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JVLMA padome izsaka neuzticību akadēmijas rektoram

Music academy head alleged to have known about harassment of students

The Council of Jāzeps Vītols' Academy of Music (JVLMA) has decided to express its disloyalty to the Academy rector Guntars Prānis in connection with the allegations of sexual harassment of students by professors, Latvian Television reported March 11 evening.

The rector Guntars Prānis was invited to a conversation with Jāzeps Vītols' Latvian Academy of Music Council on Monday morning as a response to the testimony of seven women about sexual harassment. During the weekend, the academy's management approached law enforcement.

The State Police confirmed it had received an application from the academy and it was registered on the morning of Monday, March 11. But as information is currently being evaluated and the circumstances clarified, police are refusing to comment further.

One employee received disciplinary action, the rector said: "I can assure you that this has been very carefully assessed by the Ethics Commission disciplinary action has been taken and there have been a number of positions lost."

Which employee has lost positions was not disclosed by the rector.

In February, an anonymous survey on harassment in the academy was also conducted by the student self-government. "The responses were shocking on the one hand. On the other hand, the answer is that these same teacher names that were seen there, they have been dominating informal conversations among students for many years," said Kira Maija Kirsanova, deputy chairw of JVLMA's Student Authority. "There are a number of specific surnames that everybody knows about."

From a variety of unrelated sources, the name of Ancient Music Department head Māris Kupčs comes out as one of the lecturers who may have overstepped boundaries in contact with female students. Kupčs traveled to Lithuania Monday. In a phone call with LTV, he pointed out: "I certainly haven't taken any acts of a sexual nature. I really deny it. No touch, God forbid. In the context of the anonymous survey, there is something about romantic relationships, there was favoritism."

Many ask if the academy leadership knew all this and allowed it. The rector also works at Ancient Music Department, led by Māris Kupčs.

"Everything that came out on the [television broadcast] was a shock to me as well. It was completely new information," said rector Guntars Pranis.

However, LTV reported earlier that there were female students who had approached the rector personally.

Prānis, commenting on this, said: "That's something I can't confirm. I constantly have different conversations about ethical issues [..] but I have so far had no signal of sexual abuse or harassment."

When asked if the rector should resign himself, the rector replies that he has always done everything in his best conscience. Responsibility for what happened, according to the rector, lies with the perpetrator.

On the afternoon of Monday 11 March, JVLMA Council voiced its distrust of the rector in a confidence vote and called on him to resign. Council President Helēna Demakova explained:

"It came to light that the rector has known [this] for a long time. There have been several times when female students have gone and informed him. There has been no follow-up after."

Prānis did not comment on the Council's decision for now: "I learned this from LETA's website and frankly I have no comment at this time. I have to think about it properly, read it. Then I can make a comment

The Council's decision is supported by the Minister for Culture, Agnese Logina (Progressives), who said: "The question I am most interested in right now is how has this cover-up happened? And who are the people who have known about these people who are crossing boundaries with students and who are using their power to influence students? If it is clear that the cover-up has taken place at the highest level, there must clearly be responsibility for it."

On Tuesday March 12, the minister will meet the rector and Council to discuss the academy's further governance. 

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