The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Boston’s Berklee College of Music reeling amid sexual misconduct allegations involving professors

Georgina Wu and Olivia Fryer walked out of class Monday at Boston’s Berklee College of Music to protest alleged assaults and demand that the school address complaints of sexual assault, abuse and harassment. (Dina Rudick/Boston Globe)

Last week, the Boston Globe published an investigation of the Berklee College of Music, detailing allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault at the school. In its article, the Globe reported that at least three professors had been allowed to “quietly leave” after students came forward with accusations.

On Monday, Berklee students gathered for an open forum, at which the president of the institution spoke to the crowd. And in his remarks, Berklee’s president said the number of accused faculty members in recent years was much higher than three.

According to the Globe’s report, President Roger Brown told the forum that 11 faculty members had been terminated in the past 13 years. He vowed to “root out” abusive behavior, and apologized to students who had been affected.

“To everyone who has been harassed or abused at Berklee, I am so sorry,” said Brown, whose comments were also captured on a livestream posted to Facebook. “I apologize for this institution. It’s unacceptable. It breaks my heart. It goes against everything that makes me want to be here in the first place.”

Brown said the terminations at the college, located in Boston, were “not an insignificant number.”

“And behind every one of those issues is at least one — in many cases, multiple students — whose dream was shattered,” he said. “Whose expectations of us were destroyed, and who lost trust in us and maybe in themselves.”

In a statement released by Berklee on Monday, Brown said the 11 terminated faculty members had been fired for “sexual harassment and/or assault.”

“Today’s dialogue affirms our ongoing commitment to eradicating abuse and harassment,” he said. “It is an important step in listening to students, setting a path forward together and holding each other accountable.”

The Globe’s investigation, based on court documents and interviews, found that Berklee let professors leave the college after students reported issues that included being groped or pressured to have sex with an instructor. The incidents in the Globe’s report dated to 2008.

In a response to the article, Brown called the cases “heart-rending and unsettling.”

“We responded as rapidly as possible given the need for due process for the accused,” he said in the statement.

Three of the four faculty members who had been accused of sexual abuse were fired after an investigation. The college didn’t give out positive references, and Brown’s note indicates that when another institution inquired about one of the fired faculty members, Berklee explained why the professor had been terminated.

“These are difficult cases involving sensitive matters and we respect the confidentiality concerns of those involved,” the statement said. “Many students coming forward with complaints seek the utmost privacy, which we make efforts to honor to the extent possible.”

Berklee and the school’s president ditched plans for an annual state of the school speech Monday, according to the Globe, and instead, the forum was held in the school’s concert hall. An email about the event indicated that students, faculty and staff members could attend the event, which was focused on stopping sexual harassment and assault at Berklee.

The Associated Press reported that students had walked out of campus in protest Monday. The Globe also reported that hundreds marched to the forum.

The allegations at the school come as concerns about sexual harassment and misconduct have exploded in the national conversation, with accusations emerging in the entertainment industrypolitics and the media. Allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were published in the New York Times and the New Yorker, and sexual harassment accusations against the filmmaker James Toback were detailed in the Los Angeles Times. Recently, five women accused the comedian Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct.

Read More:
Beyoncé is helping four ‘bold, creative, conscious and confident’ women go to college

Dozens of Ohio State students accused of cheating ring that used group-messaging app

New charges brought in Penn State hazing death after deleted video is recovered