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Arts and Entertainment

The Academy Makes Sweeping Changes In Response To #OscarsSoWhite Backlash

Stacie Stauff Smith Photography /
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In response to the #OscarsSoWhite backlash to the lilywhite Oscar nominations, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences says they aim to double the number of women and diverse members by 2020.On Thursday night the Academy's Board of Governors unanimously voted to implement a new set of rules that will affect membership, the makeup of their leadership, and how the Oscars are voted on. "The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up," said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs in an announcement on Friday. "These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition."

Last week, Isaacs said she was "disappointed" that the acting nominees for the Oscars for all-white for the second year in a row and said on Monday, "The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership."

"Last night, the Board of Governors made a series of courageous steps," read an email the Academy sent to its members today, outlining the new rules. Regarding Oscar voting, each new member would get a 10-year voting status that could be renewed if the member was active in the movie business during that same timeframe. Lifetime voting rights are granted after three terms or to those that have won or been nominated for an Oscar. Those who don't meet any of those criteria will lose their voting rights.

The new rules will not affect the voting for this year's Oscars, but will be applied retroactively to voters moving forward. Reminder: the voters for the Oscars are overwhelmingly old white men.

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Of course the problem isn't just with the Oscars. Minorities are woefully underrepresented in the industry, and the ACLU says there is rampant discrimination against female directors.

To fix the problem from within, the Academy also announced the launch of "an ambitious, global campaign" to recruit new members that would help increase diversity among their ranks. It would supplement the traditional process admission in which current members sponsor new members. The 51-member Board of Governors will also have three new seats added, with those three appointed by the President. The Board of Governors is made of representatives of the Academy's 17 branches, which each have three governors.

April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, told the L.A. Times that she was "encouraged" and excited by the changes, but said said she would still ask Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, "What's next?"

The new rules were hailed across the industry. "I think the effort is well intended and I think it should be acceptable to people, said SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard. "The criticism is that [the Academy] is just a bunch of old white guys—and that's fair—and how are we going to remedy that? They are doing that."

"I'm in favor of anything that will increase diversity. It's a need and a requirement," said Robert Greenwald, an Academy member and the founder and president of Brave New Films, in a statement. "We all have to face the fact that Hollywood is a white male world."

Selma director Ava DuVernay, who was though of as one of the biggest snubs at last year's Oscars, said it was "One good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color [and] women artists," but was not hesitant to throw a little shade the Academy's way:

Related: Oscar Nominee Complains #OscarsSoWhite Is 'Racist To White People'
Will Smith Joins The Oscars Boycott With His Wife
Spike Lee And Jada Pinkett Smith Announce They're Boycotting #OscarsSoWhite

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