My Take

A performance we should all be ashamed of

Allegations of sexual harassment at the Academy for Performing Arts have, for all intents and purposes, been swept under the carpet

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 1:37am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 1:37am

It’s about time. The most controversial chief of the Academy for Performing Arts will finally leave “for family reasons”.

During Ceri Sherlock’s five-year tenure, the school’s reputation has been hurt by allegations of sexual harassment of students and the shameful way in which management had treated Peter Jordan, a whistle-blower among its academic staff.

If Jordan, the former head of acting, had not risked his career and stepped forward, the public would never have known about the allegations, which were kept under lid for years.

Jordan lost his job. But thanks to his efforts, the school has now instituted procedures to address harassment claims. Welcome to the 21st century.

An internal investigation, the contents of which will be forever kept from the public, has cleared Sherlock of wrongdoings. The school and Sherlock both agreed to pay Jordan HK$1 million in an out-of-court settlement without having to admit liability.

In other words, taxpayers helped the school and Sherlock pay to make it all go away. By halting the court case and refusing to publish its internal findings, the school has made sure taxpayers would never know what really happened. All the while, the government’s funding agencies showed little interest in the case or its related issues.

Scandal-plagued dean Ceri Sherlock to leave Hong Kong arts school post for ‘family reasons’

A recent survey conducted by the students’ union showed that more than one in 10 students at the academy had experienced sexual harassment by professors and that close to one in five had witnessed classmates being sexually harassed. It also found that the majority of students were unaware of how to report such incidents to school authorities.

We don’t know how accurate the survey is but clearly, on-campus harassment at the academy is a serious issue that must be addressed.

“Anyone who abuses their trust and power should not be allowed to leave ‘honourably’,” Jordan said.

Sadly, this is how we do things in Hong Kong, by sweeping dirt under the rug and hoping no one would expose it.

Of course, it’s ironic that the school’s students have become very politically active. They kept disrupting their own graduation ceremonies to protest against the government and making their stance on universal suffrage known.

Students this politically aware and astute might have made anti-harassment a cause celebre on their own campus. It is, after all, something that directly affects them.