Officials on the Board of Trustees at Pasadena City College confirmed this week that they are no longer inviting Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, a PCC alumnus, to speak at the school’s commencement ceremony, fearing that his explicit sex photos that leaked back in 2009 could “tarnish the school’s reputation.”
As the Pasadena City College Courier reports, there is much confusion among Board members regarding why Black was initially invited to speak and whether the fact that his sex photos depicted “unsafe” sex were the real reason for his shunning.
Either way, it is clear that Dustin Lance Black was invited to PCC’s commencement ceremony and was later disinvited by Robert Bell, Vice President of Academic affairs and student services. Black has called the action “heartbreaking, hurtful and wrong headed.”
Board President Anthony Fellow tells the Courier that Black’s nude photos could be potentially damaging to PCC’s reputation because two other sex scandals thrust the college into national headlines last year — Hugo Schwyzer, the “porno professor” admitted to sleeping with students and Warren Swil, a journalism instructor, admitted to showing students nude photos of himself. “We just don’t want to give PCC a bad name,” Fellow said.
Robert Bell, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, a.k.a. the guy who disinvited Dustin Lance Black, attributed Black’s “premature” invite to a “major miscommunication” among “too many people” involved in the inviting process. Though Student Trustee Simon Fraser confirmed he had sent an official email on behalf of the Associate Dean of Student Life that read “We would like to formally invite Mr. Black to conduct the commencement address,” Bell argues that “confirmation was never made with the administration.”
On Monday, Bell sent the following email to Black’s assistant:
I wish to inform you that Mr. Black will not need to rearrange his busy schedule to appear as commencement speaker. I understand that Mr. Black’s time is valuable and important and, again, I apologize for the delay in finalizing this with you and him.
Fraser, the Student Trustee who send the original invitation, spoke out against the board’s decision at an Associate Students meeting last week, contending that it was homophobic because the photos depicted unprotected sex and were “not viewed as intimate contact between two adults but as a promotion of unsafe sexual practices.” “We are held to such a different standard where any single misstep is a bad thing,” he said.
Black is considering taking legal action, according to a statement he gave the Courier. “The offer was made,” it reads. “I accepted the offer, booked flights, cancelled work to make room for the honor. It is heartbreaking, hurtful and wrong headed.”
Black has written an open letter to the PCC students he’d hoped to speak to, saying he “did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer” and wonder if his invitation would have been rescinded if he were a heterosexual man or woman. Read the full letter here.