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Allegations of Sexual Harassment at the University of Texas

An article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. 

An email commentary by William Osborne follows.


Posted to the wave list July 15, 2002

A while back we were discussing the mechanisms of sexism and the forms of "masculinism" it engenders. The forms of sexual crudity described in the article below can be a form of male bonding consciously or unconsciously used to make women feel excluded. Occassional off-color remarks bother very few people, but it is a problem when they are consistent and create an atmosphere of exclusion, intimidation and superiority. 

The shadow of this form of male solidarity is exclusion.

And above all else, the behavior described below is so unprofessional. It demeans the intelligence and dignity for which institutions of higher education should stand. It is not behavior women should ever have to accept in a college or university.

William Osborne

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Chronicle of Higher Education
From the issue dated June 7, 2002

Music's Open Secret


In music schools, the relationship between professor and
student is extraordinarily intimate. Hours are spent one on
one, behind closed doors in soundproof practice rooms.
Touching is often necessary, as the professor teaches students
how to breathe or place their fingers on an instrument. The
lines between personal and professional may blur, particularly
when a young musician is dependent on a professor's approval
for career success, and when the mentor grows accustomed to
the feelings that admiration and power can bestow.

And that special relationship explains music schools'
not-so-secret secret:Sexual affairs between male professors
and female students are common, and so is unwanted physical

"The teacher and student relationship in music has virtually
no comparison in other academic fields," says William Osborne,
a composer and outspoken critic of classical music's treatment
of women. "It is essentially a master and apprentice
relationship. It is not supervised or witnessed by anybody
else, and so the potential for issues involving sexual
harassment is great."

Although colleges distribute pamphlets telling students how to
report sexual harassment, and offer training for professors on
how to behave, it is rare for word of actual instances to
surface outside the practice-room walls. Yet there is
anecdotal evidence that sexual harassment is a serious
problem, and recently the issue became public when two music
schools were hit with formal charges. 

These cases, according to female music students, raise the
question of whether universities are either unaware of the
sexual climate in their music schools or unconcerned about
policing their professors. They also send a warning that, even
though a student must prove that a university showed
"deliberate indifference" to a complaint to win in court,
institutions are susceptible to such charges.

At the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, a former oboe
student, Maureen Johnson, now 26, won $250,000 in damages in
April as a result of her lawsuit claiming that she was
repeatedly sexually harassed by a visiting professor. The
university has said it did everything possible to try to stop
the harassment and will appeal the jury's verdict. But Ms.
Johnson, who dropped out of music school following the events,
says her victory sends a message that colleges are responsible
if their professors create a hostile environment.

Here at the University of Texas, Monica Lynn, 37, has filed a
complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for
Civil Rights, charging that the music school's most prominent
composition professor repeatedly made off-color jokes and
remarks that made her uncomfortable. In the last several
months, a handful of current and former students, both male
and female, have joined Ms. Lynn in protesting the atmosphere
in the department. Their complaints paint a picture of a boys'
club in which some music professors joke about strip clubs,
sing songs about the male anatomy, comment on the physical
appearance of female performers, and carry on sexual
relationships with students.

The university has said Ms. Lynn's charges have no merit, and
professors say she's simply angry because they refused to
admit her to the music-composition program. But Ms. Lynn, who
earned an undergraduate degree in music theory last spring,
says it's more complicated than that. "I never had a chance to
find out if I was a composer, because I had to deal with so
much abusive behavior. I couldn't stand the thought of leaving
this school and knowing that every young woman who comes here
and wants to study composition is going to be destroyed."

Craving Approval

The black-and-white photographs that line the walls of the
dean's office in the College of Fine Arts here tell the
history of women in music. In three pictures -- a 1911
portrait of John Philip Sousa's band, a 1947 photo of the
Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a 1963 picture of Princeton
University's music department -- only one of the musicians is

The photos are here because they feature male family members
of the dean, Robert Freeman. Missing from the group are any
shots of his mother playing the violin with the Boston
symphony. That's because when she auditioned in 1951, the
conductor told her the orchestra already had two female
members, Mr. Freeman recalls.

