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13 hours ago, vipa said:

It seems that Copley had established a good working relationship with singers at the Met. I still an puzzled that one inappropriate remark, reported to Gelb, got the man fired. If this is the way of the world few people will remain in their jobs. Again I say that the chorister being so traumatized as to not be able to go on at the evening show is weird.

Only few people refrain from making comments like that in the workplace?

We know nothing of the alleged victim, so it seems to me unwise to comment on the nature of his reaction. (Hypothetical: what if he is the victim of previous sexual abuse? Obviously that wouldn't alter the nature of this currently alleged offense, but it could certainly explain the relative strength of his reaction to it. We simply do not know.)

On the Levine comparison, none of his alleged abuses were in the workplace, I believe.

Edited by nanushka

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10 minutes ago, vipa said:

At the moment, it seems like this was based on one remark, not a history such as James Levine's. The question is, is a remark that is found to be offensive a firing offense. We are not talking about a history of sexual abuse. I believe that a sense of proportionality is being lost. 

And we have Peter Martins vs. Marcelo Gomes all over again, or at least we think we do, based on very little information about Gomes.

And what you or I think is proportionate isn't necessarily relevant in an employment case or employment law or precedent.

 

4 minutes ago, nanushka said:

On the Levine comparison, none of his alleged abuses were in the workplace, I believe.

The Levine comparison was that he had a great working relationship with many artists at the Met.  Congeniality is not an issue:  the same situation should result in the same outcome, regardless of how many people like or dislike a person.  

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To me, "I'm thinking of you in my bed with your clothes off," delivered to a colleague, in the workplace, is not “a remark that is found to be offensive.” It is simply an offensive remark, period.

Edited by nanushka

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

First, are these opera singers saying this openly in social media?  On the radio?  Please provide details.

Second, even if it was addressed to Abdrazakov openly in a rehearsal, why is that more acceptable?  It may have not been reported at all if it were understood to be directed to someone else, particularly a principal singer: people have lived with their discomfort for forever and have witnessed a lot of unacceptable and harassing behavior without taking action. However, you don't have to be the person to whom it was addressed for it to be inappropriate and actionable in a work environment.  Had Copely said this to Abdrazakov privately in a rehearsal room, then it would be up to the bass to bring it to anyone's attention.

Social media and Canbelto beat me to providing the links. They seem to be friends with other singers including Ildar.

The reason that the new reports have changed my mind is that Ildar apparently is the type to have laughed it off and found it funny and would not take offense, and apparently he tried to defend Copley. The chorister in question supposedly misunderstood and thought Copley directed the comment to him.

Overall, I do think that if it were strictly the way it was originally reported, I don't think a chorus member should have to put up with it, but if it is as these opera singers say, then it does sound like it was blown out of proportion.

We need more information to really pass judgment.

If there was no true victim I suspect the sexual harassment issue was a smokescreen. Gelb or someone wanted Copley gone and heard about something that could be used as an excuse. This is completely my personal opinion. There is usually some other motive when something seems too fishy.

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56 minutes ago, Helene said:

The Levine comparison was that he had a great working relationship with many artists at the Met.  Congeniality is not an issue:  the same situation should result in the same outcome, regardless of how many people like or dislike a person.  

Oh I understood and I completely agree. I was referring to vipa’s implied (as I understood it) Levine comparison about proportionality.

Edited by nanushka

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15 minutes ago, Birdsall said:

We need more information to really pass judgment.

If there was no true victim I suspect the sexual harassment issue was a smokescreen. Gelb or someone wanted Copley gone and heard about something that could be used as an excuse. This is completely my personal opinion. There is usually some other motive when something seems too fishy.

According to the NYT article on the union, there was a complaint that went to management and bypassed the union, which, having a conflict of interest in being responsible for both parties, they weren't happy about.  They are claiming that they could have come up with a solution.

I think that it is just as plausible that the Met acted quickly, which, in retrospect, may turn out to be precipitously, because they have been accused of having been asleep at the wheel and tolerated intolerable behavior by Levine and felt the need to respond strongly.  I don't see anything particularly fishy about the Met's actions: if they had a reason to fire aside from this complaint about a public statement that was witnessed and not denied, the current climate would have served them well without the complaint, and they replaced Levine in mid-preparation for Tosca very quickly.  

I think we need more information before speculating about smokescreens.

