Rector of Latvian Academy of Music not to resign over allegations of sexual harassment

  • 2024-03-13
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Guntars Pranis will not resign as rector of the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music (JVLMA) amid allegations of a sexual harassment of female students by academic staff, the JVLMA head said at a news conference Tuesday.

Pranis admitted that the situation is painful to him. The JVLMA rector stressed that the academy's administration is against any kind of violence. The rector said that when the first complaint was received, action was taken - an order was issued immediately, listing all the norms to be followed in the academy.

"I believe it is my responsibility. In this process, I have taken all the necessary steps to respond to the signals I have received - both to what was said on the Kultursoks (Culture Shock) program [of Latvian Television], which was a shock to me and completely new information, and to what was established in an anonymous survey," Pranis said.

He noted that there had been harsh conversations with the academic staff members named in the survey, as well as demands for explanations. Pranis added that a meeting with the State Police was scheduled for today, while on Monday representatives of the JVLMA visited the Ombudsman's Office. The rector said that he has a clear vision of what needs to be done to make the environment at the academy completely safe, which is what is currently being done.

"We have encouraged anonymous sources to come forward and write statements. I have to say that the situation has changed by now. On Monday we received two statements giving the name of an academic staff member. By my order, this member of staff has been suspended from all job duties, without any possibility of communication with the students. We hope that now there will be a thorough investigation in cooperation with the State Police, followed by evidence, appropriate consequences and punishment," the JVLMA rector stated.

Pranis underlined his intention to do his utmost to resolve the situation. Asked whether one of the academic staff member on which the signals have been received is JVLMA 's associate professor Maris Kupcs, the JVLMA rector noted that meetings with law enforcement bodies have taken place over the past few days and that on Monday the Ombudsman's Office made it clear that the academy has no right to name the suspected abusers, so Pranis cannot confirm whether Kupcs has been implicated in the scandal. The rector added that one of the academic staff members has been suspended and another has been disciplined.

Culture Minister Agnese Logina (Progressives) told journalists that she supports the JVLMA Council's call for the rector to resign. She noted, however, that ministers do not sack rectors of higher education institutions and that this is the prerogative of the JVLMA Council and Senate.

According to Logina, students are her and the Culture Ministry's priority. The minister stressed the need to ensure an emotionally secure environment in higher education institutions for young talent to develop.

The minister said that the allegations made by the JVLMA's female students must be taken seriously and investigated, which is the job of the State Police. Meanwhile, academic staff must take responsibility for the emergence of such a situation.

As reported, the Council of the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music (JVLMA) has decided to express no-confidence in the academy's rector Guntars Pranis and is calling for him to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment of students by the JVLMA's academic staff, the JVLMA Council informed LETA on Monday.

If the rector refuses to stand down, the JVLMA Council will ask JVLMA Senate chair Ilona Meija to address the issue at an extraordinary Senate meeting.

The JVLMA Council indicates that the decision has been taken to alleviate the victims' sensation of trauma, even though the Council members are aware that this is practically impossible.

The members of the Council also believe that this decision will help to take the necessary measures to prevent any cases of sexual harassment at the JVLMA. According to the Council, this decision will help to restore the reputation of the JVLMA more quickly.

The JVLMA Council first heard about the alleged cases of sexual harassment at the academy last week when the issue was highlighted on the Kultursoks (Culture Shock) program of Latvian Television (LTV).

The JVLMA Council said that the actions taken by the JVLMA rector in response to the reports had been "numerous but ineffective". The JVLMA Council believes that in order to eradicate the problem, the academy's institutional responsibility for cases of sexual abuse must be radically changed and Western standard introduced, making them mandatory for JVLMA academic staff and employees.

Last Saturday, March 9, the JVLMA turned to the State Police over the reports of sexual harassment of female students by some members of the academic staff.

Pranis underlined that such people have no place among the JVLMA staff or Latvian music.

The JVLMA also promised to cooperate with law enforcement authorities and do everything necessary to investigate the wrongdoings. "It is extremely important to us," the rector stressed.

LTV's Kultursoks program has obtained testimonies of seven female students of the JVLMA about sexual harassment by certain academic staff members.

LTV has the names of the abusers, but they will not be made public yet, as it is still necessary to work on compelling evidence. The testimonies will be submitted to the Ombudsman's Office, whose spokeswoman told the LTV program that they suggest of systematic misconduct.