Oscars: Academy Democratizes Board Elections, New Candidates Immediately Emerge

The move replaces a system "that many felt was confusing and cumbersome" with one that is "more democratic" and will produce a board that is "representative of our entire membership," Academy CEO Dawn Hudson wrote to members.
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' board of governors has voted to overhaul the system through which governors are elected, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson announced in a letter to members on Wednesday night.

The board, in a vote on Tuesday night, replaced "a procedure that many felt was confusing and cumbersome" with one that is "more democratic, more transparent" and will "significantly expand the pool of possible candidates" to produce a board that is "representative of our entire membership."

In past years, each branch's members elected only one-half of a nominating committee that, in turn, prepared a slate of candidates for the board. "Now, you will choose your candidates directly," Hudson wrote, before going on to encourage members — of which there are roughly 7,000 — to throw their hat into the ring ahead of the upcoming election season, when each of the organization's 17 branches will vote to determine the occupant of one of its three seats on the board.

"In May, we will distribute the list of members in your branch who have opted in, and ask you to choose four candidates," she continued. "The top four candidates will make up the slate of those running for Governor of your branch. Final elections begin in June, and results will be announced in late July."

Hudson said the board was seeking "people who are fully engaged with the motion picture community," are "current with how their art functions in today's ever-changing world" and "are active, strong, forward-thinking people who are fully engaged with our film community."

One imagines that this decision was made with little enthusiasm on the part of the incumbent board members, who have generally faced little in the way of real opposition when seeking re-election but whose seats are as vulnerable as ever in this year of great debate amongst the membership over the board's response to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

Indeed, there are indications that this move was expedited, if not prompted, by recent communications to the Academy's leadership from strong critics of that response — such as William Goldstein, an outspoken member of the music branch who serves on its executive committee and has expressed interest in running for the board — who intended to make public their concerns about how hard it was for a member to get on the ballot.

Another member who has been vocally opposed to the election process — in direct communications with Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs before and after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy — is Bruce Feldman of the public relations branch. On Wednesday night, Feldman applauded the changes and announced his intentions to take advantage of them. "It’s a sea change in beginning to correct lapses in good governance," he wrote.

"I fully intend to run for governor on a very vigorous platform," Feldman continued. "I’m not just putting my name in contention and hoping people will vote for me, as was done in the past. They will know, for once, what I intend to do as governor so that they can make an informed decision when they vote."

Here is the full text of the letter that Hudson sent to members:

Dear Members:

I have some exciting news to share with you about the Academy and the way we elect our Governors. Last night, the Board of Governors voted to allow you — our members — to nominate all of your candidates directly. This new process is more democratic, more transparent, and one that will significantly expand the pool of possible candidates. These changes will strengthen our leadership to ensure that it is both representative of our entire membership and well-equipped to guide our large and complex organization.

Previously, through a procedure that many felt was confusing and cumbersome, the membership elected only one half of a nominating committee that in turn prepared a slate of candidates for the Board. Now, you will choose your candidates directly. As an important first step in making this new system work, we hope that you will seriously consider opting in to be a potential candidate yourself. I cannot stress how critical it is that as many members as possible volunteer their time and talents both for our Academy and for the entire motion picture community.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with our structure, our board is an active, hands-on committee that sets the Academy's long-term goals and policies, and ensures our financial stability. It also oversees the progress on our many projects including our Academy Museum, awards and events, and our film preservation efforts. The role is demanding: there are seven board meetings annually and various committee meetings throughout the year. But I think if you talk to anyone who has served as Governor, they will also say their service was enormously fulfilling. We are looking for people who are fully engaged with the motion picture community and are current with how their art functions in today's ever-changing world. Our Governors are active, strong, forward-thinking people who are fully engaged with our film community and with every aspect of what we do.

Each branch of the Academy is represented by three governors who are elected to three-year terms. Your governors are [INSERT NAMES].

[INSERT NAME] is up for re-election this year.

If you would be willing to consider running, I ask you to follow the link below and add your name to the list of potential candidates. There are no prerequisites. And you don't have to be nominated to run.

All submissions must be received by Saturday, April 30.

You will receive a confirmation email after successfully submitting your name.

In May, we will distribute the list of members in your branch who have opted in, and ask you to choose four candidates. The top four candidates will make up the slate of those running for Governor of your branch. Final elections begin in June, and results will be announced in late July.

We look forward to hearing from you. By becoming a Governor, you will help shape the future of our Academy and our industry.

If you have any questions, please contact the Membership Department at 310-247-3001 or membership@oscars.org.

Thank you.

All best,
Dawn Hudson
CEO

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