Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Edna Manley students and staff mount protest

Published:Wednesday | August 28, 2019 | 3:01 PM
Students and staff of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts during a protest outside the institute on Arthur Wint Drive in St Andrew on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 - Gladstone Taylor photo.

Judana Murphy, Gleaner Writer

Mainly dressed in black with mouths covered, some 80 students and staff of the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts engaged in a street protest this afternoon.

The protest was in the true style of an institution dedicated to the arts with drummers and dancers being involved in the demonstration.

They lined both sides of the sidewalk just outside the main gate of the Arthur Wint Drive-based campus protest what they say are issues affecting the school.

The demonstration follows reports that Principal, Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse Johnson, was suspended by the board of directors yesterday with immediate effect following a meeting.

The suspension came amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment at the college, which were revealed in May.

DeGrasse Johnson has faced criticisms over her handling of the allegations.

READ: Edna Manley board votes to suspend headmaster

READ: Edna Manley accused of obsession over image in harassment scandal

READ: Edna Manley sends alleged sex harasser on leave

READ: Edna principal’s future in jeopardy

READ: Edna Manley College vows to stamp out sex harassment

Both students and staff were tight-lipped and declined to speak with The Gleaner.

The only sounds coming from the few uncovered mouths were chants.

Some of the placards read: “We are done being silent!”, “Zero tolerance to sexual harassment”, “It’s time yuh play fair”, “We stand with our students”, “No top down management! We support our principal”, “EMCVPA what is the real agenda?”, “What about the victims” and “We stand for transparency!” and “#nomoresilence”.

The protesters sought to involve drivers as they passed by with placards reading “Honk for EDNA!”

Yesterday, students and staff held an outdoor meeting to vent their frustration about a number of issues at the institution.

A statement prepared by the employees and read out by Colleen Douglas, director of marketing and communication at the college, said they heard of the request through the media and described it as “twice unfortunate”.

“First, because the suggestion of leave implies suspension or even dismissal, either of which we are aware is well within the purview of the board providing it has found the officer to be negligent while in office”, said Douglas.

“Second, for a community to discover that its chief executive officer is being asked to demit office in this way, is deeply demoralising and, in many ways, our sequel to May 26, where we discovered in the media, that we were at the centre of a sexual harassment scandal, and moreover accused as a community of a cover-up”, she added.

Douglas said “many of us at the college”are deeply concerned and take issue with the board’s treatment of the principal, charging that there has been “little to no regard for the effect on the wider college as a community”.

“In light of this, and what clearly is an impasse, we write insisting that board members stay their hand in what we dread might be their next action, and desist from further disrupting the operations of the institution”, the employees said in the letter that was to be delivered to board members.

Noting that the institution is still “reeling” from the effects of the sexual harassment allegations, Douglas said employees find it “disruptive and hurtful” that “stories are going to the press before staff”.

“It continues to have a debilitating effect on the morale of staff and students”.

The employees also praised DeGrasse Johnson, disclosing that since the allegation surfaced she has led a number of initiatives aimed at sensitising the institution about sexual harassment.

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