Monday, September 10, 2007

Will DePaul Limit the Freedom of Filmmakers?

DePaul is already getting a reputation as one of the worst campuses in the country for freedom of expression, so what is it planning to do this Wednesday? The Faculty Council will consider a new policy severely restricting student and faculty filmmakers on campus.

It is reasonable for DePaul to ensure that corporations aren’t using DePaul’s facilities to make commercials for free. Unfortunately, the proposed policy goes far beyond this. For student and and faculty film projects, the rule is proposed to say this: “If the film project includes any use of DePaul’s name, identifiable images of its buildings, campuses or corporate marks and is distributed outside the classroom setting, the use of DePaul’s name, image and/or corporate marks must be approved by the AVPs for PR and for Marketing Communications and, as appropriate, the university’s president prior to filming. This approval process is designed to protect DePaul’s image, reputation and logos and ensure the university’s association with themes that support its academic integrity and reputation.”

Giving DePaul’s PR administrators an absolute, unappealable veto over any filmmaking is an extraordinary restriction. DePaul should not be protecting its “image” from its own students and faculty. To the contrary, it should be giving students and faculty full freedom to express their ideas on video.

Although DePaul’s proposed policy proclaims, “A separate policy will govern professional and student news media,” this policy for filmmakers fails to define any terms, nor does it clearly exempt documentary makers from these restrictions.

So what should DePaul’s policy look like? First of all, there should be a faculty and student committee to decide these issues, not administrators without any appeal. Second, the policy should give faculty and students full freedom to use the campus, so long as activities do not interfere with the rights of others. DePaul should not be in the business of judging student or faculty film projects to determine if they create the right “reputation” for DePaul. Third, in the rare case where a student or faculty-made film proves to be commercially lucrative, a policy can be created to require a small payment to DePaul in exchange for its use as a backdrop; under no circumstances should DePaul be empowered to ban a movie from public performances. Fourth, all news and documentary filmmaking should be clearly exempt from this policy.

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