October 7 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 22  

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New film dept. amid continuing controversy

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Dave Picard/Gazette
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 Western."

"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 student.

"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 said.

The dean of arts refused to comment and the chair of the English department was unavailable.




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