The School of Music has been closed outside of normal business hours following a series of incidents involving vandalism and harassment.
Head of School Peter Tregear announced the decision on Monday, explaining that students’ access to the School of Music will be restricted in response to “willful damage to the fabric of the building” and “an ongoing pattern of harassing behaviour anonymously and after hours.”
When contacted by Woroni, Tregear clarified that “what made unimpeded access to the building after hours no longer possible…, [considering] my legal and ethical responsibilities made the decision unavoidable, was a pattern of harassing behaviour … directed towards female members of School staff.”
Woroni also understands that the vandalism committed to the School of Music buildings included signage above the administration desk on sixth floor being altered from ‘reception’ to ‘erection’, and the construction of trip-wires throughout the School.
In an email sent to music students on Wednesday, Tregear further stated that he did “not wish to take away or diminish anything of the difficulties that [students] experienced last year, but that gives no licence or excuse for behaviour that no school of any type or ambition would, or should ever accept.
“The time for the school to accept a default position of apology for the past, as difficult as that past was, is now over.”
Students at the School of Music contacted Tregear to mediate a solution amid concerns that restricted access to practice rooms and rehearsal spaces during the current exam block would negatively impact students’ preparations for upcoming assessments.
Following discussion and approval by Tregear, a code of conduct was drafted and sent to the university emails of all School of Music students on Thursday. Students were also notified that access to the building outside of normal business hours would only be granted to those who registered their compliance, “effective immediately”.
The code of conduct provides a brief, general framework of behaviour and principles expected at the School of Music, including the “proper and respectful” treatment of facilities and resources, and the admonishment of “harassment, intimidation [and] discrimination”.
The agreement has provided a viable solution for both parties, but students have questioned the necessity and value of a new code of conduct. Upon enrollment all ANU students are subject to the ANU Discipline Rules that already outline disciplinary action for behaviour including harassment and damage to property.
The events have also sparked significant debate on social media; commentary on Facebook has labeled the School’s actions as “insulting” and “patronising”. However, in the urgent wake of upcoming exams, signing the code of conduct has been considered an unfavourable but necessary means to an end.
Students have also raised concerns that the code of conduct may limit their freedom to criticise and question decisions made by the School of Music. The recent debates on Facebook would be prohibited under the agreement, which extends to “discussing matters pertaining to the School of Music in public forums such as social media”. Students are also required to “protect” the reputations of staff members and never demean the School as a whole.