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Student alleges U of M mishandled sexual harassment complaint against jazz prof Steve Kirby

Student alleges U of M mishandled sexual harassment complaint against jazz prof Steve Kirby
From CBC - September 14, 2017

A former University of Manitoba jazz student is angry with the way the university handled an internal investigation into Prof. Steve Kirby's conduct, and says it did not do enough to create a safe environment for female students.

"I think it would have been inconvenient for the University of Manitoba to investigate it unless they really had to. The system was set up in such a way that Steve Kirby had a lot of power, and virtually no accountability," the former student said.

CBC is protecting her identity because ot the nature of the allegations.

She is part of a group of current and former students who made allegations of sexual misconduct against Kirby in February.

An internal investigation report obtained by CBC Newsconcluded her allegations of lewd comments and unwanted touching, huggingand kissing had merit and constituted sexual harassment.

"It was a violation of trust, frankly," the student said. "It's a lack of respect for me as a human being. It's an unacceptable form of contact between a teacher and student."

The university said Kirby retired from the University of Manitoba in late June, after being on leave for six months. He had been at the U of M since 2003 and was known internationally as a jazz bassist.

CBC has not been able to reach Kirby for comment.

The former student had one credit remaining to complete her degree but said that because of the ongoing harassment, she could not bring herself to go back and complete the program.

"I could not stand to be in that university for one more minute," she said. "I was crying before my lessons. I was angry. I felt depressed all through my final year, especially. Which is when I was in greatest contact with Steve. It was an extremely vulnerable time for me."

The alleged harassment began in her first year of the program, she said, when she was performing at a local restaurant with the school ensemble.

"Steve said, 'I love the way you move on stage, I love to watch you on stage.' And that sort of raised the first red flag for me," she said.

"The teacher-student relationship is pretty privileged, especially in the jazz faculty. It's a small faculty."

"It was different with Steve. I would enter into his office for private lessons, and he would close a soundproof door. The curtains were closed. He would be saying these comments to me. It was an extremely uncomfortable experience," she said.

"I would cry before our lessons. I would cry the night before. I was afraid.I was angry that I had to endure this kind of thing. I would define it as being a hostile environment."

Allegations ruled as having merit

The university's internal investigation report concluded each of her allegations had merit.

Allegations denied

Safety and respect

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