Students claim abuse at Royal Scots Conservatoire

Students claim abuse at Royal Scots Conservatoire


norman lebrecht

November 04, 2019

Ten students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland have gone public with a complant of ‘systemic abuse’ and ‘grave discrimination’.

They claim that they submitted a complaint some months ago but ‘there continues to be no accountability for us as students and the abuse we have faced’.

The Con says it’s commissioning an external review.

Report here.

The institution’s slogan? ‘The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – Like Nowhere Else’.


  • Paul Brownsey says:

    Some of them seemed not to like being taught by white ‘cishet’ people…

  • Aaron Herschel says:

    “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…”

    Welcome to the wonderful new world of PC correct racism.

    • Paul Brownsey says:

      I wonder what it is to “experience alienation” in this context? How different is it from what could be expressed by, “The people who taught me weren’t like me and so I felt, like, you know, sort of…”?

    • M McAlpine says:

      You couldn’t make it up. So being different now is being discriminatory?

    • Karl says:

      Sounds like snowflake city. Microaggressions – not real abuse.

  • robert freeman says:

    As I have suggested elsewhere on Slipped Disc, egregious behavior on the part of the more powerful on the less powerful is a human problem that goes back to the beginning of our stay on our planet. Music schools are especially vulnerable places as the result of private lessons taught with the door closed. The solution is not apologies for the past but the enactment of policies, passed by the faculty, requiring that
    proven allegation of improper conduct, as defined in advance by the faculty and administration, may result in requiring those misbehaving to resign. Parents planning on sending their children to music schools should check in advance on whether the schools to which their sons and daughters are applying have articulated policies in this area.

    • Paul Brownsey says:

      “Parents planning on sending their children to music schools should check in advance on whether the schools to which their sons and daughters are applying have articulated policies in this area.”

      The RCS is not a place where *children* are sent by their parents.

    • Maria says:

      How stupid! This is not for kids! It is an adult institution for talented musicians based in Scotland! Not America but were getting good at doing everyone in sight! If one cannot get through a music college, one won’t survive the profession itself.

  • V. Lind says:

    On the face of it the Con seems to be taking a responsible, and responsive, position. The student complaint, on the other hand, appears pretty vague. If there is lack of racial sensitivity, it ought indeed to be addressed, though it could be that minority students were treated just like everyone else (which used to be the great demand).

    I take exception to this tosh: “Most staff members fit a particular white, cis-gender, able-bodied and heterosexual mould…” As someone who fits all those criteria — though I have never referred to myself, nor even thought of myself, as “cis-gender,” and never will — I resent the implications. Neither I nor anyone else should be criticised, let alone penalised, for being born female (or male, for that matter) and living that way.

    Nor for being white — that would be racism. Nor being able-bodied — that is good fortune that has not been damaged by misfortune, self-inflicted or otherwise. Nor for OUR sexual preference. What in God’s name is now wrong with holding what is still a majority preference? No more, surely, than with preferring what is still a minority position?

    If there are “disturbing cases of racial discrimination,” they MUST be dealt with. But I see little evidence, or even allegation, of abuse here — it just tastes of wounded feelings. Or perhaps snowflakery. Or vanity.

    I will be very interested in the results of these external investigations. If there is discrimination on any front — racial or sexual or any other form — then I hope they will jump to it and fix things. If the tuition is inadequate, that should be sorted. While I do not like to see students who are treated like, or think of themselves as, customers, they are nonetheless paying good money and investing their time and effort in expectation of a certain standard of education, and deserve that.

    Perhaps we will hear more from students, who might specify what the problems are. Till then, this looks pretty nebulous. The word “bandwagon” springs to mind…

    • Charlie says:

      I don’t think the wording of that paragraph is very good at all, but it’s been edited down to remove naming people.

      There are further details here (publically available):

      and here (on facebook):

      • V. Lind says:

        Well, taking the Facebook posting at face value, this Professor Richardson-Webb sounds a bit of a dinosaur — how amazing that the students have not complained about generational issues.

        But the self-absorbed generation, who DO on the whole spend too much time on their phone screens, cannot see past THEIR take on everything, so can find cause for complaint on every response made by anyone who does not agree with them in every respect. This is not, and does not in any way constitute, abuse. Insensitivity to the egos of the little dears, perhaps.

