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UC San Diego petition demands end of Woody Allen film appreciation class

UC San Diego petition demands end of Woody Allen film appreciation class
Nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition urging UC San Diego to drop a theater appreciation class devoted to films of director Woody Allen. (Associated Press)

A UC San Diego theater student is circulating a petition asking campus leaders to cancel a class devoted to the films of Woody Allen because of allegations by his adopted daughter that he molested her as a child.

About 9,600 people had signed the online document through 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The petition will be presented to campus administrators when 10,000 signatures have been collected.

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The drive was initiated by Savanah Lyon, a 23-year-old theater major who told the Union-Tribune that "people like Allen who have been accused of, or participated in, sexual assault shouldn't be the subject of classes that talk about what great work they have done."

Lyon was largely referring to accusations made by Dylan Farrow. In January, the 32-year-old went on national television and accused Allen of molesting her as a child. Allen, 82, has denied the allegation.

Allen also has been criticized on many occasions for how he treats women, including his decision to play a middle-aged man who dates a high school girl in the film "Manhattan." Allen's co-star in the film, Mariel Hemingway, says the director tried to seduce her. Allen has denied the charge.

The allegations from Farrow and other complaints about Allen's behavior have, in recent months, led prominent actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Greta Gerwig, to say they regret working with the director.

Lyon's petition claims that UC San Diego has been teaching a course called "The Films of Woody Allen" since the 1990s. The class is currently taught by Steven Adler, a prominent UC San Diego theater professor who has staged-managed major productions on Broadway.

Adler could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But the university issued a statement saying, "The university's Academic Senate, which oversees curriculum on campus, is currently reviewing the request."

The controversy reflects a broader debate of how the public should regard artists who have been accused of sexual harassment, or admitted to it.

The comedian Louis C.K. admitted to masturbating in front of women without their consent. Many of his backers cut ties with him shortly after the news broke.

But critics have been exploring whether it's possible to admire the work of an artist without supporting those accused of or who have admitted to aberrant sexual behavior.

Robbins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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