Students and recent graduates from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland have accused the school of failing to act against “systemic abuse” and “grave discrimination”, which they claim is present at the institution.
A group comprising alumni and current students from the college’s Contemporary Performance Practice degree have demanded a public acknowledgement of their alleged mistreatment. They have also called for staff to be required to take unconscious bias training.
It follows the revelation that an official complaint was made to RCS by 10 students earlier this year. This complaint, related to alleged breaches of the conservatoire’s dignity at work and study policy, was upheld following an investigation by an independent panel.
The students involved have now published an open letter to RCS senior management condemning its handling of the complaint, which until now had not been made public.
They argue that six months on, “there continues to be no accountability for us as students and the abuse we have faced”, and they are calling on the school to “adequately address the grave discrimination and abuse faced by so many students on the CPP programme”.
In March, RCS’ director of drama, dance, production and film, Hugh Hodgart, wrote to then student Chan Teck Guan Egan, saying he would be in contact “in due course to confirm what future steps will be necessary for everyone involved to achieve the re-establishment of trust”.
However, Chan, who has now graduated, claims to have had no response from Hodgart or any other staff before contacting Hodgart again in September.
Now, the students and graduates have made public their claims of multiple instances of alleged discrimination in an open letter, which has been circulated on social media. Their allegations include claims of physical intimidation and inappropriate remarks about students’ mental health issues and about sexual abuse.
Five named signatories, including Chan, have signed the letter alongside a number of anonymous students.
Three of the named students have now graduated. However, the group does include current students on the course.
They argue that the all-white staff team on the Contemporary Performance Practice course “results in a gross inability to acknowledge the unique position of people of colour on the CPP programme”.
“Most staff members fit a particular white, cis-gender, able-bodied and heterosexual mould. As a result, for example, an overwhelming majority of the students of colour who studied on the CPP programme have, at best, experienced alienation and lack of support… and at worst, disturbing cases of racial discrimination,” the letter argues.
The group has now issued a list of demands to RCS senior management, which includes a formal acknowledgement of the “systemic abuse” they claim to have faced on the programme, and for compensation, because “RCS has breached its contract to provide us with an adequate standard of tuition”.
They also ask that RCS deliver “mandatory anti-oppression training” on unconscious bias and “anti-racist teaching and learning”, as well as calling for dedicated staff members to be appointed and a ‘hate crime reporting centre’ to be established.
In response, a statement from RCS said that it “has zero tolerance of discrimination in any kind”.
“We take all student feedback and complaints seriously, encourage our students to use their voice and to make full use of robust processes in place to ensure every one of them, as well as our staff, can learn and work in a safe, supportive and creative environment.
“We are commissioning an external review of the key areas of concern highlighted to us by our student community and will take on board any recommendations,” it said.