Statement on Investigation of Learning and Working Environment

Wed 31 Mar

Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA) – statement on investigation of learning and working environment

In response to a number of reports posted on an Instagram account in November 2020, the WdKA has commissioned an investigation of the learning and working environment within the Academy. This investigation examined, on the one hand, specific transgressive behaviour, and, on the other hand, the general learning and working environment within the WdKA. The investigation was conducted by an independent agency, which interviewed all persons who agreed to participate. We wish to thank all participants in the investigation for their openness and commitment in sharing their experiences with the investigators. The findings and conclusions of the investigation are presented in a separate report (click here for the report).

First and foremost, we wish to emphasise that we consider education to be a right as well as a wonderful gift – one that should be enjoyed in absolute safety by students as well as staff members. Art education is not only about teaching insights and skills, but perhaps more importantly about how students can be challenged by their teachers – who themselves are active professional practitioners – into developing original visual materials. At WdKA we accomplish this goal by positioning ourselves in the midst of society. The bond between teachers and students is often as close and as stimulating as it is. However, this may never lead to transgressive behaviour.

Measures against transgressive behaviour
The findings of the investigation show that unacceptably transgressive behaviour has indeed taken place. This has led to a number of appropriate measures. For privacy reasons, we will not be describing these measures in more detail here. We deeply regret that several people within the Academy have been subjected to this behaviour and/or its consequences.

Efforts against discrimination
The investigation has also shown that some groups of students and staff members within the WdKA have experienced discrimination. This too is unacceptable, and motivates us to vigorously implement policies that had already been initiated. In January 2021, the WdKA appointed two staff members to focus specifically on advising the Academy with regard to equality, discrimination and inclusion. There have also been regular consultations with a group of students on topics of inclusivity and diversity. An active recruitment policy has also been established, with a specific focus on hiring teachers who are not only artistically challenging, but also contribute to increased diversity within the team.

Commitment to increased awareness
But the WdKA does not stop there. For example, we have been collectively discussing how to introduce more diverse perspectives within our curricula. We will also continue to focus on increasing awareness within the Academy, through the implementation of a visible ‘community of care’. We understand the necessity of leading by example, meaning that the Academy’s management must continue to actively engage in dialogue with all students and staff members on the topic of social safety within the Academy.

Finally, we will be focusing on increasing the visibility of our policies, and of their implementation and ongoing improvements, so that staff and students may remain better connected and better informed.

Appreciation for the educational atmosphere
It is clear that some things need to change for the better at the WdKA, and we will increase our efforts to achieve this – but it’s also worth pointing out what is going well. The report shows a high level of appreciation for the Academy’s curriculum, its teachers, and its learning and working environment. For example, respondents rated their feeling of safety at the Academy with scores ranging from 6.5 to 8 (on a scale of 1 to 10). We are pleased to note that respondents generally report experiencing a pleasant learning and working environment within the WdKA.

Where you can file a report
Students or staff members experiencing any conditions or feelings of unsafety should not hesitate to discuss their experiences with their student counsellor, their study guidance coach, or the confidential advisor. You can also discuss with the advisors on equality, diversity and inclusion any experiences or reports related to discrimination or racism.

We aim to, and will be an Academy where everyone feels welcome.

Jeroen Chabot

Dean Willem de Kooning Academy – Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences