RAM! Wounded bassoon wins ‘gypos’ case against Royal Academy of Music

Francesca Carpos, who was fired from her teaching post for allegedly referring to violinists as ‘gypos’ has won her case for unfair dismissal against the Royal Academy of Music, in London.

The judge, Sarah Goodman, ruled: ‘At most the claimant can be accused of foolishness in failing to anticipate how a superficial readership might wrench some of the terms out of context and manufacture a sense of outrage that was entirely disproportionate (on a plain reading of her notes and email) to the document’s plain intent’.

The loss is hugely embarrassing for RAM, which first urged Francesca to publish her lecture notes unedited, and then fired her in sheer terror when the flak flew online.

Francesca tells Slipped Disc: ‘I am thrilled by the verdict…. I am passionate about sharing my research and exposing uncomfortable truths in the classical music industry. It was hugely painful for me to lose the job I loved, and to suffer such significant damage to my reputation as a musician and teacher in the circumstances that I did. It has been an extremely difficult year for me and my family, but I am delighted by this outcome, and I am looking forward to moving on with my career.’

 

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  • I could be mistaken, but I don’t think the students ever asked that Ms. Carpos be fired. Did they? I know they asked for this:

    “In response to this letter, we call for the immediate establishment of a student-led Working Group on Equality and Diversity in order to devise both a both short-term and long-term response to both the letter and the broader climate to which it speaks.”

    The goal of the group was to be the formulation of a set of recommendations to remedy the widely prevalent attitudes demonstrated in Ms. Carpos’ email.

    Was that student working group ever established, and did they make a set of recommendations? Or did the firing cut short that work?

    Was it this incident that led the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the Musicians Union to establish the code of conduct it published last summer? Info about the code is here:

    https://www.m-magazine.co.uk/news/music-sector-code-of-conduct-launched/

  • Interesting. The identity politics warriors will doubtless be foaming at the mouth now.
    Anyway, “gypo” was misspelt, it should have two “p”s to ensure correct pronunciation.

  • Thank you for including us in on your hit-and-run attack. :-/

    You do realize that your ambush fails without providing the very details you “cannot go into”.

    • There is a huge difference between “gypsy” and “gypo”. “Gypsy” is a perfectly acceptable term. For example, I happen to be reading right now Wistrich’s Hitler and the Holocaust, which uses the term frequently. “Gypo”, on the other hand, is an offensive term.

      • Interesting. I’m not sure, but I think the term “gypo” is used in the UK, but not in the USA, or seldom. I’ve never heard it used in the States, and only learned of the term when this incident arose. In the States, and I think also in the UK, the term gypsy has fallen into a questionable light since it has a long history of being used as a slur. It seems to be in a sort of transitional no-man’s land between acceptable and not.

        • Yes, in the UK it is a fairly common term to hear when people are talking offensively about gypsies, who are still widely discriminated against in the UK. As for whether the term gypsy itself is now considered offensive, I think in the UK usage at any rate it is one of those words that isn’t offensive, but which is sometimes avoided because people think that it is. Rather like some people now think that the word ‘Jew’ is offensive. I know some people who insist that the correct term is ‘Jewish person’, while numerous Jews of my acquaintance (as well as all scholars I have read) happily use the word ‘Jew’. Likewise some people now tell me that ‘black’ is offensive. I’m all for not offending people, but sometimes people seem to perceive offence where it doesn’t exist.

          • As a Jew, I affirm that “Jew” is fine. It’s “goddamned Jew” that’s the problem. It appears as though that the term she mentioned was only to claim that British musicians use it as shorthand for “violinist,” rather than as an degradation of a people. Maybe not so smart, but still different than hurling racist epithets

          • Yes, I for one didn’t think that she was actually a neo-Nazi or anything of that sort. I just thought it was rather bad manners to send out an email to students at the academy who were not actually attending her classes.

  • What really caused unhappiness at the RAM, according to a friend of mine who teaches there, is that she saw fit to send this document out, unsolicited, to students who were not actually in her classes. This was, quite rightly, considered to be bad form. I used to teach in higher education myself, and it would never have occurred to me to send something out, unsolicited, and without approval from senior academics, to students who were not in my classes. Clearly the RAM’s response was disproportionate and unlawful, but I know that there were those at the RAM who considered her actions to be discourteous and poor etiquette.

  • Not sure it was a firing offence, and I am not in favour of bristling to the point of modern-day “offence” at every off-the-cuff remark, but I must say I find this document extremely distasteful, inappropriate and lacking in judgment. Warranted at least a bollocking.

    • I agree with everything you say.

      Some of the conduct that the document promotes is behaviour that contributes to a really unpleasant culture in parts of the professional musical world, which causes a lot of misery for young freelance musicians; the document also seems to give them permission to perpetuate some of the really juvenile behaviour one encounters in the orchestral world. I don’t think that Ms Carpos should have been fired, but I think the fact that she circulated a document like this is a real cause for concern.

      • I think the real cause for concern was that she thought it was ok to send something like this out to people who were not her own students. If the academy email program has an option to mail all students that should be used by senior staff with a legitimate interest in emailing all students. She’d only been at the academy, in a relatively junior role, for about a month when she took it upon herself to pull this stunt. Academics often put together handy guides like this for the benefit of their students, but they only send them out to their own students. If I am stipendiary lecturer in contemporary antipodean studies at St Bruce’s College, Uxbridge, I may email my notes on how to have a great gap year down under to my own students, but I would not email them to the entire university. Sending this document out to all students showed staggeringly poor judgement.

        You are also right that the advice sent out was pretty shoddy. The whole thing looked unprofessional and reinforced some very questionable attitudes, such as advising students not to take certain prescription medications indicated for heart conditions and anxiety. Just think about that: a lecturer at a music college advising her students not to take medication that may have been prescribed for them by a cardiologist, psychiatrist, or general practitioner.

  • Next, those mainstays of the virtuoso violin repertoire, Sarasate ‘Ziguenerweise’ and Ravel Tzigane will be off limits.

  • Having waited a while for the obvious comment, I’ll make it. You do know that this particular academic had previously researched – and then commented on publicly – the disproportionate influence of freemasonry inside classical music in Britain? This clearly annoyed some people.

    Her email is what it was and has been discussed at length. However the resulting fuss at RAM is a little more complicated than reported. Just saying. For the record. On the square and all.

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