Academy Diversity Push Brings Three New Members of Color to Board of Governors

Reginald Hudlin, Gregory Nava, Jennifer Yuh Nelson now join the Academy’s 51-seat Board

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has added three new members of color to its 51-seat Board of Governors, plus six additional members to its Board Committees.

Reginald Hudlin (Directors Branch), Gregory Nava (Writers Branch) and Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Short Films and Feature Animation Branch) were confirmed by the current Board members for three-year terms, according to a statement from the Academy on Tuesday.

“I’m proud of the steps we have taken to increase diversity,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said. “However, we know there is more to do as we move forward to make this a more inclusive organization.”

The actions were taken at a regularly scheduled Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday, though the meeting had an unusual daytime start and lasted longer than usual.

The Board also appointed additional Academy members to each of the six Board committees that provide oversight to specific Academy areas. See the additions below:

  • Actor Gael García Bernal joins the Awards and Events Committee, chaired by First Vice President Jeffrey Kurland.
  • Cinematographer Amy Vincent joins the Preservation and History Committee, chaired by Vice President John Bailey.
  • Producer Effie Brown joins the Museum Committee, chaired by Vice President Kathleen Kennedy.
  • Executive Marcus Hu and Animator Floyd Norman join the Education and Outreach Committee, chaired by Vice President Bill Kroyer.
  • Executive Vanessa Morrison joins the Finance Committee, chaired by Treasurer Jim Gianopulos.
  • Producer Stephanie Allain joins the Membership and Administration Committee, chaired by Secretary Phil Robinson.

The Board also reaffirmed its Jan. 21 resolution to make sure Academy voters are active in the motion picture industry. In the meeting, the Board decided that each branch executive committee will determine specific criteria for active voters based on the guidelines established in January. Active voters are defined as:

  • those who have worked in the motion picture industry in the last 10 years;
  • those who have worked anytime during three 10-year periods whether consecutive or not;
  • members who have won or been nominated for an Oscar.

The March meeting of the Board of Governors is typically a meeting at which the board conducts its annual review of the last Oscar show, talking about what went right and what went wrong. And while there was plenty to discuss on that front, from the mediocre ratings to ABC’s increasing calls for creative control to the letter from prominent members decrying the show’s jokes about Asians, the show was forced to take a back seat to a further discussion of the diversity issue.

Partly, the agenda was determined by the Academy’s haste to act during the #OscarsSoWhite controversy after the second consecutive year of all-white acting nominees. A week after the nominations were announced, the board called an emergency meeting and passed a number of changes, including taking away voting privileges from some non-active members and setting the goal of doubling the number of female and minority members by 2020.

But some of those changes, which also called for three new members to be appointed to the board, necessitated a change of AMPAS by-laws, which cannot legally be done without a vote of the entire membership or a vote of the board acting on 10-day advance notice. The changes were passed at a meeting that was scheduled at 10 a.m. on Jan. 21 and held that night, which meant that it could not legally make any changes to the by-laws.

And between the time the changes were announced and this week’s scheduled board meeting, a number of members complained about the fact that some retired members would be stripped of their vote based mostly on the assumption that they were somehow responsible for the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations.