The Firings: Bennington College
In June of 1994, the president of Bennington College, a small liberal arts college in Vermont, in a radical move, fired 27 faculty members (more than a third of the faculty).  Tenure, departments, and all forms of faculty and student governance were also eliminated as part of an “educational reform” outlined in a 36-page document presented by the Board of Trustees to the community, entitled, The Symposium Report. 
The Firings is a 36-minute documentary film produced between 1994-96.  It focuses on the 1992 firing of Professor Maura Spiegel, a precursor to the large-scale faculty purge of 1994. 
Evasion is a 7-minute short examining the atmosphere of fear for a retained faculty member in 1995, after the firings. The piece is framed by an interview with the filmmakers about being stonewalled.
The filmmakers are Amy Carberg and Cybele Policastro. Amy received a BA from Bennington in 1991 and Cybele completed her Bachelor’s degree at the Museum School/Tufts University (Boston, MA) in 1993.  The two short films were presented as Amy’s final project for the MFA she received from the School of Visual Art (NYC) in 1996. Cybele is now a multiple Emmy Award winning video editor with over fifteen years experience based in NYC. Amy is a visual artist and Argentine tango dancer based in Washington DC.
Between 1994 and 1996, the filmmakers conducted over 50 interviews with faculty, students, administrators, and alumni on (now antiquated) Hi-8 tapes. Interviews included literary critic and Harvard University professor, Helen Vendler, feminist academic and social critic, Camille Paglia, author, Donna Tartt, and contemporary artist, Tom Sachs. 
With more than 100 hours of footage to work from, Amy and Cybele learned editing processes during the monumental transition from analog to digital. They present to you now, almost 25 years later, two short films. A snapshot in time, the story examines relevant questions of free speech, academic freedom, and due process for schools trying to navigate an increasingly corporate reality. While foreshadowing ongoing issues for students and educators in the 21st century, this is also an intimate portrait of a school lost.

Postscript: After a six-year lawsuit against the college in which the professors argued that the firings violated their contracts and that they were defamed, in December of 2000, seventeen of the fired professors involved in the lawsuit, received a $1.89 million settlement and an apology from Bennington College.

Amy Carberg and Cybele Policastro
IVP Productions/August 2020

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