Two weeks after sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein emerged, student activists of Her Campus NYU, Voices for Planned Parenthood at NYU and the Feminist Society at NYU have declared their clubs as safe spaces. Lately, it seems like sexual assault and harassment claims cannot stop arising. This, however, only reflects reality. Since the resurgence of #MeToo on social media — a hashtag created a decade ago for underprivileged victims of sexual assault who did not have access to rape centers — Twitter reported that more than 1.7 million people from 85 different countries have used the hashtag. It also adds to the outstanding amount of actresses, directors and producers who bravely shared their sexual harassment stories against Weinstein. Many women also came forward against other powerful men in the industry, proving how ingrained the culture of abuse of power and misogyny is in the film industry. NYU is home of the Tisch School of Arts, the alma mater of many current and future brilliant filmmakers and artists. This only reinforces that the university must not be silent in a moment like this. NYU must also pay attention to the type of culture it is passing on to its students to ensure that future graduates do not follow the steps of these despicable men.
When the New York Times investigation on Harvey Weinstein came up, the public was shocked. How could a successful, powerful man have abused so many women without consequences? However, artists in the industry, mainly female artists, did not feel the same surprise. Although Weinstein was fired, leaving his company on the brink of bankruptcy, he spent many decades prior without having his disgusting behavior repudiated. Inspired by these allegations, more than 300 women accused producer James Toback of sexual harassment; and, on Oct. 30, actor Anthony Rapp accused Oscar-award winning actor Kevin Spacey, who is 12 years his senior, of sexual harassment when he was 14. The recurrence of these episodes just emphasizes how powerful men’s inappropriate, sickening behavior is tolerated in the entertainment industry. Even though rape culture is present and alive in our society, it is frightening how pertinent it is in the film industry. In a medium in which artistry and talent should be prioritized, women have to go through degrading experiences to assert their spot in the industry. There is no denial that the culture of the film industry must be changed; and, there is no place better than do that than film schools.
In the wake of recent events, NYU must publicly denounce the tradition of powerful men preying on young and vulnerable actors in the film industry. The Tisch School of the Arts is one of the largest and most prominent schools within NYU and as such, it owes this issue attention. Tisch has both influential alumni and countless students who plan to or currently pursue careers in the film industry, and if any academic institution has the responsibility to make a statement on recent events, it is NYU. The school will undoubtedly produce innumerable actors, producers, directors and screenwriters in the future and therefore it has the power to shape the face of the industry. The system of ethics that Tisch teaches its students will stay with them throughout their careers. The school should take this opportunity to speak out and set the standard that to remain silent is to be complicit and to be complicit is unacceptable.
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