Dodge faculty voted that the two “The Birth of a Nation” movie posters from Marion Knott Studios be returned to their donor, Cecilia DeMille Presley, President Daniele Struppa announced via email this morning.
“As I had indicated earlier, I support their resolution. I hope the students are satisfied with the outcome and appreciate that their voices were heard,” Struppa said.
His statements represented an about-face from earlier statements in which he claimed that removing the posters promoting an epic 1915 movie about the Ku Klux Klan and which depicted black people in derogatory ways would constitute censorship.
“While I know this has been a difficult decision and there was disappointment that I did not just act on my own and have the poster removed, I do hope that faculty and students appreciate the importance of how this decision was made,” Struppa wrote. “I felt strongly that it could not be imposed by me as an act of authority, but rather requested by the faculty who best understand the impact of the decision on their school and on the students’ educational experience. On the basis of the many conversations I had with my colleagues, I know their decision is predicated on their love for their students and their desire to eliminate anything that could be an obstacle to their learning.”
On Friday Struppa said he was confident faculty would vote to remove the posters but imagined they would be placed in a more secluded location with descriptions that would make their historical context clear.
Students expressed relief at the Dodge faculty’s decision.
“Taking down this poster gives me hope for the beginning of a new wave of activism and diversity for Chapman. This is evidence of what happens when an administration listens to its students. A university can’t be one without its students,” said sophomore peace studies major Natalia Ventura.
Struppa’s email indicated that the poster imbroglio may be only the beginning of a deeper discussion. “I hope this is only the beginning of an important dialogue on this campus as we continue our work to improve the student experience at Chapman,” he wrote.