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To me words are acts. When Copley said outloud how he imagined the chorus member, he was stripping him in front of everyone in the room. It would also stick in the other members' minds afterwards. They would have to joke with  him about it to diffuse its taint.

But it doesn't matter if he had been traumatized before, everyone should be treated with equal respect.

Edited by Quiggin

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"I'm thinking of you in my bed with your clothes off." That's what Copley reportedly said. (He also, reportedly, did not deny saying it.) I fail to see how that statement is a "joke."

If it was said with a twinkle and a chuckle? Union members who were presumably present came to Copely's defense (union officials act on their behalf). In fact, has anyone besides Gelb, who of course would have been afraid of a lawsuit, come to the chorister's? That says a lot right there. 

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23 minutes ago, kfw said:

Union members who were presumably present came to Copely's defense (union officials act on their behalf).

Where does it say that union members who were presumably present came to Copley's defense? The union officials were also representing Copley, the article says, so they could have been merely acting on his behalf.

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If it was said with a twinkle and a chuckle?

If Copley's intentions are important, we should at least not invent details pertinent to those intentions which are not substantiated in the first-hand reports of the incident.

Edited by nanushka

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The union could have been expected to defend Gelb’s handling of the situation if it felt his action was warranted. Instead it implicitly criticized both Copely and Gelb, taking Copely's side in regards to whether he should have been fired - in other words, in regards to the seriousness of the offense.
 
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Leonard Egert, the national executive director of the union, said in an interview, “It’s our understanding that a written apology to the chorister involved and a slight modification of the rehearsal schedule would have been sufficient to resolve this.”

 
Clearly the union didn’t feel the chorister was too traumatized to continue working with Copely or even to meet with him to ask for an apology. The chorister both said that he’d accept a written apology and that he “felt unable to continue working with Mr. Copley because of the hostile, sexually charged environment that had been created.” One passing remark that has been formally apologized for creates a lasting hostile environment? C’mon, Mr. chorister. :dry: As Helene said earlier, this is about power. I hope the next time you or I screw up we're met with mercy and understanding, not an unfeeling, I-got-my-rights application of the law.

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2 minutes ago, kfw said:
The union could have been expected to defend Gelb’s handling of the situation if it felt his action was warranted. Instead it implicitly criticized both Copely and Gelb, taking Copely's side in regards to whether he should have been fired - in other words, in regards to the seriousness of the offense.
 
 
Clearly the union didn’t feel the chorister was too traumatized to continue working with Copely or even to meet with him to ask for an apology. The chorister both said that he’d accept a written apology and that he “felt unable to continue working with Mr. Copley because of the hostile, sexually charged environment that had been created.” One passing remark that has been formally apologized for creates a lasting hostile environment? C’mon. :dry: As Helene said earlier, this is about power. I hope the next time you or I screw up we're met with mercy and understanding, not an unfeeling, I-got-my-rights application of the law.

I can guarantee I'd never "screw up" by saying I want to see a subordinate at work naked in my bed.

If I did, I'd be fired, full stop.

Also I would never imagine thinking this was an appropriate thing to say at work to anyone.

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3 hours ago, kfw said:

Helene, racist jokes insult and denigrate. A complimentary joke, even one that’s sexual and makes the recipient uncomfortable, does neither

Are you saying you believe sexual jokes are appropriate for the workplace because you consider them complimentary?  

9 hours ago, Mashinka said:

Out of interest, do the terms camp, high camp, campery, exist in US parlance?  A lot of people this side of the pond are reading homophobia into this incident.  Whereas this totally trivial remark would be laughed off here, homophobia is considered a very serious matter in Britain and that would have been the sacking offence.

If a case could be made that the same comments were made in a heterosexual context, and there was a report to management, and the Met treated Copely differently than a heterosexual production team member, I'm sure it will come to light.

6 hours ago, Birdsall said:

In the end, without having been there we really don't know what exactly happened. If we had been in the room and heard tone and the exact words and mood of the room, maybe we would understand all this much more. 

 

The Met has described what they believe happened and what was said.  Copely has not denied it nor made any defense that he was using them ironically or to make a specific point or that the context was misunderstood.   Many of the singers that have defended Copely weren't in the room, either.

6 hours ago, Birdsall said:

I also wonder if there was some personal conflict between Copley and administration that we don't know about. Samuel Ramey wrote that Gelb is as conservative as they come. Of course, that is an opinion. Maybe Gelb already disliked Copley, and he simply needed an excuse to get rid of him. I have no idea. Just throwing out how anything is possible. Sometimes the facts do not actually tell the whole story.