The situation for women in music has certainly changed in the
last 50 years, but not as much as some would like. That's
particularly so in composition and orchestral conducting, two
of music's most male-dominated fields. The charges of sexual
harassment at Austin center on the music-composition
department, where all four faculty members are male. Of the
department's 18 undergraduate majors, one is a woman, and of
its 37 graduate students, five are female. Nationwide, of the
1,850 professors of music composition listed in the College
Music Society's 2001-2 directory, only 178 are female. 

The small number of women in the field can make female
musicians feel isolated, and cultivate an environment where
sexual harassment -- and discrimination -- are allowed to
flourish. Linda Dusman, a composer at the University of
Maryland-Baltimore County and one of the few women to head a
music department, says these issues are "enormous" in music.
But that doesn't mean anyone talks about them, she says,
because "people have their heads in the music, and that's
what's considered important."

Perhaps because so much of musical training is based on
criticism, students crave their professors' approval. "If
there is someone who can tell you, 'Yes, you've got it,' that
invites intimacy, and it invites trust and dependence," says a
woman who earned her master's degree in vocal performance from
the University of Kansas and asked not to be identified.

Outside the classroom, after concerts and rehearsals, students
often seek out more contact with professors. "For graduate
students, casual time with the mentor is like gold," says Ms.
Dusman. "It's part of the culture. If you have a teacher who
promotes your music, that will be incredibly helpful in
getting your career started."

At many music schools, stories abound of male professors who
greet female students with a kiss on the mouth, make sexually
explicit comments, and ask them out on dates.

Some female students consider such personal contact and crude
behavior part of the territory. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, who
runs an electronic-mailing list on gender and music technology
and is writing a book about the history of women composers,
says "putting up with the crap" is just part of the road to
success. "There are women who say that's a crime and wonder
why they should have to do that, and my personal opinion is,
because you do."

Ms. Johnson, the former University of Michigan musician,
refused. She started her graduate work at Ann Arbor in 1997,
playing first-chair oboe in the School of Music orchestra.
Pier Calabria, a visiting professor from Italy, was the
orchestra's associate director. Ms. Johnson says he came to
the campus library where she worked and repeatedly asked her
for dates and told her how sexy she was. After she spurned his
advances, she says, Mr. Calabria demoted her to fourth chair
and told her she didn't have what it took to be a musician.
Ms. Johnson dropped out before finishing her degree, then
filed a lawsuit against Michigan for failing to deal with the
problem. In April, she won the award when a jury agreed with
her complaint. The university has said it does not tolerate
sexual harassment, and contends it did everything it could to
stop the harassment. Mr. Calabria was not named as a defendant
in the case because he has returned to Italy.

"Conductors have so much power, and no one questions their
authority, ever," says Ms. Johnson, who is now a
telecommunications engineer in Denver.

A Hostile Atmosphere? 

Monica Lynn moved to Austin to earn an undergraduate degree in
music composition in the early 1990s. She was divorced and had
earned a bachelor's degree in nursing. She attended music
courses part time while working at local hospitals.

Ms. Lynn says she knew from the beginning that the way male
professors at UT treated female students wasn't right.

"I'm a really strong person," she says. "I'm older, and I have
a grasp of what's acceptable and what's legal."

Her problems began during her first semester of music
composition in the fall of 1995, when the graduate teaching
assistant who taught the course made dirty jokes in class, she
says. Another male teaching assistant, she says, advised her
to use her "feminine wiles" to get ahead in music, stared at
her legs during class, stroked her hair as he walked by, and
put his arm around her.

Although anyone is allowed to enroll in music-composition
courses at Austin, students who want to declare it their major
must pass a jury, where professors assess the quality of music
they have written. In the fall of 1998, after earning an A in
two composition courses, Ms. Lynn failed her first jury.
During the evaluation, she says, Dan E. Welcher, a professor
of composition, noted that she was a nurse, and commented that
now "he would know who to call when his back was hurting."

