs and student registrations.
"We can ignore the insult that [the qualities necessary
for an autonomous film department] are only now available to
Film Studies. But this claim ignores the history of how our
efforts to bring leadership, creativity, academic respectability
and administrative responsibility were not only ignored but
reversed during the past year.
"Our positions [at Western] became untenable because
of the lack of consultation and disregard for the expertise
of the film faculty in areas of hiring and in curriculum -
if conditions had not changed so radically under the current
Administration, none of us would have contemplated leaving
"It is totally ironic that this has happened now," said
Angela Stukator, one of the former professors and now associate
dean of media, television, film and animation at Sheridan College,
adding the three signatories of the letter would have kept
quiet about their discontent, but the English department's
assertion that film studies has reached a "critical mass" only
after they had left was insulting and compelled them to respond.
"We lost some great profs - it's kind of odd that they're
willing to consider [an independent film department] now that
they're gone," said Anne Marley, a fourth-year film studies
"In the past five years there has been a lot of pressure
to make film a separate department and the issue has been in
the making for the past ten years," explained Janina Falkowska,
an associate professor of film.
"The Gazette article helped us enormously - it was very
influential in indicating that there was dissatisfaction; that
something was going on and it was not going to disappear," Falkowska
The dean of arts refused to comment and the chair of the English
department was unavailable.