At UC San Diego, a “Films of Woody Allen” course, one that has been offered since the late 90s, now has been petitioned to come to an end. The student-led initiative, started by student Savannah Lyon, cites allegations of rape against the filmmaker, as well as the general unpopularity of the course, to justify its cessation.
“They believe they have a right to teach this class due to academic freedom. They do not care about the statement it makes to survivors everywhere,” Lyon’s Care2 petition read. “They do not care that Woody Allen is on his way out of Hollywood. They do not care that the class is less than 1/3 full, making it an unpopular class that has no reason to be taught. They do not care that there are thousands of other directors who could teach the same film basics that they use Woody Allen to teach, directors who haven't raped 7-year-old girls.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, the UC San Diego academic senate voted to continuing offering the course, responding with the following statement: “First, we recognize that the University is responsible for vigilantly maintaining and promoting the First Amendment guarantee of free expression of ideas and opinions on campus and for encouraging critical, deliberative and informed debate on controversial issues,” their decision read.
“This responsibility is manifested both in our valuing and respecting the right of students to express their deeply held views, and our valuing and respecting the right of our faculty, in accordance with fundamental principles of academic freedom, to choose what they teach.
“We conclude that cancelling or removing this, or any other course for the reason, that it contains the study of controversial material, or even material widely regarded as morally problematic, would undermine both the value of free inquiry and the associated rights of faculty to engage in such inquiry by choosing their course content.
“These rights are set out in the Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and include the right of faculty to decide what to teach in the classroom, unimpeded by administrative, commercial, governmental or other pressures.”
While dismayed, Lyon says that she intends to appeal the decision.
“I am disappointed but not surprised in their decision. I had hoped that the academic senate would listen to a student, who is advocating for herself and for her peers, in an institution that seems to be incapable of recognizing and listening to us, but they sided with the university and the protection of ‘academic freedom,’” she said in a recent email.
“I will continue to stand up and speak out against what I feel is wrong and I know that there will be people beside me helping me along the way. I pay money to this university, all students do, and therefore, we should have a say. “