This is a blog post that’s been a long time in the making and is something I have wanted to write for over a year. After I finished my undergraduate studies at university, I began to take some online courses with The Berklee College of Music for a graduate certificate. At the time, I was still finding my voice as a composer and was very timid about working as a musician fresh out of school, and I thought that some additional training in advanced orchestration and audio engineering would give me more usable skills and help me find myself in a career driven society.
While there, I very quickly discovered that commercial composition, which I had wanted to go into for years, was not my cup of coffee with its incredibly tight deadlines (four weeks or less, even for a feature length film score), the constant desire for your work to sound as close as possible to someone else’s without infringing copyright, and the fact that the music I was writing for these types of projects was nowhere near my best. I also had to trudge through eight or nine weeks’ worth of material that I already knew just to get one trinket of information that I could have found in a book, online, or in a YouTube tutorial.
Despite this I still received my Professional Certificate in 2012, though with less money in my pockets than when I started two years prior. I received my physical paper on my 25th birthday, and presented it to my mother with pride while she was recovering from a fall in the hospital (that’s another, more amusing story that I’ll share at another time). Even though I had gained only a little in new knowledge and ability while studying with Berklee, I justified the time and expense by thinking that this slip of paper from a world-renown music school would be a huge advantage in my career.
Then the horrors came to light.
All of my studies with Berklee were online, I never actually set foot on campus while working towards my certificate. It’s more likely that I would have heard the rumblings sooner than I did had I the opportunity or proximity to attend classes in Boston. But like most people, I first heard of the sexual assault crisis after it was published by The Boston Globe.
For over a decade, The Berklee College of Music secretly fired nearly a dozen professors and teachers who had been accused of or charged with sexual misconduct and assault against students. In addition to this, there was a report of an on-campus rape that was shared over social media where Berklee merely suspended the assailant for two semesters before allowing him back into the school alongside his victim and keeping the case quiet from the Boston Police.
I was shocked and appalled, and was stuck having to answer impossible questions about Berklee and this aforementioned practice by my own music students, many of whom quit in the aftermath simply by my association with the school because of my certificate. Needless to say, I quickly removed that piece of paper from my studio walls and stuffed it into the back of my filing cabinet where it stayed until last week.
After much internal debate, I decided that I wanted nothing more to do with Berklee because of this atrocious behaviour and treatment of sexual assault survivors. I wrote a letter to President Roger Brown, who oversaw all of the secret firings of faculty, and mailed back my certificate to the school. This is what my letter said:
“Attn. President Roger H. Brown:
I am writing this letter as I can no longer be a bystander amidst the atrocities occurring at and on the campus of the Berklee College of Music and its affiliated properties. I am referring to, of course, the plague of sexual assaults between faculty and students that was exposed by The Boston Globe on 17 November, 2017 where it was revealed that eleven faculty members had been secretly terminated over the span of thirteen years for inappropriate interactions between themselves and students.
I am also well aware of an incident on the Boston campus where a female student was viciously sexually assaulted by a male classmate, and that Berklee merely suspended the assailant for two semesters before allowing him to resume classes alongside his victim, and that this incident was kept away from the intervention of the Boston Police by the Berklee Administration.
As a member of RAINN, as a friend and relative of individuals who have survived acts of both physical and sexual violence, and as a sexual assault survivor myself, I can no longer support or stand to have any sort of affiliation with the Berklee College of Music as a result of the above incidents and other, undocumented cases that have yet to surface.
I am hereby returning my Certificate to the school and administration out of protest and as an act of solidarity with the victims.
I will no longer recognize any connections with the Berklee College of Music as a student or alumnus, and will not seek any form of collaboration, references or interaction with said school as a result of my protest. I spent a year debating whether or not I should write this letter and return my Certificate, and after much thought I have concluded that there is no scenario where I can keep that piece of paper or consider myself an alumnus and not feel nauseated considering what has transpired over the past decade at this institution.
I feel, Mr. Brown, that in light of The Boston Globe’s reporting, and that these secret terminations of sexual predators from your college all occurred under your supervision, that you should resign your position as soon as possible. You have clearly demonstrated that you can no longer be trusted with the protection of your student body.”
The letter was mailed to Berklee, alongside my certificate, last Wednesday on 6 February. I have not and do not expect to receive a reply, nor do I want one.
President Brown’s lackluster apology for his criminal actions is not enough. Berklee’s meaningless responses in the wake of The Boston Globe’s revelations do nothing to protect or help students. They are clearly only interested in saving face and making more money for the administration.
Whatever prestige The Berklee College of Music once had is long gone.