A petition created by a UC San Diego Theatre student calling for the cancellation of a Woody Allen film class has received close to 12,000 signatures.
Savanah Lyon, a third-year transfer student in Marshall College majoring in Theatre, said that she chose to speak out against the class and create the petition due to beliefs that the class sends a poor message to those who were victims of sexual abuse.
“I spoke up because I was emboldened to finally stop letting things slide. This is wrong. This class is wrong,” Lyon said. “It sends an awful message to survivors and to society that even if you hurt others, even if you yourself are a predator, as long as you are talented that doesn’t matter. We have to say no to letting predators, rapists, harassers, and sexual assaulters get any sort of power or platform because that just continues the cycle of abuse.”
“TDGE 122: Films of Woody Allen” is a four unit class currently taught by Professor Steven Adler, a former Provost of Warren College and a former Broadway stage manager. The class curriculum has students “explore a variety of issues [such as] screenwriting, directing, cinematography, and editing, the intersection of comedy and tragedy in Allen’s works, recurring themes, and critical responses relating to Allen’s works.” The class has been ongoing since the 1990s and is currently being taken by 63 students.
Allen, currently married to his step-daughter Soon-Yi Previn, is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and actor who is credited with writing and directing movies like Alice (1990) and To Rome With Love (2012). In 1992, the renowned director was accused of sexual assault after a seven-year-old Dylan Farrow, Allen’s adopted daughter, reported the abuse to her pediatrician at the advice of her mother, Mia Farrow, and her mother’s lawyer. After the allegations, investigations took place and despite having probable cause to charge Allen, a state attorney in Connecticut “decided to spare [Dylan] the trauma of a court appearance.”
On January 18, in conjunction with the #MeToo and TIME’S UP movements, Dylan Farrow made her first television appearance on CBS This Morning to speak about the alleged sexual abuse performed on her by her father. This appearance came after months of persuading actors to distance themselves from him.
Dylan Farrow’s’ brother, New Yorker journalist Ronan Farrow, was the first to publish stories of noted abuser Harvey Weinstein. In 2016, Ronan published a piece in the Hollywood Reporter detailing how far he believes Allen has gone to hide the truth.
“I believe my sister,” he wrote. “This was always true as a brother who trusted her, and, even at five years old, was troubled by our father’s strange behavior around her.”
From 1992 to today, Allen continually denies the allegations made against him.
“I think the class glorifies and exalts an alleged pedophile and gives a platform to someone who doesn’t deserve to have a platform,” Lyon said. “I believe that it is an affront to survivors everywhere and a flagrant abuse of what an educational system is meant to teach its students.”
The Triton attempted to contact both Professor Adler and Theatre Department Chair Charles Means for comment. Because of University policy, we were redirected to University Communications and Public Affairs staff member Anthony King.
“UC San Diego has received requests to cease offering the Films of Woody Allen class and a student has launched a petition in support of this effort,” said King. “The University’s Academic Senate, which oversees curriculum on campus, is currently reviewing this request.”
In response to the university’s statement, Lyon believes that the importance of her cause lies in the conversations being created as a result of her petition.
“I am definitely making noise and showing UCSD and the Theatre Department especially just what a student can do, even when the odds are stacked against them,” said Lyon. “We should have a say, and despite everything they’ve done to squash that, I am being heard. People are talking. Questions are being raised. Conversations are being had. That is the most important thing, even if I fail in my attempt to get this class taking off the books so that UCSD can never offer it as a course again.”
Matthew Rom-Toribio is a staff writer at The Triton.