In May of 2023, I was compelled to turn down an honorary doctorate from the Cleveland Institute of Music. My original statement is below. The following September, VAN magazine published an excellent overview of the school's current problems and the issues that led me to withdraw. More recently, the students have been circulating a petition in an effort to get the board to take action. It's a sad situation at a major music conservatory, and one that I hope ultimately finds a happier resolution than has been apparent to date.
On May 20, 2023, I was supposed to receive an honorary doctorate from the Cleveland Institute of Music and deliver the commencement address. Unfortunately and with regret, I feel compelled to decline this honor.
Obviously this is not a decision I’ve made lightly. But CIM is in the middle of an investigation concerning sex-based discrimination, known as Title IX (some of which has been documented on Norman Lebrecht’s website, Slipped Disc, and in the Chicago Tribune in an article by Hannah Edgar). Over the last few weeks, a number of students and faculty have reached out to me, many of them anonymously, and spoken to me to tell me their versions of what’s going on.
The school has now hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation, as is right and proper, and I look forward to the full situation being revealed and properly dealt with in the next few months.
However, regardless of what the investigation determines, I am not convinced, based on my many conversations, that CIM has acted in the best interests of its students and faculty, and I am therefore uncomfortable appearing to support the leadership of the institution at this particular time. I believe that I was chosen for this recognition not least for my work in addressing #MeToo in the classical music world; and I am thus especially unwilling to have my name linked to a situation in which many women I spoke to feeling unheard, afraid and angry in precisely the ways that my coauthor Peggy McGlone and I tried so hard to address in our 2018 Washington Post story.
I am not currently a full-time journalist, which means I don’t have to present this story in a way that I would if I were preparing it for print, or reveal the names of my sources, even if I knew all of them. I simply have had to satisfy myself that I was getting an accurate picture of the situation and that I am acting in accordance with my conscience, and I am more than satisfied on both those counts.
I didn’t know a great deal about CIM when I was approached about this honor. In the past weeks, however, I have developed a very high opinion of CIM’s students and faculty. They deserve to be heard and supported. I hope and believe that they will take this gesture as a greater show of solidarity than my appearing in person could have been.