A week ago The Salt Lake Tribune published an extensive report of pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination in the piano program at Utah State University.
In February, when a former student alleged on Facebook that a piano professor had raped her in 2009, the school contracted with an outside attorney, Alan Sullivan, to investigate charges of discrimination and harassment in the department.
USU released that report late last week, and it is as bad as we feared.
Tribune reporters wrote that the investigation revealed that, “Piano students at Utah State University endured a ‘pervasive culture’ of sexism, a ‘disturbing’ pattern of sexual violence and psychological abuse by faculty.” The report found four faculty members at fault, and concluded that students who complained faced retaliation.
Women in the program received only 41 cents of every scholarship dollar men received. Even after Gary Amano, the head piano teacher and allegedly the main perpetrator, went on sabbatical last August, the department required female, not male, scholarship recipients to perform clerical work in order to keep their scholarships.
Sullivan found that “Professor Amano [told] his classes that men should get more opportunities because they are likely to become ‘breadwinners,’ whereas female students are likely to become nothing more than housewives and neighborhood piano teachers.”
The investigation’s account of sexual harassment and assault is heavily redacted to protect the victims’ identities. The extent of the redaction is stark evidence of how predatory at least one faculty member was.
Sullivan’s report “concluded that Amano had committed or facilitated extensive abuses.”
Sullivan also concluded that the piano program “tolerated psychologically abusive faculty behavior” described as “humiliation, intimidation and vindictiveness.”
The most damning conclusion from the report, though, is that multiple top administrators knew about the allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse that started in the late 1990s and did nothing.
On Friday, USU President Noelle Cockett held a news conference to share the report’s conclusions and outline her plans for reform. Cockett announced that Amano has retired, she has removed the interim piano program coordinator and that she will make “leadership changes” at the school’s Title IX office.
Kudos to Cockett and USU for taking responsibility for the abuse by acknowledging that it did indeed happen, and for publicizing the report. Her willingness to be transparent through this shameful period will help victims heal and protect future students in the program.
(If only USU would be this transparent in regard to how the university handled the allegations of sexual assault leveled against former football player Torrey Green.)
But seeing Amano retire, likely with a generous state-sponsored pension, is less than satisfying. Amano himself was “the main cause of discrimination” in USU’s piano program.
He should be held accountable, too.