Academy Changes Rules to Promote Oscar Diversity

The biggest change will end a member’s voting privileges after 10 years of inactivity

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced what it referred to as “a sweeping series of substantive changes” to its rules on Friday to promote diversity in Academy membership.

The most dramatic new rule changes what has always been the lifetime voting privilege attached to Academy membership to a 10-year term.

After 10 years, a member’s Oscar voting privileges will be renewed for another 10 years if he or she has been “active in motion pictures” during the past decade. After three consecutive terms of eligibility, the member will receive lifetime voting privileges.

The rule will not go into effect until after this year’s Oscars, but at that point it will be applied retroactively to current members.

The changes also involve “an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity,” according to an Academy press release issued on Friday. In addition, three new seats will be added to the AMPAS Board of Governors, with the members nominated by the president and approved by the board rather than being elected by the members of any specific branch.

The current Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, is the only African-American on the 51-member board.

AMPAS also pledged to add minority members to its executive and board committees. Typically, the identity of members on those committees has been kept secret by the Academy.

The Academy’s goal, it said in the statement, is to double the number of women and diverse members of AMPAS by 2020.

The changes were adopted unanimously by the Academy’s Board of Governors at a meeting on Thursday night. The Board has a regularly scheduled meeting coming up on Tuesday, at which the diversity issue had been added to the agenda. But the Academy opted not to wait for that meeting, instead quietly scheduling a meeting on Thursday to specifically deal with the outcry over this year’s second consecutive slate of all-white acting nominees, and the ensuing backlash against the Academy.

The release did not address another voting issue that was expected to be on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting: the expansion of the Best Picture category back to 10 nominees from its current variable number.

The effort to increase diversity was led by Isaacs and by longtime Writers Branch governor Phil Robinson, who chairs the Membership and Administration Committee and sent a letter to other governors on Monday urging them to make diversity a priority in their branches.

The AMPAS press release:

In a unanimous vote Thursday night (1/21), the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved a sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse. The Board’s goal is to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars.

At the same time, the Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.

In order to immediately increase diversity on the Board of Governors, the Academy will establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the President for three-year terms and confirmed by the Board.

The Academy will also take immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members who are not Governors to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made. This will allow new members an opportunity to become more active in Academy decision-making and help the organization identify and nurture future leaders.

Along with Boone Isaacs, the Board’s Membership and Administration Committee, chaired by Academy Governor Phil Robinson, led the efforts to enact these initiatives.

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