Artistic education is based on personal relationships: between fellow musicians as well as between professor and student. This has always been a characteristic of how art is taught, created and performed and to which it owes its quality. Almost all Higher Music Education (HME) teachers are able to deal with the challenges arising from one-to-one teaching and a close teacher-student relationship from an ethical point of view. But “almost all” also indicates that there are likely to be teachers at HME Institutions to whom this does not apply.
Sexual harassment of a subordinate by a superior, albeit a student or a staff member, has occurred and been known in the field of HME and also at AEC member institutions. The fact that these cases were very seldom punished made those who were affected feel completely powerless; thus, reinforcing their belief that there is no serious interest in highlighting and addressing such incidents.
Yet, something has changed in recent times with regards to how the case has been handled both publicly and in-house. The #MeToo debate has been a necessary and important reminder that sexual connotations, offences and abuse are not permissible, should never be accepted and that people in influential positions as leaders or teachers have a special responsibility for keeping high ethical standards.
Some cases that recently occurred at HME Institutions have also made us aware that there are underlying problems alongside the inappropriate act of sexual harassment itself. Some of the defendants claim to be wrongly accused of sexual abuse because they are convinced that their action was based on mutual agreement. However, this kind of claim proceeds to overlook the power gap that exists in the relationship between an employee and his or her superior or between a teacher and his or her student.
AEC wants to take the #MeToo debate and what is happening at Higher Music Education Institutions as an instance to proactively address the understanding and awareness of power relations within HME in general. Moving beyond this, we acknowledge the importance of acting not only legally correctly, but also ethically responsibly as a HME Institution leader or teacher and to ensure that proper behavior in that sense is a matter of course for the future. Taking in the account of recent developments both in terms of relevant incidents and the public debate on the topic, the AEC Guidelines on Establishing Institutional Codes of Good Practice for Professional Teaching in Conservatoires will be enforced more rigorously than when it was first adopted in 2013.