Protests at MRU’s new conservatory
Outraged conservatory students protest over loss of instructors
By Amber McLinden, Staff Writer
“Respect music, respect students, respect teachers.”
The first chant of the protest expressed the frustrations many students, faculty, and supporters have with the Mount Royal University Conservatory. The anger stems from the termination of two of the conservatory’s teachers- John Kadz and Bill Van Der Sloot.
“It all happened when we were notified about our teachers dismissal only two weeks ago.” Andrew Park, a student of the conservatory, explains how the protest began.
“It happened when we found out our tuition was raised $1,000 a week ago. We’ve been asking questions without response. We’ve sent emails to Dean Webber, we’ve sent emails to the board of governors, we’ve sent emails to President Docherty, all without any response.”
Dean Charles Webber, who seems to be at the center of the dismissals, announced that the contracts were terminated on Sept. 1, leaving students confused as to why Kadz and Van Der Sloot were still being advertised as part of the faculty on the conservatory’s website.
The protest, which took place at noon on Thursday, began with speeches including one from Aleksandra Danicic, a long term instructor in the gifted youth program. Her speech centered on providing facts that are contrary to Dean Webber’s statements.
While Webber alluded to tough economic times, Danicic says that “the program receives $100,000 yearly through a separate external donation.”
The speech continues to say that Webber carefully planned and considered the contract renewal over the course of 18 months, but neither students nor the terminated individuals were notified until early September.
“We really do feel bad about the timing of the cuts, it’s really difficult for students and parents in that kind of setting.” Webber says.
“There’s really no good time in the academic year to do that, so there’s advantages and disadvantages, and there’s all kinds of things you have to do to line up that kind of decision, and that’s the timing that had to work for us this year.”
Yet students weren’t satisfied, and Park even approached President David Docherty in the hall, asking about the emails that were sent to him about the issue.
Docherty replied that he “forwarded the message to another representative of the university, and that he would not weigh in on one teacher’s contract.”
An online petition started to raise awareness of the contract terminations has drawn national and international attention, with people commenting globally.
“This decision by MRU is shocking and extremely disappointing. Bill and John were responsible for inspiring a generation of instrumentalists all over the world,” a comment from Nikki Chooi, Concertmaster at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, reads.
“Please reinstate both Bill and John to their respective duties – they are the pillars of [MRU] and it would be a huge loss to not reverse this decision.”
The protest comes with demands, says Park, including an audit of the continuing education department to see where funds are being moved, and an open discussion to take place between faculty and students who believe their questions haven’t truly been answered.
“If this is how MRU treats our long-term, high achieving, respected faculty, how much individual concern can there be for all faculty and students?” said Danicic to the crowd.
“They have been pawns caught in a web of shocking and so far, unexplained decisions. MRU continues to hide behind the excuse of confidentiality. This is an unacceptable excuse.”