If there was some personal conflict between Copely and the administration, there was no reason for the administration to hire him or, if they did, they could have bought out his contract.  If Gelb didn't like him, Gelb didn't have to re-engage him or keep him. 

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nanushka, I'm not inventing the details, I'm thinking of possible scenarios. You've imagined a plausible but worst-case scenario in which the chorister was truly traumatized. While yours may be accurate, I've imagined a scenario that I think fits with what we know of Copley, namely that he was only joking. Both can be true of course, because we're talking about two different people.

Aurora, I'm a firm believer that everyone does wrong and everyone does harm, and that therefore it's best to show as much mercy as possible whenever possible. Whether that harm involves a sexual joke or not is to my mind beside the point. In this case, it seems as if an apology would have solved the problem the chorister said he had going forward, that of a hostile environment. It's not like Copley could have been expected to make a similar remark again. 
 
Helene and Aurora, I have also repeatedly agreed that the remark was probably inappropriate. However, a racist remark is a put-down. An admiring one by itself is not. Also, Copley's silence on this matter may simply indicate embarrassment and a wish that the matter be dropped

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3 minutes ago, kfw said:

nanushka, I'm not inventing the details, I'm thinking of possible scenarios. You've imagined a plausible but worst-case scenario in which the chorister was truly traumatized. While yours may be accurate, I've imagined a scenario that I think fits with what we know of Copley, namely that he was only joking. Both can be true of course, because we're talking about two different people.

Aurora, I'm a firm believer that everyone does wrong and everyone does harm, and that therefore it's best to show as much mercy as possible whenever possible. Whether that harm involves a sexual joke or not is to my mind beside the point. In this case, it seems as if an apology would have solved the problem the chorister said he had going forward, that of a hostile environment. It's not like Copley could have been expected to make a similar remark again. 
 
Helene and Aurora, I have also repeatedly agreed that the remark was probably inappropriate. However, a racist remark is a put-down. An admiring one by itself is not. Also, Copley's silence on this matter may simply indicate embarrassment and a wish that the matter be dropped

A lot of people are sick of putting up with other people's harmful mistakes.

I'm gathering from the way you insist on reading Copley's comments (fairly innocent, clearly joking), that you have never been aggressively cat called on the street (any woman in a major city's frequent experience), been groped on the street and public transportation, masturbated in front of on public transportation (once when I objected, the perp tried to hit me in the face, no one did anything to help me), followed home, had your boss kiss you on the head, had your supervisors in school make lewd "joking" comments, etc.

It doesn't feel innocuous. And people are sick of turning the other cheek for men to slap over and over again.

If you have and you like all these things, fine, that is your prerogative. But it sounds like you are speaking from a place of lack of understanding.

And it is not unreasonable to object to being treated like a sexual object in the workplace, which is precisely what Copley did.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, kfw said:

nanushka, I'm not inventing the details, I'm thinking of possible scenarios. You've imagined a plausible but worst-case scenario in which the chorister was truly traumatized. While yours may be accurate, I've imagined a scenario that I think fits with what we know of Copley, namely that he was only joking. Both can be true of course, because we're talking about two different people.

Fair enough. I didn't give enough weight to your "if" in my reading.

13 minutes ago, kfw said:

Helene and Aurora, I have also repeatedly agreed that the remark was probably inappropriate.

If the remark was indeed the one that has been reported, I would hope that all could agree, regardless of the intention in which it was uttered, that it was inappropriate, not probably inappropriate, in the workplace. But perhaps we can't.

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1 hour ago, nanushka said:

He's not responsible for what might have happened to the man, but he is responsible for what he himself did — and what he did is something that, in my opinion, he could reasonably be expected to know might be experienced as demeaning by a colleague in a professional environment. That "might" is strong enough to make it inadvisable, inappropriate, and deserving of censure. Given that Copley was only working at the Met on a very short-term basis, unfortunately for him that censure came in the form of firing.

"I'm thinking of you in my bed with your clothes off." That's what Copley reportedly said. (He also, reportedly, did not deny saying it.) I fail to see how that statement is a "joke."

Here's what the Times also reports:

Note that those are people who were not present at the time of the incident, and who are simply described as saying he "must have...meant" it in a way that supposedly diminishes the significance of the offense.

It was not, as was said above, "people in the room" who said "there appeared to have been a miscommunication." It was officials at the union who said that, and there is no indication that they were in the room. I don't know what the basis was for their characterization of the incident.