Bigger Than Life

Over the next two years, Ms. Lynn came to consider Mr. Welcher
her biggest opponent in the music-composition program, and
attributed his behavior to the fact that she rejected his
personal attention and refused to laugh at his jokes. She
failed her final jury in the spring of 2000. During the
15-minute session with Mr. Welcher and two other professors,
she says, Mr. Welcher asked her not about her music, but about
her job as a neonatal-intensive-care nurse. Had she heard
about a benefit held in a city park for a new "milk bank" that
supplied donated breast milk to premature infants? she
remembers him asking. "I just envision women pulling out their
breasts in the park and breast-feeding people right then and
there," Ms. Lynn recalls the professor saying with a snort of

Later in the year, at a holiday party, she says Mr. Welcher
 (pictured at right) asked her to go to the Yellow Rose, a local 

strip joint, an invitation she refused. She remembers him 

announcing in a loud voice, "Hey, Monica will be dancing tonight. 

She'll be wearing her dog collar and chain."

In December 2000, three days after the party, Ms. Lynn filed a
sexual-harassment complaint with the university, charging that
Mr. Welcher's comments created a hostile environment for
female students. 

Mr. Welcher, who is not married, denies he made any of the
statements Ms. Lynn complained about. He is a larger-than-life
figure at Austin's music school. He directs its New Music
Ensemble, a group of about 20 advanced instrumentalists and
singers. He has been at the university since 1978, and has
written more than 80 works for opera, symphony, and chamber
orchestras. His Web site calls him one of the "most played
composers of his generation."

Mr. Welcher refused to speak to The Chronicle, but sent
several statements by e-mail. He vigorously denies making the
comments that Ms. Lynn has attributed to him, and contends
that she has concocted a story of sexual harassment out of
bitterness over her academic failure.

"The only 'reputation' I have is that of a very demanding
teacher," he wrote in one e-mail message. "I do sometimes
intimidate certain kinds of students with my directness and my
candor about their music. But none of this has anything to do
with sexual harassment."

In a letter to the university, Mr. Welcher made it clear that
he believes Ms. Lynn lacks talent. "A would-be composer who
lacks sufficient musical skills, a good ear, or the ability to
produce competent music after three years of study must face
the unpleasant fact that she is not suited to this career," he
wrote. "If the student cannot accept this, it is her right to
go elsewhere and try again -- but not to malign the faculty
with libelous statements."

Russell F. Pinkston, an associate professor of music
composition at Austin, says Ms. Lynn's charges amount to a
"smear" campaign against the faculty here. "The irony is, we
are bending over backwards to support and encourage female
composers," he says. "If you have anything going for you as a
woman composer, you can write your own ticket here."

Female musicians who have been successful here say that, while
male professors can be crude and rude, they don't believe that
amounts to sexual harassment. "Dan Welcher shoots his mouth
off," says Larisa Montanaro, who is finishing up her doctorate
in vocal performance at the music school. "He could use a few

But nothing Professor Welcher has done qualifies as sexual
harassment, in her book. "There are women who really
experience sexual harassment, and that's what bugs me most,"
says Ms. Montanaro. "If these women [at UT] were expecting to
go through life without these kind of men in the world, they
need to get a grip. They're everywhere."

In fact, legal experts say that while unwanted touching and
aggressive sexual behavior are considered sexual harassment
under the law, so are comments and suggestions that are
unwelcome and that create an atmosphere of hostility.

The university's own policy seems tailor-made to root out the
very behavior Ms. Lynn complained of. It says "gratuitous
comments of a sexual nature such as explicit statements,
questions, jokes or anecdotes" can be considered sexual
harassment. Under "sexual misconduct," the university lists
"repeatedly engaging in sexually oriented conversations,
comments or horseplay."

The university's investigation this spring into Ms. Lynn's
charges was conducted by Lee S. Smith, associate vice
president for legal affairs. According to documents obtained
under the state's open-records law, Mr. Smith asked Mr.
Welcher and his colleagues whether he had said the things Ms.
Lynn alleged. All of the professors said no. Mr. Smith won't
discuss the investigation, but from the documents, it appears
that he did not interview students.