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Just like in many places it's not up to the spouse/partner being hit whether or not charges are brought against the person doing the hitting, for hostile work environments, it's not just between Copely and the chorister or the bass: it was a comment made in front of everyone in the rehearsal room and impacted the work environment of everyone.

If a written apology were acceptable, it would have had to go to everyone in that room, not just the chorister who lodged the complaint.

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On 2/3/2018 at 8:44 AM, Mashinka said:

Why did they fire Copley for fairly innocuous banter?

There's nothing innocuous about what Copley said, and as someone else here said, it's not "banter" unless both individuals enter the ring.

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John Copley has a reputation for being flamboyant and outrageous. He engages in a type of "banter" that many people enjoy, are familiar with and don't take seriously. Perhaps he should not, I won't try to judge that, but the individual who was offended was not alone with the man. The statement was made in a room full of people, and Copley is an 84 year old stroke surviver. It seems to me that he was engaging in what he viewed as "normal" behavior. In this context IMO firing was an over reaction. Perhaps management should have met with him, warned him, explained that times have changed, asked him to apologize. That the chorister who was offended couldn't work that night and jumped to threatening to get a lawyer if he saw Copley again, also seems an overreaction. 

I have been involved in dance, theater, opera much of my life as has my husband. There are colorful people in these fields who's behavior is out of the mainstream. I'm not advocating that abusive behavior be tolerated, but there has to be some understanding of context, and many of these people are clever and fun! 

I am not being as articulate about this as I wish I could be. I'm sorry.

 

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Age has little to do with it.  George Balanchine was nearly 80 when his nurse left on cue to leave him alone with drawers full of liquor and Wilhemina Frankfurt.  Chuck Close is in his late '70's and in a wheelchair because he is severely paralyzed.

It's a shame that Copely didn't think a change in tide applied to him in a workplace situation, and that he didn't have to assault or try to trap someone privately for his behavior to be no longer acceptable.

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On 2/4/2018 at 11:47 AM, Helene said:

If a written apology were acceptable, it would have had to go to everyone in that room, not just the chorister who lodged the complaint.

No one asked for such a general apology, including the complainant, and it's not at all clear that anyone else was offended (it's not at all clear what was actually said and in what context, either).  The chorister made additional demands and threatened legal action if they were not met, which seems a bit over the top for the making of a single remark for which the maker apologized. 

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This issue has enraged the opera going public in London, two weeks on and it is still the major topic of conversation.   I have since been told some gloriously un-pc stories of far more outrageous behaviour than John Copley's though.  I'm very much reminded of Thomas Bowdler, so offended by the bawdiness of Shakespeare that he re-wrote it and bowdlerize has entered the language as a puritanical attempt to censor other's forms of expression. 

I hear Grange Opera have just engaged Copley to direct Escape from the Seraglio, fully intend to go to the first night and give a noisy demonstration of my support, and I won't be alone. 

 

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I don't think it is a good idea to hyperbolize and caricature others' differing views on a matter such as this. Personally, in my own views, I am very far from sexually puritanical; I certainly do not believe in blind adherence to conventional sexual morality. And yet I believe there should be a difference between how one acts in one's personal life, in private spaces, and how one acts as a professional, in the workplace.

I understand that not all workplaces feel the same, and that those working in the arts are often used to a "freer environment." But a workplace is a workplace; legal and economic realities dictate that it is a zone in which inequities of power are inherent, and one of the functions of workplace standards against sexual harassment is to ensure that people in positions of power don't get to personally define what is acceptable and therefore what everyone around them has to put up with. Because as Catherine MacKinnon wrote in Sexual Harassment of Working Women, "Economic power is to sexual harassment as physical force is to rape." Economic power—taken broadly to include all forms of institutional and professional power—is the instrument through which such abuses have their force.

Frankly, it baffles me that for a director, in the workplace, to say to a subordinate, "I'm thinking of you in my bed with your clothes off," would be considered a form of expression deserving of protection.

As for the lack of clarity in what was said, I have seen no credible reports to the contrary, only hearsay and gossip from supporters of Copley who were not present. I may not have seen other credible journalistic reports or first-hand accounts that are out there, though, and if there are any I would certainly be eager to read them. But the only one that has been cited here tells us that that's what he said and, furthermore, that he himself did not dispute that report.

