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Edna Manley moves to review sexual harassment policy

Published:Friday | August 2, 2019 | 12:35 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer

Rocked by allegations of predatory sexual harassment and cover-ups, the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts has established a committee to improve transparency, fairness, and safety at the institution.

The seven-member Possibilities Committee, headed by Dr Amina Blackwood-Meeks, has direct reporting responsibilities to the institution’s principal, Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson. It comprises college stakeholders from diverse perspectives, a release from the institution said yesterday.

“The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has been at the forefront of discussions on sexual harassment in Jamaica following a newspaper article of alleged cases of sexual harassment on the campus. The situation is unfortunate,” the release said. “It has, however, provided an opportunity for a wider national discussion on the issue and for the college to review its policies on sexual harassment and discrimination and sensitise all its stakeholders about the matter.”

On June 13, at the conclusion of an academic board meeting, a decision was taken to establish the committee to “critically consider the recent developments emerging from the catalyst as well as to forecast any other possible situations that could arise so that necessary strategic and preventative measures could be established”.

Since the college cover-up was outed in a May 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 had also been accused of threatening lower grades for resisting sexual advances.

Following public outrage, officials from the school were grilled before Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on how the fine arts college handled alleged cases of sexual misconduct. One alleged victim also appeared before the PAAC.

The college has since taken steps to review its sexual harassment policy, now called the Harassment and Anti-discrimination Policy. Some of the recommendations proposed by an alleged victim were factored into the review of the document, which is still in its draft stages. It will be made available to all staff and students when the new school year begins.