Opinion | An open letter to Dodge College

Lindsey Ellis, sophomore film production major

Four years ago, when I first toured Chapman, one of the first things that drew me in was the collaborative, supportive environment the school fostered for its students. I came from across the country to join a community of forward-thinking creators.

Chapman was my dream school from the moment I stepped on campus. And it made sense: Its ability to churn out films was admirable and the opportunities students received were unparalleled. The school is innovative in so many ways: just take a look at its rising rankings every year.

Dodge is ahead of industry standards in many areas, but falls behind in its treatment of female voices.

The film industry is historically sexist. That’s an undeniable fact. Famous female directors are few and far between. In my History of Film class, we learned about prevalent male figures. Every female from the industry has at least one horror story from their experience working.

But this is changing. The leaders of the #TimesUp movement have paved the way for so many women to come forward regarding their dismissed trauma. They show that bravery and strength can be the only forces needed to spark a revolution. They went online, they went to the streets, they stood up and sent the message loud and clear: Women are not going to accept this treatment any longer. Women demand to be heard.

The past two years in film have shown this. Films are giving women voices – accurate and complex voices – in a way that is new and, frankly, refreshing for a young woman going into the film industry.

I fear that Dodge is falling behind the changing tide of the industry, and I know that I am not alone in my concern. I have heard from so many students, and experienced firsthand, stories of unacceptable behavior of professors in a classroom environment, and reports of sexual harassment being mismanaged. Recent events have shown the college puts its professional reputation ahead of its promise to keep students supported and safe.

At least 7 percent of students that responded to Chapman University’s Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey said that they had experienced at least one incident of nonconsensual sexual contact since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.

For this 7 percent, and the many more unreported cases of sexual misconduct, we must live up to the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, which says that Chapman is “deeply committed to creating and sustaining an educational, working, and living environment that is conducive to learning and scholarship and is supportive of students and employees. Part of this commitment is fostering a campus free of sexual misconduct in all its forms.”

I can only hope that the administration will put more focus on preparing the young filmmakers who are about to join the rapidly changing environment of the film industry, specifically educating them about the sexism and gender dynamics in the entertainment world. We must cautiously select the voices that we want speaking to us about industry standards and how to “make it.”

We are incredibly lucky to have Dodge College, a place that fosters the creative spirit so brilliantly. But for prolonged and increasing success, we need stronger diversity training for professors, both adjunct and full-time, we need better protection for survivors of sexual assault in the classroom and on campus, we need to listen to the voices of students and we need to create a culture of true equality, something that we can hope our industry is also striving for.

Dodge, I am thankful for you. But if we do not continue to aim to do better, then we will fall behind.