Other students have complained about Mr. Welcher. One woman
who is currently enrolled in the doctoral program in music
composition wrote a letter to the civil-rights office at the
Education Department about a dinner she and a male graduate
student had at Mr. Welcher's home last summer. The professor
sang a song called "Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?"
and showed the students pictures of his trip to Greece, the
woman wrote. In one photo, Mr. Welcher was naked, she said,
and in another a cat was sitting alone on a sidewalk. Mr.
Welcher, she wrote, explained that he'd taken the picture of
the female cat because it had just been "gang banged" by
several male cats. Mr. Welcher told The Chronicle that he did
nothing inappropriate that evening and that the student
exaggerated and misconstrued the events. 

Consensual Relationships

Ms. Lynn's case also prompted Katie Jahnke, who graduated this
spring, to fire off a letter to the OCR. In March 2000, Ms.
Jahnke filed a sexual-harassment complaint with the university
about Daniel M. Johnson, who directs the music school's Early
Music Ensemble. Ms. Jahnke says she had a sexual relationship
with Mr. Johnson for about 10 months in 1996, when she was a
freshman in music performance and sang in the ensemble. Ms.
Jahnke was 19; Mr. Johnson, who is not married, was 45.

After she ended the relationship, Ms. Jahnke says, Mr. Johnson
refused to give her solo opportunities. Although their
relationship was consensual, Ms. Jahnke says she later came to
believe it amounted to sexual harassment, in part because Mr.
Johnson retaliated against her for ending it. She dropped out
of music and became a government major.

"My whole perception of how my voice sounded was affected by
that relationship," says Ms. Jahnke, who graduated this
spring. Although the university found that Mr. Johnson had
dated at least three female students, including Ms. Jahnke,
while they were taking his classes -- something UT-Austin's
policy discouraged -- and that he had lied to the university
about his sexual affairs, the college decided that his
behavior did not amount to sexual harassment. Mr. Johnson did
not respond to requests for an interview.

Mr. Freeman, the fine-arts dean, says he'd like to crack down
on consensual relationships between professors and students.
"Wait until she graduates," he says he tells male professors.
"We have a kind of sacred trust to the students," he explains.
"They're coming here to get us to evaluate what their
abilities are and what their future could be. These
relationships poison the whole academic well."

Still, Mr. Freeman insists that nothing he's seen or heard
about at Austin is different from what goes on in schools of
music elsewhere: "There certainly isn't a plague of problems."

The civil-rights office, which visited the music school in
April to talk to students and faculty members, won't comment
on its investigation. Last year, it considered 46 complaints
of sexual harassment in all colleges nationwide. Although the
agency has the power to cut off federal money to universities
it finds guilty of ignoring harassment complaints, that hardly
ever happens. If the office finds problems, it usually merely
asks a college to fix them.

"The hard reality is that sexual harassment, in the workplace
and on college campuses, just is not going away," said Frank
Vinik, a lawyer and risk manager with United Educators, a
member-owned insurance pool for colleges and universities.

This spring, in the Bates Recital Hall at UT-Austin, Ms. Lynn
held a recital of songs she has composed. Because she
graduated last spring with a bachelor's degree in music
theory, she didn't have to put on the recital, which is
required only for composition majors. But she wanted to do it
anyway. For an hour, her friends and relatives listened to the
percussion and vocal pieces she had spent years crafting.

"I've been writing songs since I was 6 years old," she says.
"If no one ever heard a note, I'd still be writing." 


This article from The Chronicle is available online at this address:

Copyright 2002 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

[A comment on the above article and email responses to it.  Opinions are very divided about Ms. Wilson's article.]

Posted July 17, 2001 to the wave list.

I think Elizabeth's intention in the quote in the article "Music's Open Secret" was to encourage women to look past "the crap" [sexual harassment] and not be deterred.

Some of the statements in her e-mail defending UT, and the statements made by the alleged perpetrators in the article are more complicated. They exemplify the difficulties women can face when they attempt to resist harassment and/or discrimination. The defensive assertions and/or implications follow the age-old and classic reactions of patriarchy:

+ Professional women who complain are merely embittered liars, untalented and incompetent; 

+ Women's claims are not credible and full of inconsistencies;

+ The alleged perpetrators are unfairly accused and slandered. They are the actual victims. We are to pity the men; not the women they allegedly mistreated. 

