The Oscars Scramble to Become Relevant, Make Immediate Diversity Moves

Will the new membership and governance rules declared by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences really make it more inclusive?

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced a series of sweeping changes to its membership and governance practices meant to ensure more diversity. A statement by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs explained the goal is “doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.” All new rules will retroactively affect current members.

Here are the main new measures that will affect Academy membership:

  • Each new member’s voting status will last 10 years with automatic renewal if they’ve been active in the industry during that decade.
  • Members will receive lifetime voting rights if they’re an Oscar winner or nominee or after three 10-year terms.
  • Current members who have been inactive for 10 years will be moved to “emeritus status,” meaning they will not be able to cast an Oscar vote.

Here are the main measures the Academy hopes will shake up the Board of Governors:

  • The Academy will establish three new governor seats to help ensure qualified worldwide diversity in the Academy’s ranks.
  • The Academy will add new members who are not Governors to its executive and board committees for membership and governance issues.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Isaacs wrote in the statement, forgetting that the Academy has been trying to catch up for, oh, a few decades now. She continued, saying, “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

The new rules come on the heels of a statement issued by Isaacs earlier this week that directly addressed the lack of diversity in the nominees for this year’s Oscars.

All 20 nominees for acting awards this year are white. Ditto last year’s. Also, films with minority themes — like the hugely successful movies Creed or Straight Outta Compton — were overlooked for the Best Picture category entirely, and earned nominations only for their white screenwriters (Compton) and white co-star (Sylvester Stallone in Creed).

In her statement, Isaacs promised to expand the Academy’s membership to be more inclusive and diverse, and these new rules are the first step. While it’s a smart move, many questions remain. Who will these new governors be, and what power will they really have to make sure the Academy becomes more diverse? Here’s hoping the Academy will actually begin to change as soon as next year.

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