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The Academy announces goal to 'double number of diverse members' after Oscar backlash

The Academy announces goal to 'double number of diverse members' after Oscar backlash


It's hoping to achieve that goal by 2020

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is overhauling its governance, membership rules and sponsorship process in response to intense criticism over the diversity of this year's Oscar nominations and the Academy's membership. In an emergency meeting held Thursday night, the Academy pledged to double its number of women and diverse members by 2020, and it'll immediately increase its diversity by establishing three new governor seats nominated by its president.

The Academy's action is arriving in the midst of weeks of sustained, widespread criticism regarding its recently announced 2016 nominations. None of the nominees for acting and directing awards were people of color despite a plethora of worthy candidates, an astonishing whitewash, and the Academy's failure to adequately recognize non-white talent extended to the Oscars' technical categories. High-profile performers and creators like Spike Lee, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting this year's ceremonies, and everyone from George Clooney to Robert Redford has commented on the larger movie industry's approach to diversity and advocacy in recent weeks. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs promised "big changes" in a statement released on January 18th, writing, "Change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly."

The Academy wants a voting body entirely made up of active, working members

How is the Academy going to achieve that change? Its plan is contingent on a few major changes to its membership qualifications and its search for new members. In order to maintain an active voting body, the Academy is mandating "activ[ity] in motion pictures" over the course of an initial decade-long membership. Members can qualify for lifetime status by qualifying for three decade-long terms or receiving an Academy Award nomination (or victory). If they fail to meet those standards, their "active" memberships become "emeritus" memberships, which means they retain all of their membership privileges save voting. In short, the Academy is trying to make sure the people who vote on awards are active participants in the movie industry.

"An ambitious global campaign" to increase diversity

The membership changes outlined above are being supplement by what the Academy is calling "an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity." It's also taking "immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members... to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made." According to the Academy, this will "allow new members an opportunity to become more active in Academy decision-making and help the organization identify and nurture future leaders."

"The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up," said Isaacs in a statement. "These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition." Some may argue the Academy's delayed response doesn't exactly constitute "leadership," but at least they're offering some sort of substantive response as opposed to maintaining the silence that's characterized years past.