Abuse of Power at Music Universities
Abuse of Power at Music Universities

Abuse of Power at Music Universities

Institutionalised professional music education originates in the nineteenth century and has, in some respects, failed to move beyond the antiquated principles and authoritarian mechanisms of master-pupil instruction. Due to a long-established system of artistic and personal obedience of students toward their professors, music universities in Germany are prone to abuse of power. A recent article by the Harfenduo Laura Oetzel & Daniel Mattelé discloses some alarming cases of misconduct which, on a large scale, appear symptomatic of the entire classical music business. I contemplated over what could be done to identify and eliminate structures in music education that set the stage for abusive or intrusive behaviour of professors, and ended up with a series of measures to be taken by rectorates and university administrations:

  • Establish guidance and supervision for new faculty members and a human resources development scheme
  • Make regular trainings in music education, teaching methodology, and psychology of learning compulsory
  • Install obligatory teaching evaluations on the basis of anonymous surveys, conducted by external staff not affiliated with the university
  • Enforcement of regulatory sanctions such as disciplinary proceedings, salary cuts, or legal consequences

More questions that should be addressed when applying further measures in the course of supervision and personnel development schemes are: In what way are university administrations supposed to take action, once they have learned of cases of misconduct, in order to prevent recurrence and call the responsible persons to account for their behaviour? How can an independent point of contact be established to which affected students can reach out for counsel and help without facing negative consequences? How can students be encouraged to report experiences of abusive behaviour, and how can they meet the widespread fear that teachers might exert adverse influence on their further career?

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