Discrimination! Oppression!


Portrait of Ian Lang, former head of school at Victorian College of the Arts School of Film and TV, relaxing at home.

Some months back, I posted an entry about a skirmish in the war of the sexes. It drew some commentary, not least of all from the excellent Sophie Jenkins, who made mention of the notion of ‘male privilege’. I stridently argued against this, saying that I had been the brunt of all kinds of discrimination from many quarters on the basis of my size, appearance, etc etc. (This was a large part of what really got my goat about that imbecile Yumi Stynes and her degrading comments about Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith).

I don’t know why, but I completely forgot about the peculiar incident described in the following letter. I was reminded of it by a friend of mine, Rebecca Stewart, who originally edited it and came across it in her files the other day. She said that she hadn’t seen anything like it, before or since; plenty of women would be able to relate, but perhaps not from quite the same angle. It is also quite bizarre, and that always guarantees an outing on this blog.

All the names have been changed, except that of the perpetrator, that suppurating gonorrheic pustule, Ian Lang, then Head of School. Hopefully prospective employers google him and get an eyeful of exactly what they are risking.

The outcome of the incident is detailed afterward. For now, sit back and enjoy the weirdness.   


Anti-Discrimination officer (?)

Melbourne University

5/45 Shelley St

Elwood VIC 3184

Dear Ms ?,

I am writing with regards to my recent application to the Masters Program at the Victorian College of the Arts.

I was encouraged to apply on the advice of my former VCA lecturer C-, as well as my writing mentor, R-. What promised to be a fantastic opportunity turned out to be the most degrading experience of my university career.

I outline here the extremely unprofessional nature of the application process, the bizarre interview and the follow up with VCA Head of Film and Television, Mr. Ian Lang:

I recently bumped into VCA screenwriting lecturer C-. I had completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Film & Television in 1999, an inspiring and positive experience for me. As a result of our conversation, C- suggested I enter the Masters course (which he is Head of) as a late applicant, and with his and R-’s endorsement, my place was assured.

I then wrote a detailed proposal outlining the project I would undertake, which I emailed to C-. He promptly set up an interview with the Head of School, Ian Lang.

During a one-on-one interview with Ian, we were to discuss my application: the script I submitted, my background in writing and filmmaking, as well as my interest in and history with VCA and Melbourne University.

However, the interview initially focused on my physical appearance. Inexplicably, Ian asked me personal questions about my physique and my teeth. He then began to quiz me on kickboxing, a sport I pursue as an adjunct to my job as a personal trainer.

In the second half of the interview, he finally asked what I hoped to gain from a Masters degree. I replied that I relished the expert criticism that C- could provide as a supervisor, and that I would benefit from having my film viewing guided by him. Ian mentioned something about my application being ‘optimistic’ and that he would talk to C-. He instructed me to get an application form from reception.

Afterwards, I told C- that I found the interview extremely unpleasant and disconcerting. He said the focus on my appearance and career choice had been very strange, but I should definitely attend induction on the Friday afternoon as I was certainly in the course. He told me Ian would sign my application then.

I tried to find an application form, and was sent to a number of different offices. Eventually, the receptionist at the school of Film and Television told me the form would be waiting at the desk on Friday for collection before induction.

On Friday, the form was not there. However, at C-‘s request, I attended the induction. R- (also on the board of VCA) attended as guest speaker. Ian addressed the room and asked each candidate to explain the focus of their Masters. When he saw me he pointedly stated that I was not in the course, and asked what I was doing there. This was said in front of everyone.

After the induction, Ian came up to demand the application form. I explained to him what I had been told by the VCA receptionist. Humiliatingly, he instructed me to march straight back to the office and start looking for it again. I told him that C- had assured me I was accepted, at which Ian interrupted me very rudely. He told me that I was not special, that everyone else had applied for this course through the proper channels and that I have to do the same.

My partner then asked Ian what I had to do. Was it just a matter of ‘red tape’ and forms I had to fill out? Ian said yes, then he said no. He said I had to go through proper channels and had to be properly considered. I asked him about the proper channels.

By this stage, Ian had interviewed me, seen my proposal and received a reference from the guest speaker not more that half an hour ago.

When Ian’s aggression dropped a few registers, I mentioned my past, very positive and encouraging experience with VCA. I told him that the treatment he had subjected me to that day had been thoroughly discouraging and humiliating. I told him I resented the way he had made such an issue of my physical appearance and my job and had chosen to embarrass me in front of my peers. I then left the induction.

I spoke with R- outside. He commented on Ian embarrassing me in front of the other Masters students. He also said that, before he could give a verbal reference on my behalf, the first words out of Ian’s mouth were, “I hear you’ve been training with Jarrod Boyle. Take off your jacket and show me your muscles.”

C- called me the following Monday. He agreed that Ian had behaved very strangely, but that he had the application forms in his office. I asked for explicit clarification, given that Ian had said ‘no’ on Friday night. C- said I was definitely in. All I needed a letter of offer from the head of the school to complete my application.

Finally, a week later, C- told me I would have to apply again in September for 2008 admission. He explained that VCA had taken up as many Masters places as were allocated by Melbourne University and unfortunately, that meant there was no place for me. C- assured me he would support my 2008 application and with R- involved, I would certainly be admitted. I asked if I could be interviewed by someone other than Ian. C- said that, unfortunately, this would not be possible.

As you can see, the entire application process has been confronting, discouraging and completely unprofessional. I applied in good faith as a past student, with a polished application and with two excellent references.

Most importantly, I feel insulted that my physical appearance and work was scrutinised in what should have been a professional environment. What I do in my spare time, and my place of employment is entirely irrelevant to my suitability to complete the Masters degree.

I believe Melbourne University should take my complaint very seriously, with regards to the potential damage to my own reputation, as well as present and future students. I believe I have a very strong case to present to the Anti-Discrimination board of Melbourne University, and will be supported in my complaint by the Head of the Masters course in question, and a well-respected Board member.

The VCA should take all steps to redress the damage to myself, and prevent Ian Lang from damaging or discrediting any other aspiring students.

My contact details are above, should you require further details or clarification, and I anticipate your prompt response.

Yours Sincerely,



I discussed the whole mess with both C- and R-. Both of them hemmed and hawed, and when reading between the lines, I realised that they had failed to assist me – in any way – because the pustule was Head of School and, therefore, held sway over both their jobs. I decided not to push it because I didn’t want to do them any harm. 

…What can you do?

3 Responses to “Discrimination! Oppression!”

  1. Image is hilarious! I can’t remember – did you end up actually sending the letter? And if so, did they respond?

  2. Nothing, in the end. I didn’t send the complaint because it would have drawn R- and C- into it, affecting them in a negative way.

  3. Im sorry to hear that happened mate. Discrimination happens in all aspects of human interaction, some of it Australian society sanctions while others are not. Its easy to ascribe motives behind someones mystifying negative behaviour but the truth is that you probably will never know what set him off other than its a general sign of internal unhappiness within them. I always think of a Chinese friend who was convinced white Australians were racists and forever harboured deep resentment because someone threw an egg at him from a car on campus once and yet I (white) was at the same campus and had an egg thrown at me and ascribed it to something entirely different. The truth is you never know whats going on in someones head at a particular moment but bad behaviour only really hurts the person doing it. A google search for him brings you directly to this article and I am guessing the revenge isnt that sweet. My advice would be to take this article down and write him a personal letter explaining you are still deeply hurt by what happened that day even all these years later, you never know what response you may get back.

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