Art schools haven't taken measures to protect students against lecturers' bad behavior
The Netherlands’ art colleges, which offer visual arts and fashion courses, all consider social safety important for their students but don’t have sufficient measures in place to protect students against transgressive behavior, the Education Inspectorate said in a report. For example, all sixteen art schools have a complaints hotline, but only eleven have a procedure to investigate complaints about sexual or other forms of harassment, NRC reports.
The Inspectorate investigated the art schools after multiple reports of unsafe situations in the past years. Between 2015 and 2021, the Amsterdam Theater School, the Design Academy in Eindhoven, the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, and the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam were all discredited by lecturers harassing students or having sexual relations with them.
All sixteen art colleges have a formal complaints procedure and a confidential adviser, the Inspectorate found. However, some schools only have an internal adviser, while many students say they’d be more comfortable speaking to an external person not formally connected to their school.
Half of the art colleges explicitly mention the importance of social safety in their annual reports. Three don’t mention the subject at all. When talking to the schools’ administrators, the Inspectorate found that many struggles with the concept of social safety and wonder how responsible they are for incidents. According to the Inspectorate, some art colleges see the lack of social safety primarily as a threat to their reputation.
The Inspectorate identified several risks to social safety at the Netherlands’ art schools. Students are expected to adopt a “vulnerable” attitude and show much of themselves. There are many guest lecturers - professionals who often lack teaching schools. And there is often a “strong relationship of dependency between students and educators who have a strong position as artists in the professional field.”
Students told the Inspectorate they find it challenging to report inappropriate behavior by a lecturer because they fear “negative consequences for their studies or career.” Students also said they are often “driven to go beyond their boundaries in their pursuit of excellence.” They find their artwork very personal, so “criticism hits hard.”