Berklee College Of Music Is Under Fire For Alleged Sexual Misconduct By Professors
The last month has been dominated by the media storm of sexual assault allegations that have come to light in many industries, from Hollywood to U.S. politics. Unsurprisingly, rape culture is not only pervasive in the workplace, but also affects college campuses. On Nov. 8, the Boston Globe released an investigative report that claimed Berklee College of Music has allowed several professors who allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted students to leave their faculty position without repercussions. Following the allegations that surfaced in the Boston Globe, Berklee’s students and staff have been up in arms over the culture of sexual harassment that they claim has existed at the college for over a decade, according to the Washington Post. Bustle reached out to Berklee College of Music for comment, and will update this article when they respond. In a forum addressing the allegations, Roger Brown, President of Berklee College of Music, told students and employees: “To everyone who has been harassed or abused at Berklee, I am so sorry. I apologize for this institution.”
The full forum, which took place at the Berklee Performance Center, has been posted to Facebook via video. Though the initial report only detailed sexual harassment allegedly perpetrated by three professors, President Brown revealed during the forum that 11 faculty members were fired for alleged sexual misconduct over the course of 13 years. “It’s unacceptable," said Brown. "It breaks my heart. It goes against everything that makes me want to be here in the first place.”
Following the forum, President Brown released a written statement on Berklee’s site addressing the school’s response to alleged sexual misconduct, and renewed promise to support survivors. In an excerpt of the letter, addressed to the “Berklee Community,” the president wrote:
We had a powerful three-hour meeting Monday, November 13, about stopping sexual assault and harassment in the Berklee College and Conservatory communities [...] I was deeply moved by the outpouring of stories, suggestions, ideas, questions, and demands. Again, I apologize on behalf of the college to those who have experienced any such misconduct while at Berklee. I admire your courage in coming forward and am grateful for your activism. I unequivocally condemn abusive or harassing behavior at Berklee. What we witnessed yesterday is a shared commitment to preventing sexual abuse and harassment on our campus — whether perpetrated by faculty, staff, or students. We have a lot of work to do to be the school we need to be, and we are not going to lose focus.
The letter goes on to detail ways in which Berklee College of Music will begin to proactively handle sexual harassment allegations. This includes the launch of a public reporting system, a faculty workgroup to address sexual misconduct, more mental health services, and improving campus diversity, according to the statement.
However, many students felt President Brown’s statements were delivered as an attempt at damage control. Shiloh Trudeau, a first-year Berklee student, tells Bustle via email that students were "angry" at the news, "both because we felt lied to and we felt that [alleged] victims on this campus deserve better." Shiloh organized a Change.org petition, entitled "Don't Let Berklee College of Music Keep Sexual Assault a Secret," that has nearly 5,000 signatures. In response to the president’s statement, a large group of Berklee students took to Boston’s Boylston Street, and held a silent protest in response to the school’s rape culture. "I was totally overwhelmed by the number of students who came to the protest," Trudeau tells Bustle.
A claim was filed earlier this year with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination that will investigate the way Berklee College of Music handles claims of sexual misconduct. Berklee students have put pressure on their school's administration to do better by victims of sexual harassment, and to create a space that is truly safe for survivors.