And as for the alleged victim's response, we know next to nothing of this person, of his past, of his beliefs, of his identity. If what has been reported actually occurred, he is a victim of sexual harassment, plain and simple. Given that, and assuming that his responses did not exceed his legal rights, I personally feel it is unwise and inadvisable to question them, to speculate about them, or to criticize them. And the victim-blaming that has in some cases been expressed seems to me improper.

All that being said, I don't believe the Met handled this in the best possible way; I don't necessarily believe that firing Copley was the best response; I likely would have behaved quite differently if I had been the one to whom that remark was spoken. But I also don't believe that any of that means that an actual injustice was done here. Anyone who is of sound enough mental capacity to do the serious work of directing an opera production at one of the world's leading houses should certainly be expected to know that saying what I've quoted above to a subordinate colleague in the workplace is simply unacceptable, and should certainly be expected to know that such behavior would not be tolerated.

(To clarify, I am using the term "subordinate colleague" in a broad sense—a colleague lower in status and relatively lacking in various forms of power.)

 

Edited by nanushka

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10 hours ago, dirac said:

No one asked for such a general apology, including the complainant,

Hostile workplace environments are considered to impact everyone present, and one of the issues in understanding it is that it doesn't just involve the individuals directly involved.  Another is when individuals define it for themselves, and another is when past behavior is no longer acceptable and that hasn't sunk in to the individual. 

No one had to ask or should have had to ask.

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13 hours ago, Helene said:

Age has little to do with it.  George Balanchine was nearly 80 when his nurse left on cue to leave him alone with drawers full of liquor and Wilhemina Frankfurt.  Chuck Close is in his late '70's and in a wheelchair because he is severely paralyzed. It's a shame that Copely didn't think a change in tide applied to him in a workplace situation, and that he didn't have to assault or try to trap someone privately for his behavior to be no longer acceptable.

An old man known for his wild and irreverent sense of humor makes one flip comment in front of a whole group of people and some guy is too "traumatized" to work the rest of the night? Sillier and sillier. How exactly was this chorister harassed? Certainly he didn't think Copely was propositioning him in front of the entire chorus. Certainly he didn't fear for his job if he didn't sleep with Copely. Certainly, given the existence of the union, he didn't fear that expressing his displeasure right there and then would cost him his job. In what way was Copely abusing his power? Since when do men - I am one - get bent out of shape at being called attractive?

The Close and Balanchine situations don't come close to paralleling this one. Balanchine, I was very sorry to read, groped Wilhelmina. Close asked women to pose naked and then made ugly comments. 

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The proverbial has finally hit the fan over at ENB after years of insider leaks, that situation is genuine harassment, but wait, the perpetrator is a woman, I imagine inflicting years of misery on dancers still won't compare to a singlr daft comment by a silly old man.

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Also, not all "firings" are the same, despite the common terminology. Copley was essentially brought in as an independent contractor to do a single job on a very short-term basis. He failed to adhere to the standards of the workplace (which are basically the standards of any law-abiding workplace), and so he was dismissed. It's not as if he lost a full-time position over this.

Edited by nanushka

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27 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

The proverbial has finally hit the fan over at ENB after years of insider leaks, that situation is genuine harassment, but wait, the perpetrator is a woman, I imagine inflicting years of misery on dancers still won't compare to a singlr daft comment by a silly old man.

Different countries have different standards and different laws.  It's very possible that if this were to eventually result in a very public firing or resignation at ENB -- the issues with Rojo are closer to the allegations against Martins than Levine -- ENB might be under closer scrutiny and willing to act more quickly in that context.

Met management acted within a specific context, and, without Levine, I think this would have been swept under the rug, perhaps with a payoff.

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I've never subscribed to the "sexual harassment, plain and simple" explanation, and have maintained that it is a hostile work environment issue from the beginning, so I haven't moved anywhere, fast or slow.

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17 minutes ago, Helene said:

I've never subscribed to the "sexual harassment, plain and simple" explanation, and have maintained that it is a hostile work environment issue from the beginning, so I haven't moved anywhere, fast or slow.

What has not been explained here, or elsewhere that I've seen, is why that comment would create a hostile workplace, why it would rise to the level of harassing - of being harmful - instead of just mildly embarrassing and unpleasant if one couldn't just laugh it off. Appeals to workplace rules and legal standards don't answer that question. Rules and standards are good in principle, but that doesn't mean every rule and standard is good, and in this case the chorister, by going directly to management, apparently broke another workplace rule and norm, even if it was only an unwritten one. Leaving that aside, acting within one's rights and demanding one's legal rights doesn't make one right. 