        The scruff of the neck incident is inappropriate, and borderline abusive. The woman sounds like someone who does not suffer what she rightly or wrongly considers irrelevant very gladly and shoots from the hip. Not a very comfortable teacher, perhaps.

        But I did not see much sensitivity in the response to her own accounting of her own experience — recounted, if I understand the account correctly, in a session meant to be both open and confidential.

        And I am immediately wary of ANYTHING that depends upon the preposterous canard of “trigger warnings” for its credibility. I have heard of cases in English departments where students must be excused from READING books like Jane Eyre, in case they were orphans, let alone anything (like Tess) in which sex is involved. What they are doing taking English is beyond me — wait till they get to the Jacobean drama. And a good deal of Shakespeare.

        There may well be real problems at RCS in need of address. But they will have to do better than this in their litany of woes. In the meantime, I suggest they get a sense of humour, notoriously lacking in the snowflake gang, and try to understand that not everyone was raised like them and different modes of expression need not mean hostility.

        I am not sure that the mantra that “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is, or ever was, entirely true. But those of us raised by it took from it the notion that in life you have to take the rough with the smooth. That meant not winning every race we entered, and not getting a prize if we didn’t. It meant not being spared criticism if we were found to be wrong. It meant being punished if we did something egregious — usually a withdrawal of privileges, like being grounded or our allowance withheld, not just a “time-out.” IT MEANT LOW MARKS IF OUR WORK FAILED TO MAKE THE GRADE. Even failing a course — an almost unheard-of consequence these days.

        Too many of these kids have been raised to think they can do no wrong and anyone who does not find them perfect and do whatever they want them to do is “abusing” them. I have seen the terror inflicted on too many professors by school administrators lest they do anything to “offend” the paying customers. Too many of whom cannot spell, let alone use the language with any semblance of correctness, and are either too idle or too ignorant to consider anything like looking up things they are unsure about.

        Sounds to me like RCS is a bit of a throwback and tries to treat its students like adults. That does not give them licence to denigrate students for any reason, and they ought to be vigorous in their investigations of complaints. But a lot of this sounds like whingeing.

        Snowflakes currently appear to have the upper hand. As do the aggrieved, the easily offended, the self-loving. They have not yet persuaded me of ‘systemic” abuse on any front, though they have made me ponder the vigour of RCS responses to their complaints. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

        Meanwhile, my visceral response to them is “Grow up.”

    • SVM says:

      Hear hear.

  • Peter says:

    I understand that at some conservatoires the faculty are not just of an older generation than the students, but also musically much more accomplished and experienced.
    For some students this may be a source of alienation and cause them significant distress through feelings of inferiority.

  • Bruce says:

    I read a fair amount of the Facebook post, which is very long. I’ll pick one example, from several provided.

    Telling a student who had opened up about her experience of having an abortion — in a setting where it was explicitly stated that anything is OK to talk about, and nobody may offer opinions without permission — and began to cry, that she should “just get a puppy” seems like a betrayal of the “no judgment” promise and also immensely disrespectful.

    Telling the same student (who came up with a performance idea of cradling ice until it melted, to illustrate her experience) that she should instead “smash baby-shaped pieces of ice to show how she destroyed them” again seems a little beyond the pale.

    It actually seems normal, not hypersensitive or snowflake-y, to be bothered by behavior such as this. Maybe it’s just me.

    The part about cis/het white teachers actually reads “6. All-white (and all-cisgender) staff team mainly comprised of CPP graduates selected by Prof. Richardson-Webb [the head of the program and the professor whose behavior is referenced above]. This results in a gross inability to acknowledge the unique position of people of colour on the CPP programme, and the racism they experience within it.”

    On the one hand: oh, boo-hoo, of course you are going to have teachers different from you who have no idea what your life is like.

    On the other hand, it’s not quite as ridiculous a complaint as other commenters have tried to make it look. To me the “selected by Prof. Richardson-Webb” is the telling part, not the cis/ het/ white part. Anyone can feel sympathy for someone whose circumstances are different; but not everyone does. If I were in these students’ shoes, I would be hesitant to go to any of these other professors for help since (a) being handpicked by the Gorgon, they might not be any more sympathetic than she, and (b) even if they are sympathetic, they might be afraid to say or do anything because she might have them as terrorized as she has the students.

    If you are feeling (or being) abused or belittled by a professor and have nowhere to go for help to remedy the situation, then that’s a problem.