Faculty senate approves new film major

After months of debate, controversy over a new film major came to an end when the Portland State faculty senate approved the major in a 48-22 vote at their monthly meeting on May 7.

After months of debate, controversy over a new film major came to an end when the Portland State faculty senate approved the major in a 48-22 vote at their monthly meeting on May 7.

The film major will require that students to complete 56 credit hours in classes that focus on theory, history, design, production and performance in film.

The major will focus on the production and technical aspects of film, rather than on the literary aspects, like the current PSU film minor. The major will offer elective film courses taught in other liberal arts departments, but would cater specifically to students looking to get into the production and technical aspects of film.

The major will now be taken to the Provosts Council, the collection of the seven Oregon University System provosts. The council will review the major and either approve it in its current form or send it back to the faculty senate for revisions.

If the Provosts Council approves the major, it will be sent to the State Board of Higher Education for review. The Provosts Council and the State Board of Higher Education both must approve the proposal before it can become a major.

Faculty senators from across departments clashed over the focus of the major at the March 5 senate meeting, where the proposal had previously been tabled. The proposal will be housed in the theatre arts department, a decision that caused controversy among members of the faculty senate in March.

Opponents to the proposal said at the May 7 meeting that the theater arts department had not done enough to centrally include other departments integral to film studies. Opponents, such as English assistant professor and faculty senator, Lee Medovoi, said that they felt the major is controlled by theater arts rather than being interdisciplinary.

Comparisons were made to PSU’s existing film minor, which integrates the departments of communications, English and theater arts.

“The minor took into account the other forms of film studies,” Medovoi said. “There’s a difference between the way the major and the minor is conceived, that ultimately impoverishes the possibilities here.”

Theater Arts professor William Tate said that the proposal would not limit involvement, and stressed the importance of getting the major started.

“The spirit is not proprietary,” Tate said. “Students could include things from a range of departments. There could be a track in critical and film studies in the future. We’re just trying to get something started.”

Medovoi said that the theater arts proposal would limit possible future expansions of the major.

“If we move forward with this, I’m very fearful we won’t have a rich film major but it will be too late,” he said.

Because a 39-29 vote to re-table the proposal for further discussion did not receive a clear majority, the meeting was left in a standstill. After the vote, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Roy Koch told the senate not to table the vote.

“Tabling is the wrong thing to do,” said Koch. The proposal by theater arts included the necessary components for a broader approach in the future, he said.

The proposal was revised since the last senate meeting to facilitate changes based on some of the issues previously debated.

The name of the major was changed from bachelor of science/bachelor of arts (BA/BS) in film studies, to BA/BS in film. According to Tate, the name was changed so that another department could use the name “film studies” if they decided to create a more intensive film program.

A number of elective courses were added to the major’s requirements to incorporate more disciplines in the program. The added courses also addressed faculty concern that the major would not include all aspects necessary to studying film.

The issue had been a concern at the March 5 meeting, when opponents to the proposal expressed doubt over the proposal’s previous lack of listed elective courses.

The revised proposal also included the addition of an advisory committee for the film major, made up of professors from the primary subjects involved. The committee would advise deans and department chairs on issues concerning the program.

The creation of a film studies program at PSU has been in the works for over a year. The first proposal was written in March of 2006 by assistant English professor Michael Clark, but was never developed. The theater arts department’s proposal has been in the works for several months.