Contentious Q&A With Director Betsy West Follows "RBG" Screening

By Kassidy Bowering



“I ask no favor for my sex,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says. “All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” This is how the award-winning documentary “RBG,” directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen opens.


Immediately, laughs and small cheers were heard around the Humanities Theatre, as students, faculty, and campus visitors sat and watched what some described as, “the best documentary they had ever seen.”


Professor Simon Surowicz, a colleague of Betsy West, set up this opportunity for “RBG” to be shown followed by a discussion with West for his News Documentary class. He also opened the conversation to the public. Many of the journalism staff were present, and Professor Donna Cornachio facilitated the Q&A portion of the event.


“RBG” was not West’s first documentary, as she was the executive in charge of the CBS documentary “9/11,” winner of the Primetime Emmy Award in 2002. West has also worked on a number of other documentaries, such as “Constantine's Sword” (2007), and the PBS documentary, “MAKERS: Women Who Make America” (2013).


Strong women have time and time again been a focus for West. She has two documentaries in the works currently, one of them about Julia Child, and the other’s details have not been released yet.


Some viewers were worried West had focused a little too closely on the gender of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, and not truly showcasing all of her amazing work.


One man said, “Almost all the cases that were shown with the exception of the voting right, were cases that had to do with gender rights, but she in no way is limited to that, and I’m worried your viewers will think that.”


West took a second before answering, “It's a documentary. We had to make choices and a narrative. The choice we made was to follow a lot of her gender equity cases.”


She finished his question with,”I think experts would agree with me, her legacy is what she did for women, for gender equity,” somewhat belittling the man's comprehension of what documentaries were about. A woman sat next to the man mumbled to him, “Well she didn’t even answer the full question,” with a humph.


Even with that hiccup, both viewers went and congratulated Betsy West before leaving, along with many others.


The students of the News Documentary class gathered outside of the theatre immediately after, all talking of how moving “RBG’s” work was, and how beautiful of a love story the film was.

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PSGA Bylaws (August 2018), Student Bill of Rights, Section B. Freedom of Speech, Press and Inquiry


Neither the student government nor any faculty or administrative person or board shall make a rule or regulation or take any action which abridges students’ freedom of speech, press or inquiry, as guaranteed Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. Students of the campus are guaranteed:

  1.  the right to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them, and to express opinion privately and publicly;

  2. the right to learn in the spirit of free inquiry;

  3. the right to be informed of the purposes of all research in which they are expected or encouraged to participate either as subject or researcher;

  4. the right to freedom from censorship in campus newspapers and other media 

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