Digital Cinema dismissals revisited

Former DePaul Digital Cinema professors Dave Stone, Vanessa Ament and Lou Kleinman are still reeling from the impact of the unexpected and unexplained decision by DePaul University officials to fire them on the eve of spring break, 2008.

Recovering slowly from the financial and personal hits they endured, the Hollywood veterans claim their case against the university is “still not finished.”

DePaul recruited the A-list professionals to provide legitimacy to the then-brand new Digital Cinema (DC) program. Oscar-winning sound editor Stone joined in 2005 and Kleinman a year later.

“There was something exciting about being part of a start-up program,” says Kleinman, a two-time Emmy winner. “The idea was for us to help establish this program, and I believe we were fundamental in doing that.”

However, Stone’s wife, Foley expert Vanessa Ament, filed a gender discrimination suit against the school in 2007. Kleinman and Stone were named as supporting witnesses in the case.

“The situation was very negative, and we were not treated well,” Ament says. “I was at such a low point when we left Chicago. It had a profound effect on our personal lives.”

DePaul’s internal investigation ruled against the claim and Ament left the faculty. Students unsuccessfully petitioned the school to reinstate her.

At the next review opportunity following Ament’s suit, in March, 2008, DePaul did not renew Kleinman and Stone’s contracts for the following year, despite their credentials and high ratings in student evaluations of their teaching.

According to the DePaul Faculty Handbook, the trio should have been informed of non-renewal “at least 12 months before the expiration of an appointment after two or more years in the institution.”

Kleinman had taught at the school for two years; Stone for three.

Kleinman and Stone are still awaiting the verdict of charges filed with the EEOC in June 2008. So far, no charges have been filed in Federal court.

“It’s a bit of poker game,” says Kleinman. “DePaul says that they aren’t averse to talking to us, but they also aren’t really interested in making that happen.”