A senior member of staff at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland at the centre of an investigation into “bullying and misuse of authority” has left the school, it has been confirmed.
According to newly published documents, Deborah Richardson-Webb, the course leader of RCS’ Contemporary Performance Practice programme, is “no longer employed” by the Glasgow-based conservatoire. She had previously been suspended pending investigation.
The culture of the CPP course was the subject of an independent external review, which also focused on the school’s complaints procedure, following a series of allegations that the college routinely failed to act on “systemic abuse” faced by students on the course.
This included “ableism, queerphobia and transphobia”, with students claiming that their complaints – six of which were upheld – were not being handled properly by the school. The review subsequently reported claims of “favouritism, bullying and misuse of authority”.
Jee Chan, a former student on the course who was one of the 10 individuals involved in the complaints process, said the news that Richardson-Webb was no longer employed by the school was “heartening”.
However, he said that the decision to conduct the review was “a direct result of pushback from students” rather than an active decision by the school, adding: “The RCS has fallen short of issuing any form of apology to us students. My peers and I urge principal Jeffrey Sharkey and the board of governors to demonstrate actual accountability by issuing a public statement of apology. We believe this is a vital step for the RCS to re-establish trust with its student community and state its commitment to lasting change.”
The newly published document also details changes carried out in the six months since the review was published to turn around the CPP programme.
This includes measures taken to “stabilise” the course, such as “agreements between staff and students to implement safe words, shared objectives and boundaries in classes and other activities to reinforce individuals’ safety”.
Since the review was published in February, staff on the CPP course are set to receive mental health first aid training, while the update also said that a wider range of visiting artists are now being sought, with priority on black, Asian and minority ethnic tutors.
RCS’ complaints handling procedure has also been overhauled as a result of the review, with additional training and an anti-racism plan in development.
A spokeswoman for RCS said: “Having commissioned an independent review last November, RCS has shared with its community a full six-monthly update of all actions taken at institutional and programme level, as well as the future actions and developments planned.
“A great amount of work has been and continues to be done and we are committed to an RCS which aims to be truly inclusive and responsive to positive change.”