Radio-television-film senior Rajinee Buquing needed to take the introductory cinematography course before graduating. There was just a small problem — there was only one section of the class. It was full.
Buquing is not the first nor last student to find themselves on a waitlist. This is her senior year, and cinematography is an essential part of her plans post-graduation. With few options left to them, she said she and several of her peers had to act fast.
“Right after class we discussed how we were going to send emails to the administration, the department chair, the dean and our advisers,” Buquing said. “It felt empowering once we knew that we had each others’ backs and that our emails together were a stronger voice.”
Buquing rallied with fellow radio-television-film juniors Tatiana Roberts and Simran Malik, and several of their peers who also found themselves on the course waitlist. Once they organized themselves into a group message, they made concerted efforts to get another section of the course open. Not only was this course important to them as radio-television-film students, Roberts said it is also essential as women of color hoping to work in an industry dominated by white males.
“Not only are we women, but we’re women of color,” Roberts said. “To find that in the field of cinematography is few and far between. It’s not to say that we don’t exist and we’re not out there, but people don’t shed a light on us, and we’re not really given the same opportunity to step into this big space.”
Not being able to take the class poses a significant problem to students who plan to pursue cinematography as a career because this course is the prerequisite for the advanced cinematography class. Malik said the prospect of not being able to take this class was a huge stressor on her during the first week. She said she thinks any other students who are trying to get classes opened up in this manner will have a better chance of success if they band together.
“It’s very fortunate that our voices were heard,” Malik said. “I doubt it would have happened if only one of us had reached out. It would have been a different situation. But with women who are people of color reaching out, I think they understood where we were coming from.”
A new section of the introductory cinematography course was made available the second week of school. Moody College of Communication Dean Jay Bernhardt said it was a matter of budget and finding someone to teach the course, as is typical of adding classes in other colleges.
“Every semester we always have a challenge,” Bernhardt said. “We always try to offer as many sections as possible of those courses that are most wanted and needed by students, but we can’t always afford to offer everything we would want to.”
Bernhardt said he received “very thoughtful, well-written, very concerned emails,” which urged him to open another section of the course. Bernhardt said he felt for them in their plight.
“I know this is a field women have been historically underrepresented in,” Bernhardt said. “The fact that these students really wanted to take this class this semester made me want to do everything I can to help get this course offered so they could take it.”