Amsterdam Conservatorium severs ties with two teachers for sexual harassment
The Conservatorium van Amsterdam severed ties with two lecturers last year due to accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct, Pointer reports. A third lecturer had just retired when students again filed complaints against him last year. The Conservatorium has denied him access to the academy and extracurricular activities, the music academy’s management confirmed to the program.
According to Pointer, the three lecturers’ sexual misconduct ranged from sexual comments and texts to unwanted touching and even sex with a student. The transgressive behavior occurred in two different departments in the conservatory - two of the lecturers worked in one department, the third in the other. Pointer spoke to students and former students who studied in the departments between 2002 and 2020.
According to the students from the department with two accused lecturers, the department had an “informal drinking culture” for a long time. Students and lecturers regularly went to bars together after lessons and performances. During these drinking sessions, lecturers approached students verbally and physically, made sexist jokes, and touched female students inappropriately, the students said.
It also happened fairly often that teachers taught students at home and also offered alcohol there. A former student told Pointer how she spent the night at a lecturer’s home because she was too drunk to cycle home.
One of the two accused lecturers in this department responded to Pointer’s questions. He acknowledged that it was and still is common for students and lecturers to go out together after performances. “The atmosphere can generally be described as very relaxed because of the relief after a performance,” he said. “Certain students may have been annoyed by the informal atmosphere that prevailed between students and lecturers at those times and the comments that came from both sides.” Lessons from lecturers’ homes are also standard practice, he said. He wouldn’t respond to questions about sexual misconduct.
The third lecturer lost his job in another department at the Conservatorium last year. He sent sexually explicit WhatsApp and Facebook messages to at least three female students for at least four years, according to Pointer. In one case, the lecturer messaged a student who was still a minor and took lessons at a summer camp he organized for young musicians. The man wouldn’t respond to the program’s questions.
The Conservatorium received previous reports about two of the three lecturers. It was only under new management and after students raised the alarm again last year that the music academy cut ties with the lecturers.
Director Okke Westdorp called the academy’s slow response “very sad,” speaking to Pointer. “What people have experienced is very painful and unpleasant. It is very sad that when someone has the courage to send a signal and report it, it gets stuck somewhere.”
The Conservatorium has strengthened the existing protocols and structures for handling complaints and asked an external agency to investigate how social safety is experienced at the academy. “What we are working on now is the culture. We do this with workshops and lectures and by continuing to talk to lecturers and employees. Culture is never done.”