 

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The comment imposes sexual humor on the workplace.

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A "hostile work environment" can be defined, among other ways, as one in which it is understood that one's continued employment is dependent upon one's willingness to be sexually objectified and demeaned. If the comment were tolerated by the institution, that would communicate to all employees that such an environment exists. (As I've suggested above, I don't think it was necessary to fire Copley in order to avoid communicating that.)

To me personally, it goes without saying that for an esteemed and powerful opera director (no matter how old or how used to such "silly" antics) to pick out a chorus member and say, in the workplace, in front of colleagues, that he is thinking of that chorus member naked in his bed is indeed sexually objectifying and demeaning.

Edited by nanushka

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37 minutes ago, nanushka said:

A "hostile work environment" can be defined, among other ways, as one in which it is understood that one's continued employment is dependent upon one's willingness to be sexually objectified and demeaned. If the comment were tolerated by the institution, that would communicate to all employees that such an environment exists. (As I've suggested above, I don't think it was necessary to fire Copley in order to avoid communicating that.)

To me personally, it goes without saying that for an esteemed and powerful opera director (no matter how old or how used to such "silly" antics) to pick out a chorus member and say, in the workplace, in front of colleagues, that he is thinking of that chorus member naked in his bed is indeed sexually objectifying and demeaning.

I don't take issue with that definition, but why should we assume it describes the situation here? I don't see why the guy couldn't have objected - politely, humorously, angrily . . .  whatever, when the comment was made. Or done it later, if he didn't have the presence of mind at the time. Why would that have got him fired? Obviously he didn't think it would, or he wouldn't have gone straight to management without even getting the union on his side. 

I also don't know why Copely's stature in the opera world would make his comment demeaning or any more demeaning, or just anymore in bad taste. Nor do we know that everyone thought it was truly in bad taste (we don't know context or tone of voice or the tenor of his relationship with the choir and with this chorister, if any, or the general reaction in the room). Is it demeaning to be found attractive? 

Helene, that "imposes" is a big word for what was apparently just a bad joke. This remark was probably inappropriate, but there is no indication it was hostile. 

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I don't see why the guy couldn't have objected in some other way, either. But I don't know the guy, I don't know his past, I don't know anything about him, and so I don't judge his reaction, assuming that he acted within his rights.

If the Met were to tolerate Copley's remark (and, again, I don't think firing Copley was necessary to show that they did not), it would communicate to everyone, basically, "This is a workplace in which people in power have the right to sexually objectify you rather than dealing with you based on your professional merits. If you want to continue working here, that's the environment in which you will have to work." It's not a question of getting fired, it's a question of workplace culture and what that says about the basic "rules of the game."

And yes, to my mind it is demeaning to be sexually objectified in a professional context, where what should matter is one's professional work, not the fact that a man or woman in power finds you sexually attractive. Copley's stature matters, in my mind, not because it makes his comment more or less demeaning but because, if it were tolerated by the Met, the institution would be suggesting that people with power or stature can get away with such things. Basically, Copley's stature matters, in my mind, because, as another member wrote on this topic above:

Quote

Chorus members are ten a penny, great opera directors aren't.  I know  which one I'd have sacked.  This is unbelievable.

  •  

"Hostile work environment" is a common phrase from labor law; personally, I use it in reference to the case at hand not because Copley's remark was "hostile" in the literal sense, but just because it's a phrase many people know and use in this particular way. I completely understand if anyone finds the phrase to be literally inapt; perhaps it is. I am using it in its conventional, legal sense.

Edited by nanushka

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9 minutes ago, kfw said:

Helene, that "imposes" is a big word for what was apparently just a bad joke. This remark was probably inappropriate, but there is no indication it was hostile. 

It's an appropriate word, however many syllables it has.  Intention has nothing to do with the legal definitions of hostile in hostile work environments.

If you make racist jokes, ethnic jokes, jokes about people with disabilities, etc. in the workplace, there can be consequences regardless of your intentions, and people who don't want to guarantee that they don't suffer those consequences don't make them.  I'm having difficulty understanding why it's so hard to grasp that making sexist or sexual jokes at work is inappropriate in the same way, and the people who do it can suffer similar consequences.  

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