+ Women are the most valued alibis for the alleged perpetrators, and among the most outspoken critics of the accusers. (See the email I sent a few months ago "The Sociology of Tokenism" for additional perspectives on this last point.) 

+ Attempts to report the situation, or to document it, are often met with a wall of institutional silence created by an atmosphere of intimidation and patriarchal solidarity. 

So what is really going on at UT? In a department with a 17/1 ratio for undergrad composition students, 32/5 for graduate students, and no women composition professors, it is clearly problematic when women students complain of harassment. The numbers do not suggest the department is as woman-friendly as some will claim after obtaining Eizabeth's e-mail. (And we can be certain the e-mail will be zealously ceased upon, regardless of Elizabeth's intentions.)

So as a balance, let us remember that Ms. Lynn did not make the only complaints. There were -four- women in the article who spoke of misconduct and all were quoted or referred to. Here are some of the extemely disrespectful actions and statements attributed to the composition professor in question:

+ After inviting Ms. Lynn to a strip joint he joked to a group of men: "Hey, Monica will be dancing tonight. She'll be wearing her dog collar and chain."

+ During one of her juries, he referred to a benefit concert for breast milk donated to premature infants: "'I just envision women pulling out their breasts in the park and breast-feeding people right then and there,' Ms. Lynn recalls the professor saying with a snort of laughter." 

+ And another woman (not Ms. Lynn) reports: "The professor sang a song called 'Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?' and showed the students pictures of his trip to Greece, the woman wrote. In one photo, Mr. Welcher was naked, she said, and in another a cat was sitting alone on a sidewalk. Mr. Welcher, she wrote, explained that he'd taken the picture of the female cat because it had just been 'gang banged' by several male cats."

In addition:

+ A student who had an affair with a professor in his mid forties when she was a 19 year old Freshman alleges harassment after she ended the relationship. 

+ A fourth woman confirmed that misconduct exists. She did not want to call it sexual harassment even though it would likely fit the school's definition.

So with allegations made by four women, can the article about UT be brushed aside? And why attack only Ms. Lynn?

It is true that the article has weaknesses, in part, because the author, Robin Wilson, is not a musicia. But that raises a very serious question. Why are so few musicians writing about sexual harassment and discrimination? There are some excellent possibilities for case studies, and musicians could write with much more specific knowledge and insight. 

Well, as the article points out, it wouldn't be a very wise career decision. But that isn't the whole answer. Even in relatively benign issues, musicians seem reluctant to act. Why hasn't there even been a listing compiled to show the m/f ratios for composition professors in US colleges and universities? Or why do we have to rely on NOW to hold protests at the VPO's Carnegie Concerts, since none of the hundreds of women musicians in NYC will even show up? Afterall, the VPO situation couldn't be more egregious or better documented.

And so, here we are, challenging Ms. Lynn, when we could also be:

+ Discussing the difficulties in raising and substantiating harassment and discrimination cases;

+ Developing specific solutions and strategies for resistance;

+ Listing organizations that might help women music students who face harassment;

+ Discussing the specific forms of backlash women confront when resisting harassment;

+ Discussing why there is so much silence about these issues in the music-world and what can be done to encourage women to speak out;

+ Discussing more precisely differentiated terms and definitions for sexual misconduct in teaching situations.

And so on.

Again, this general situation is nothing new. I can tell you from long experience in these matters that if you challenge patriarchy, you must be ready to rely on no one but yourself. The vast majority of people, including most women, will turn their back regardless of the merits of the case. (See: "You Sound Like A Ladies Orchestra: A Case History of Sexism Against Abbie Conant In the Munich Philharmonic" at http://www.osborne-conant.org/ladies.htm ) 

Such behavior inevitably comes when opposing the monolithic paradigm of patriarchy, but do not under any circumstances let that deter you. As Abbie has pointed out in one of her articles, "the first victory is the decision to resist." And in some respects, it will be one of the most important and valued victories you will ever have.

William Osborne




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