February 23, 2004
Alumni spearhead drive to film professors
By Scott Rappaport
Each fall, 500 students enroll in Professor Bettina Apthekers
Introduction to Feminism course at UCSC. The class is always
full, and the waiting list is always long.
Womens studies professor Bettina Aptheker has been teaching
her acclaimed Introduction to Feminism class at UCSC for
the past 24 years.
Photo by Scott Rappaport
A scholar of history with a national reputation for her talents as
an instructor, Aptheker has been teaching this popular course for the
past 24 years.
Starting out in 1980 as the sole lecturer in UCSCs Womens
Studies Department, she became the departments first ladder-rank
faculty member in 1987 and was honored with the Alumni Associations
Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001.
Students often describe their time in Apthekers class as a life-changing
experience and an eye-opener. A deeply compelling
speaker, Aptheker, incorporates art, poetry, guest speakers, historical
essays, slides, videos, and music into a multifaceted, multimedia course
that lingers in the minds of undergraduates long after they leave the
One of those former students decided last year that the time was ripe
to capture Apthekers lectures on film. Eric Zamost first took
her course in 1989 and also served as an undergraduate assistant for
Apthekers class the following year.
I saw the tremendous positive effect Professor Apthekers
classes had on her students, and wished she could reach an even broader
audience, Zamost explained. I had been wishing for years
that someone would film her Introduction to Feminism course,
but eventually it became clear that wishing alone was not going to make
it happen. So I approached her with the idea and found her receptive.
Zamost teamed up with fellow alum Nicolette Czarrunchick, manager of
UCSC's Womens Studies Department, to start a letter-writing campaign
to raise money for the project. So far, that has brought in approximately
$4,000. Womens studies lecturer Peggy Downes Baskin also contributed
a gift of $10,000 to help cover filming costs. Czarrunchick said they
hope to ultimately raise another $20,000 for editing and distribution
The goal is to produce a broadcast-quality, multicamera video of Apthekers
course through one full academic quarter, and to make DVD copies available--at
cost--to universities and high schools throughout the country. The tapes
could also be used in the future as source material for a potential
documentary film about Apthekers life.
There is a filmmaker who has been helping us with the project,
Aptheker said. Shes been a videographer for many years,
contributing to PBS, as well as a host of other companies. Right now
were in the preliminary stages of discussing the possibility of
doing a documentary. Shes reading a draft of the memoirs I just
To date, more than 66 hours of raw footage has been filmed, covering
18 lectures from Apthekers class. The topics range from racism
and violence against women, to body image and womens history.
She said they hope to have the DVDs edited and ready for distribution
by 2005, which would coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Womens
We particularly want to get the DVDs into the high schools because
domestic violence, childhood abuse, and sexual violence are very pervasive
in our society, Aptheker noted. And mostly there is very
little analysis at the high school level of why that is, and how girls
and women can protect and empower themselves.
Aptheker added that she borrows from the best work of feminist scholars
to synthesize and organize new ways of thinking.
My class deals with the many gender, race, class, and sexuality
interests in peoples lives, she observed. Theres
a lot of theory available, but its not often presented in an accessible
way that high school students--or incoming university students--can
Contributions to this project can be sent to the Womens Studies
Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street,
Santa Cruz, CA 95064. For more information, contact department manager
Nicolette Czarrunchick at (831) 459-4324.
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