So you completely ignore those people that actually know Copley and can testify that there's no malice in the man whatsoever.  No such thing as a character witness anymore?

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8 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

So you completely ignore those people that actually know Copley and can testify that there's no malice in the man whatsoever.  No such thing as a character witness anymore?

Of course I don't completely ignore them. I simply think it's the case that, if it is true that "there's no malice in the man whatsoever," that doesn't mean that everything he says or does in the workplace is appropriate for that environment. He doesn't need to have spoken in malice to have made a serious mistake. (I've never suggested in the least that I thought Copley acted in malice. He could have said exactly what has been reported, speaking not at all in jest, and still not have been speaking with malice.) 

And they weren't cited in the article as speaking to his general character; they were cited as having characterized the event in a particular way. But they weren't there. So they can certainly serve as character witnesses, but they can't serve as eye/earwitnesses.

Edited by nanushka

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1 minute ago, Mashinka said:

So you completely ignore those people that actually know Copley and can testify that there's no malice in the man whatsoever.  No such thing as a character witness anymore?

Inappropriately treating people as sexual objects in the work place doesn't require "malice."

I know plenty of people who I'm sure would say nice things about people I know to have been abusive and inappropriate. That just wasn't their experience with them, lucky for them.

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17 minutes ago, aurora said:

I'm gathering from the way you insist on reading Copley's comments (fairly innocent, clearly joking), that you have never been aggressively cat called on the street (any woman in a major city's frequent experience), been groped on the street and public transportation, masturbated in front of on public transportation (once when I objected, the perp tried to hit me in the face, no one did anything to help me), followed home, had your boss kiss you on the head, had your supervisors in school make lewd "joking" comments, etc.

 

Copley did none of the things you list, he made a harmless joke.

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3 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

Copley did none of the things you list, he made a harmless joke.

See the last item on the list.

Harmless is your characterization of it. If someone makes such a comment about you at work, you can write it off and laugh. But they would still have opened themselves up to charges of sexual harassment.

Perhaps you need to take a course on what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. These are required at my place of employment.

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24 minutes ago, aurora said:

A lot of people are sick of putting up with other people's harmful mistakes.

I'm gathering from the way you insist on reading Copley's comments (fairly innocent, clearly joking), that you have never been aggressively cat called on the street (any woman in a major city's frequent experience), been groped on the street and public transportation, masturbated in front of on public transportation (once when I objected, the perp tried to hit me in the face, no one did anything to help me), followed home, had your boss kiss you on the head, had your supervisors in school make lewd "joking" comments, etc.

It doesn't feel innocuous. And people are sick of turning the other cheek for men to slap over and over again.

If you have and you like all these things, fine, that is your prerogative. But it sounds like you are speaking from a place of lack of understanding.

And it is not unreasonable to object to being treated like a sexual object in the workplace, which is precisely what Copley did.

 

 

I'm in complete agreement with Aurora and with Nanushka's very articulate posts.   Some of the comments "defending"  Copley's remark, overtly or essentially, are really mind blowing and to me also signify a lack of understanding.

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Aurora, I am very sorry those things happened to you. But I think they are clearly far, far worse - so far worse as to practically be in another category - than what Copely did. We're all sick of putting up with other people's harmful mistakes. It's the human condition. We all also make harmful mistakes. 
 
nanushka, in regards to whether the remark was absolutely and without question inappropriate I go back to what Mashinka said. I myself would never in a million years make a remark like that, but I have known people who would and wouldn't mean anything by it and would therefore be understood. Would I have advised Copely against making it? Most definitely. Would I have winced if I had been there when he said it? Yes. 

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9 minutes ago, kfw said:
Aurora, I am very sorry those things happened to you. But I think they are clearly far, far worse - so far worse as to practically be in another category - than what Copely did. We're all sick of putting up with other people's harmful mistakes. It's the human condition. We all also make harmful mistakes. 
 
nanushka, in regards to whether the remark was absolutely and without question inappropriate I go back to what Mashinka said. I myself would never in a million years make a remark like that, but I have known people who would and wouldn't mean anything by it and would therefore be understood. Would I have advised Copely against making it? Most definitely. Would I have winced if I had been there when he said it? Yes. 

You misunderstand. I didn't list them because they are particularly horrible. And certainly I didn't do it to elicit sympathy for me.

I wanted to illustrate, for those who seem to not get it, that these are the kind of sexual harassment incidents people just "put up with" all the time. And by and large are told to put up with ("catcalling? It is a compliment!"). I wanted to suggest some empathy with what people go through all the time and which Copley's comments are of a piece with.

