Oberlin Conservatory Dean on Improving Music School Culture in #MeToo Era

Nov 5, 2018
Originally published on November 5, 2018 12:32 pm

In the wake of recent allegations of sexual misconduct in classical music settings near and far, Oberlin Conservatory of Music is taking specific steps to change the culture.

The conservatory's actions are part of Oberlin College's school-wide focus on the issue.

Last summer, two Oberlin Conservatory professors resigned following accusations of innapriopriate behavior with students. Shortly after those resignations, Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar said in a statement to staff and students that institutions need to be “prepared to respond to reports of sexual misconduct and to prevent such misconduct whenever possible.”

In addition to mandatory training for staff, the school hosted conversations around the issues.

“Having small groups of faculty be able to have these conversations within the conservatory specifically has been super helpful,” said Oberlin Conservatory Dean Andrea Kalyn. “The rule is very simple, right, don’t have relationships with students. But the nuance is how you make sure that the culture is one where that’s very clear and there’s a security in that professional separation.”

Those conversations included discussions about the teacher-student relationship in music education, office spaces, traveling faculty and night rehearsals.

The conservatory faculty also voted in September to remove obstructions from studio windows. While some music schools have solid doors to keep sound contained in rooms, Oberlin added windows during a renovation. However, those windows were often covered up to remove distractions, conceal instruments or establish privacy, Kayln said.

“We’re in a climate where… privacy can be abused, Kalyn said.

The change is to provide security for students and faculty as well as make a statement of awareness and transparency, she said.

Additionally, “making sure that we don’t excuse bad behavior for art’s sake” and being “hyper aware of the ways in which we send subtle messages” are important for improving the greater classical music world, Kayln said

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