u of t

Allegations of sexual assault and racism swirl at U of T Faculty of Music

The University of Toronto is once again coming under fire for allegations of shocking impropriety, this time at its Faculty of Music, which is facing some serious accusations of racism, sexual assault, and more.

Hundreds of U of T students, staff and alumni have signed an open letter that details ongoing misogyny, sexual harassment and sexual assault at the music school, and also calls for swift and immediate action from higher-ups to investigate and address systemic issues.

Dozens of individuals, some named and others anonymous, have added their personal stories to the letter, with the overall tone aligning with one claim that the faculty has not only turned a blind eye to, but "cultivated a culture in which sexual assault and violence, among other equity concerns, thrive."

Allies who found themselves horrified and heartbroken at the allegations have likewise added their voices to the missive, demanding further protections for students and teachers, as well as a more inclusive and safe learning space in general.

As noted by the president of the U of T Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (which originally penned the letter in late May) prospective students have actually turned down offers from the school due to the wider knowledge of "what is happening here," and yet nothing appears to be changing.

"Every day, as the FMUA updates this letter, more signatures and more stories are being added. I cannot imagine how many other stories are going untold because of the atmosphere of fear cultivated here," the president, Ines Wong, writes.

"One story is already too much. But there's more than thirty in this letter alone. Yet all we hear — all I have heard — is public silence. Conversations in closed Faculty meetings are not enough. You are hurting students. You are losing students. The institution's negligence is actively causing harm."

Among the calls to action are a formal, external and impartial review of the Faculty, mandatory consent training for staff and students, and the addition of an in-house equity, diversity and inclusion officer, among others.

Some are also asking for better systems to report instances of harassment and assault, as well as more open lines of communication about such topics in general.

At the same time, BIPOC women staff at U of T Jazz specifically have also released a public statement claiming both discrimination and psychological abuse in the community.

"We're speaking out because we've exhausted all of our resources. We've filed complaints, joined committees, followed procedures and pleaded with upper administration to take our concerns seriously, but we've yet to see meaningful action," wrote faculty members Jacqueline Teh and Tara Kannangara on social media over the weekend.

The duo cites having their voices and opinions excluded from anti-racism and equity committee meetings, being silenced when bringing up issues of discrimination at the institution, and being misrepresented as "disorganized, immature and irresponsible."

"Encouraging us to voice our concerns to faculty members who are unwilling to listen is not an action item. Referring us through administrative pathways that were created to suppress us is not an action item."

Both movements are striving, obviously, to enact change first and foremost in the U of T settings where such problematic treatment has taken place, but also in academic settings and the music community at large, in which the first open letter sadly states "issues surrounding sexual assault and harassment are nothing new."

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