‘It took a life of its own on’: Film and television professor addresses Max Landis controversy

max landis

Film and television professor Joseph Rosenberg, who invited Max Landis, who has been accused of sexual assault, to speak in Rosenberg’s class Nov. 7, addressed the controversy and took questions from students during the following week’s class. Wiki Commons

After canceling a Nov. 7 class where screenwriter and producer Max Landis, who has been accused of sexual assault, was set to speak, film and television professor Joseph Rosenberg addressed students’ concerns about the controversy.

“This thing sort of snowballed. It took a life of its own on,” said Rosenberg, who took questions from at least 10 students in The New Era of Television, a class offered in the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. “This was not a good thing. It was not intended to hurt you and the last thing that I would have wanted for any of you was to feel unsafe or feel hurt or feel like I didn’t give a (expletive) … that’s not the way I operate.”

Madison Geihs, who planned to organize a  walkout scheduled during Landis’ appearance in the class, asked Rosenberg when he found out about the allegations. While students sent out emails detailing the accusations against Landis on the Monday before class, Nov. 5, Rosenberg claimed he did not learn of Landis’ background until Nov. 6.

“Did you just not check your email until Tuesday?” Geihs asked.

“I did not,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg also addressed some confusion surrounding the Nov. 8 class meeting, as it was unclear to some whether Landis had canceled his appearance or Rosenberg had canceled the class first.

“I canceled class after he chose not to come, because it started to get very dramatic and I felt it was just at a place where we wouldn’t have a productive dialogue,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg, who met with Dodge College faculty on Nov. 12 to discuss Landis’ scheduled appearance, said that he feared he may lose his job in the wake of the controversy.

“I walked out of here on Monday and I thought my days were numbered,” Rosenberg said.

Several students in the class came to Rosenberg’s defense, asking what they could do to prevent his termination and expressing support for how he addressed the situation.

The class discussion came just a day after Jerry Price, dean of students, held an open forum about controversial speakers on campus. When asked if he would allow a speaker who was a convicted rapist on campus, Price said yes, adding that faculty have academic freedom to invite any speaker they want.

“(Rosenberg is) the only one so far that has apologized for the way things have been handled and has acknowledged the fact that our discomfort was valid,” Geihs told The Panther. “Whereas Jerry Price in the forum yesterday, he did not seem apologetic at all. From what I heard, he said that he would invite a convicted rapist to campus, so he obviously sees no problem with what happened last week.”

One student also brought up the lack of diversity in the class’ lineup of speakers thus far – the class’ current syllabus has one woman scheduled.

Barbara Doyle, a film professor who had been standing quietly near Rosenberg for most of the discussion, spoke up, saying that she suggested a few female speakers to Rosenberg, but none were available for the class.

“I think there is a generational misunderstanding of how to the heart (Max Landis as a guest lecturer) affects people,” Doyle said. “I said in my class yesterday, my big worry has been that you guys don’t protest enough. I’m of a generation where everybody protested a lot of things very vocally, and so I’m glad to see people protesting. I don’t think anyone call tell you you don’t have the right to protest.