Fri | Nov 27, 2020

Edna Manley accused of obsession over image in harassment scandal

Published:Sunday | June 9, 2019 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera - Senior Gleaner Writer
Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, principal of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Administrators of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts are being accused of being more concerned about the school’s reputation amid a sexual-harassment scandal than the impact of years-long reported abuse by a senior teacher on student victims.

Since the college cover-up was outed in a Sunday Gleaner exposé and subsequent reports, alleging inappropriate behaviour implicating one of its male lecturers, the alleged offender has been sent on leave after an investigation was launched. He has also been accused of threatening lower grades for resisting sexual advances.

INSENSITIVE STAFF MEETINGS

But personnel privy to the discussions in two administrative meetings with staff have lamented the apparent insensitivity of the college leadership.

“At our first staff meeting which was called to discuss how we felt about the Gleaner article, nothing was mentioned about the victims by management. I didn’t hear the young people talked about at all. The whole thing was really disturbing for me,” an Edna Manley lecturer told The Sunday Gleaner last week.

The lecturer said the discussions surrounded the public’s view of the school, and not the process to seek justice and reform.

“Nothing about examining how we got to where we are today, resulting in this scandal hovering over our heads,” the lecturer said.

According to the teacher, the school’s image was far more important than anything else.

Between June 4 and 6, the school again met with senior and middle management at a retreat at The Knutsford Court Hotel under the theme ‘Reconstructing the Narrative’. The latest initiative has been described by one of the victims as efforts at “rebranding themselves”.

The top tier of the fine arts college is exclusively populated by women – principal Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, and vice-principals Kerry-Ann Henry and Dr Trudy-Ann Barrett. The board of management is also chaired by a woman – Marigold Harding.

A victim who said she was sexually harassed by the accused lecturer for more than four years said it was time that the Edna Manley leadership took steps to protect students and staff from sexual harassment and assault.

“They need to have cameras in every nook and cranny of the institution ... ,” said the woman, who disclosed that her nightmare started when she enrolled at the college at age 17.

She argues that multiple lecturers should share responsibilities, questioning how it was possible for reports made years ago to have suddenly disappeared.

The young woman, who said she was traumatised by repeated advances, also questioned the legitimacy of the announcement by the school to update its policy on sexual harassment.

“It is the strangest thing I have ever seen, owing to the fact there are six pages out of their faculty handbook that need to be considered for the sexual harasser of a lecturer, because he violated most of those rules,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.

Her sentiments have been bolstered by the American lecturer who blew the whistle on the alleged sexual harassment case. Maluwa Williams Myers said now was the time to restore the integrity of the institution.

“Power and all roles of authority, especially when it comes to education, must be about empowerment and uplift,” she said.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com