A recent increase in student harassment within the conservatory prompted three students to come forward with their accounts of bullying.
Since the first week of school, groups of students have been caught bothering and insulting those attempting to practice within conservatory practice rooms. The students hurt by the incidents−Jeremiah Swope, Jalen Mitchell, and Abigail Worden−have agreed that the bullies intended to discourage and insult.
For Swope, a junior international studies major, what others took to be “criticism” was, in no way, constructive. While he was playing his trumpet, Swope said he heard people say “Oh good, he stopped…he shouldn’t be here…that dude is so fucking weird.”
He believes criticism is only warranted when given in correct form and said with good intentions.
Mitchell, a sophomore vocal performance major, said he was ridiculed for practicing the piano by means of a note scrunched up under the door. It read: “You should fucking stop…give up the fucking piano…you’re not fucking good…Quit…You Suck…You fucking bitch.”
Lastly, Worden, a junior theater and public relations major, was made fun of as she practiced a song for the next musical’s auditions.
“As I was practicing, I heard people giggling, but I didn’t think anything of it,” Worden said. “But then people started successively poking their heads through the window and then I heard laughing and some running away. When I came outside there was some pointing and immediate silence, which was when I realized ‘oh that was for me.’”
After the three students wrote Facebook posts describing how hurt they were, word spread throughout the music and theater departments that student put-downs have become a serious problem this year.
In response to gossip, Dr. Lynn Roseberry, dean of the conservatory, addressed the incidents at the first general assembly, said Worden.
But two of the three incidents involved non-con students, leading some to question the relationship between music and non-music majors.
Conservatories are stigmatized as fostering elitist and cut-throat environments, but Mitchell questions “why are we criticizing people in the practice rooms?”
“No one is down in the practice rooms to be supervised or evaluated,” Worden said. “You go into the practice room because you know you’re struggling, and you want to get better.”
“I was in awe that people could be so petty and immature,” Swope said. “Adults don’t do that.”
While Mitchell plans on going back to the practice rooms, Swope and Worden both said they won’t be returning to the con to practice.
“I would rather not try to get better in a toxic environment,” Swope said. “This unspoken truth about the distinction between con kids and the rest of us just came to light for me.”
Worden said she would rather practice in her basement than go back. She believes freshmen to be the perpetrators, because “you don’t get that [bullying] with more mature students who have become comfortable with where they stand.”
After speaking with con students distanced from the incidents, they said that what frustrates them most is that “a small group of people are projecting an attitude we don’t want in the conservatory.”
Other students agreed that the con acts as a supportive community for most, not a “trash-talk collective.”