Class canceled after students plan protest against guest speaker accused of sexual assault

max landis

Screenwriter and producer Max Landis, who has been accused of sexual assault on social media, was set to speak at a Dodge College of Film Media Arts class, but the class was canceled after Landis decided not to attend. Panther Archives

A Dodge College of Film and Media Arts class was canceled Nov. 7 after a student in the class sent out an email about sexual assault accusations leveled against Max Landis, a screenwriter and producer who was set to guest lecture in the class that evening.

Some students had planned a walkout during the class to protest Landis’ appearance. Landis decided not to attend, causing Joseph Rosenberg, the class’s instructor, to send out an email just over an hour before the class to say that it had been cancelled due to “planned events that would have jeopardized the purpose of the evening.”

In a story on his Instagram account, @uptomyknees1985, Landis posted Nov. 7 that he’d chosen not to attend the class, which was the New Era of Television, after hearing that students intended to “disrupt his presence.”

“I’d hoped to use this opportunity not only to teach some interesting ins and outs about screenwriting, but also to address my public shaming in an honest and personal way,” he wrote on Instagram. “I see now that that is not welcome or needed by students.”

Landis declined an interview with The Panther.

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hard looks, soft sentiments

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Two days before Landis was set to speak to the New Era of Television class, Madison Geihs, a senior television writing and production major, sent a mass email to the class that included two links to articles from Screen Rant and the Daily Beast reporting on accusations against Landis.

It was “common sense” for Geihs to make the class aware of the allegations, she said.

“It was also a safety concern for me, because there are so many young women in our class,” Geihs told The Panther. “We are young college students. Having someone like that in our presence … I think it’s important for us to know his background.”

Geihs also prepared a statement to read to in front of Landis and the class before leading the planned walkout, which more than 80 students said they would attend on Facebook.

“I think that the university is more interested in how they are perceived by the public rather than how the students feel about the people they invite here,” said Geihs, who was asked to meet with Janell Shearer, the chair of the college’s Media Arts division, after she planned the walkout.

In an email to the class sent the afternoon of Nov. 7, Rosenberg asked students not to protest, saying that while some “very important men” have recently lost their jobs in the industry, there is no information about the accusations against Landis other than what had been reported on in the two news outlets.

“While you are certainly free to express your opinions on this subject elsewhere, faculty control classroom discussion,” Rosenberg wrote. “I have heard that a few students are planning a walkout, which would be rude to our guest and does not fit the kind of behavior we expect of Dodge College students.”

Other students in the class also sent emails to Rosenberg and Jerry Price, dean of students, to express their discontent with Landis’ scheduled appearance, according to the walkout’s Facebook page.

“This situation demonstrates to me how fundamentally (the Dodge administration) misunderstood the purpose of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements,” wrote senior screenwriting major Jake Naturman in an email to Rosenberg that he posted on Facebook. “By putting the prestige of Dodge College above its students and treating our voices as embarrassments to the school, I feel embarrassed to be a part of it.”

Neither Rosenberg nor Shearer responded to The Panther’s request for comment.

Junior Gianna Gravalese, who is enrolled in the class, said she was surprised Landis was thought of as a guest, given the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

“I completely understand that professors want for us to be civil and learn about the industry, but with everything going on, how could you ignore that?” Gravalese, a news and documentary major, told The Panther. “I respect that (Rosenberg) said that if we didn’t want to come, he understands, but it kind of turned into ‘Oh, don’t say anything.’”

Landis, who wrote Netflix’s debut film “Bright” starring Will Smith, has been accused on social media of sexually harassing and assaulting multiple women. He is the son of “Animal House” director John Landis.

Actress Anna Akana, who worked with Landis on his YouTube short film project “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling” took to Twitter to respond to Netflix’s promotion of “Bright” in 2017.

“Written by a psychopath who sexually abused and assaults women, right?” she tweeted. “Cool.”

Zoe Quinn, a video game developer, also tweeted about Landis, saying that his behavior has “probably been an open secret (in the industry) for so long,” because women who may be affected by him might be afraid to speak out because of potential consequences.

Writer Lindsay Romain also alleged on Twitter that Landis is a “ritual sex abuser.”

Comedian and SNL writer Mike Drucker, tweeted in response to Netflix’s “Bright” promotion that Landis’ father may have covered up for his actions.

In a 2013 interview with sex and relationship blogger Shelby Sells, which has since been deleted, Landis talks about an ex-girlfriend he “gave a crippling social anxiety, self-loathing, body dismorphia (sic), eating disorder to.”

“I was so fickle about her body. I’m not shy, I would just blurt out (expletive) all the time,” Landis said in the interview, according to the Daily Beast. “She ended up completely changing how she dressed and how she looked for me. That chick will never talk to me again.”