Dodge College drops in national film school ranking

Wesleyan University takes Chapman University’s spot as the sixth best film school in the United States in The Hollywood Reporter ranking. Graphic by Emma Reith, art director

The Dodge College of Film and Media Arts dropped from sixth to seventh place in The Hollywood Reporter’s annual ranking of film schools across the country. The ranking was released Aug. 15 and named Wesleyan University – a liberal arts school in Connecticut – the sixth best film school in the U.S.

“We are always looking to improve and be better for our students, not because of rankings, but because we want to be a better school,” said Michael Kowalski, interim dean of Dodge. The Hollywood Reporter’s ranking does not point to academic or technical performance of the school, but rather the retirement of Bob Bassett – Dodge’s first and only dean – and the Birth of a Nation poster protests and removal from Marion Knott Studios.

“Retiring dean Bob Bassett has been great at raising money and drawing Hollywood talent to the school’s Anaheim-adjacent campus,” the writers of The Hollywood Reporter ranking stated. “Taste in campus art has been problematic (a 1915 Birth of a Nation poster finally was taken down in April after two years of complaints).” Ben Svetkey, the editor of The Hollywood Reporter’s ranking, did not respond to requests for comment.

Dodge is still listed as the sixth best film school in the country on its website and directs prospective students, Dodge majors and alumni alike to the 2018 ranking released by The Hollywood Reporter. Kowalski categorized the ranking system as “not very clear.”

“There is a mention about the poster, they mentioned (Bassett) was retiring, maybe they are hinting that’s one of the reasons,” Kowalski said. “Dean Bassett was a major force behind the school since he was the founding dean.” Despite the drop in national ranking, Wesleyan’s rise is not a concern for Dodge, Kowalski said. “I would be more concerned if peer institutions had gone ahead of us,” Kowalski said. “We don’t compete for students with Wesleyan. People don’t say, ‘Should I go to Wesleyan or go to Chapman?’

They say, ‘Should I go to USC, Loyola Marymount, Emerson, or NYU?” Eight out of the 10 of the film schools named as the nation’s best are centered around New York or Los Angeles which, according to faculty senate president Paul Gulino, is an advantage for Chapman.

“Most students want to be in New York or Los Angeles area, but also faculty,” said Gulino. “If (faculty) go to Chapman, they stay with their contacts, they stay current, they can bring guests from industry and (can) continue their career working with the industry.” Em Shafer, a junior film production major, said that she “doubts the ranking will make an impact.”

“From my personal experience, there’s only so many film schools and there are so many students that want to apply,” Shafer said. “Even being seventh is still an elite number.”

Changing the culture – including all posters displayed – diversity and inclusion are things Kowalski plans to focus on throughout the semester. All efforts will be designed to help Dodge climb back to its sixth place spot, he said.

“We can tell the faculty, ‘Hey we dropped. We should pick it up,’” Kowalski said. “It benefits the students as we try to improve things and is a good motivator for us.”