And again, having supervisors at school make sexually suggestive jokes is literally no different than what Copley did (I wasn't a minor).

Nor would I particularly say the kiss on my head was any worse. And for those of you happy to excuse people because of age and lack of malice. I'm quite sure his age played a role in him thinking that he could get away with that, and also that no malice was intended. That said, it was still not in any way okay.

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14 minutes ago, aurora said:

Perhaps you need to take a course on what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. These are required at my place of employment.

I don't need to take any to recognize what sexual harassment means, I've experienced it and it's bloody awful but without witnesses impossible to prove.  Sexual harassment is deeds generally not words and no sexual threat could possibly exist in a room full of people.

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1 minute ago, Mashinka said:

I don't need to take any to recognize what sexual harassment means, I've experienced it and it's bloody awful but without witnesses impossible to prove.  Sexual harassment is deeds generally not words and no sexual threat could possibly exist in a room full of people.

As has been discussed at length, that is not accurate. Words definitely can constitute harassment.

I'll note that in my list, the kiss on my head at work, the inappropriate sexual jokes, all the gropings, and the masturbation instances all happened in rooms full of people (or train cars as the case may be). Was I in danger of being raped? No, but they certainly were harassment.

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1 minute ago, aurora said:

 And for those of you happy to excuse people because of age and lack of malice. I'm quite sure his age played a role in him thinking that he could get away with that, and also that no malice was intended. That said, it was still not in any way okay.

That is disgraceful and ageist, he made a throwaway remark, he wasn't trying to 'get away with' anything.  There was malice in that room but it clearly wasn't Copley's.

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Just now, Mashinka said:

That is disgraceful and ageist, he made a throwaway remark, he wasn't trying to 'get away with' anything.  There was malice in that room but it clearly wasn't Copley's.

What?

Other people said age played a role in Copley's thinking what he said was appropriate.

I was clearly speaking of the man who kissed me on the head at work, who was older and had ideas of workplace appropriateness which dated to the age of Mad Men.

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52 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

Sexual harassment is deeds generally not words and no sexual threat could possibly exist in a room full of people.

In terms of U.S. law, both deeds and words can constitute sexual harassment, and no “sexual threat” (assuming you mean a threat of actual physical sexual contact) is necessary for either to constitute sexual harassment.

Edited by nanushka

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2 hours ago, Helene said:

If there was some personal conflict between Copely and the administration, there was no reason for the administration to hire him or, if they did, they could have bought out his contract.  If Gelb didn't like him, Gelb didn't have to re-engage him or keep him. 

 

Very true. However, even though I agree with most of what you say especially because the Met has to look at a legal angle, if what happened...happened just as the Times described, it does seem like an overreaction by the Met, so I guess I am looking for a hidden issue (that may or may not exist) to explain it in my mind. I don't think anyone should have to tolerate a hostile environment, but I think the majority of people would have laughed at the comment if made toward them, or, if offended, would have expressed their unhappiness right then or afterward and asked for an apology. Of course, nobody has to act or react in the way I would act or react, but I have to admit that I find that the Met overreacted, but, like I said, I don't have all the facts and wasn't in the room, so maybe I would feel differently if I had been there. The Met is probably in its legal right (and probably has a legal obligation if facing a lawsuit) to solve the situation as it did. However, the punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime, in my personal opinion. But you mentioned it might be the Met trying to show that it now takes sexual issues VERY seriously after the Levine scandal. That would help to explain it.

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Aurora, I not only have empathy, I’ve expressed it in this conversation.        

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having supervisors at school make sexually suggestive jokes is literally no different than what Copley did (I wasn't a minor).

 Context can make an enormous difference. Copely may have been the director, but the atmosphere of a good rehearsal is collegial.

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 I'm quite sure his age played a role in him thinking that he could get away with that

You can’t possibly know he was trying to “get away” with it. That's possible, but not knowable, and people's reputations do precede them. Copley has known to be flamboyant but not unpleasant to work with. Age may have played a role in that he was in the habit of saying that kind of thing and having it understood and not objected to.

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 I'm quite sure his age played a role in him thinking that he could get away with that

2 minutes ago, kfw said:

You can’t possibly know he was trying to “get away” with it. That's possible, but not knowable, and people's reputations do precede them. Copley has known to be flamboyant but not unpleasant to work with. Age may have played a role in that he was in the habit of saying that kind of thing and having it understood and not objected to.

 

kfw, as aurora clarified, she was talking about an experience from her past in that reference, not about Copley.

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