A day and a half after telling its community to not talk publicly about an Inquirer investigation of how the Curtis Institute of Music handled an alleged sexual assault of a student, the school has sent out an apology.
“Yesterday we communicated with all of you in a way that was not consistent with our values. We have understandably lost your trust and for that I am profoundly sorry,” wrote Curtis president and CEO Roberto Diaz in an email sent late Friday night to parents, students, alumni and others.
The school will also set up an anonymous reporting hotline, the note said, though Diaz offered no details on the purpose of the hotline or what would be done with any issues reported through it.
Diaz’s message comes after the Inquirer published an investigation online Thursday detailing an account by violinist Lara St. John saying she was sexually assaulted over a period of months in the mid-1980s by her teacher, Jascha Brodsky. She was 14 years old at the time.
Four other women told the Inquirer they had also been pursued sexually by Brodsky, a revered pedagogue who taught at Curtis and elsewhere for decades. He died in 1997.
St. John, an acclaimed violinist, brought her allegations to the school over a period of decades and was ignored, mocked, and asked to not tell anyone about it. An investigation commissioned by Curtis in 2013 failed to interview key figures, including St. John herself.
Diaz’s apology refers to Curtis’s first reaction to the story, sent in an email asking that the school’s constituents “refrain from discussing this matter publicly, online, or on social media” — a directive that immediately set off a wave of anger on social media and elsewhere.
St. John on Saturday said she did not personally receive Friday night’s apology email from Diaz and, two days after the article ran online, had not been contacted by him or anyone else from the school.
The school on Thursday night announced that its board and senior Curtis leadership would be reviewing its policies and procedures around sexual assault and harassment, and would make changes if they determined that changes were warranted.
But at that time, the school didn’t offer an apology for asking its constituents to not talk publicly about the issue — only that it regretted “not properly conveying today the weight of our commitment” to sympathy for victims of sexual assault.
Friday’s message — the first from Diaz himself — included a promise that the school “will do whatever is needed to make this right.”
As a “first step toward this promise,” he pointed to the anonymous reporting hotline. Details on how it will work were not yet available, a Curtis spokesperson said.
“My first reaction was that I was glad something had come out, but it does feel incomplete,” said timpanist Martha Hitchins, a 1978 Curtis graduate, who said that she was “offended by the initial attempts at censorship."
“The most important thing is that those who have suffered sexual abuse need to be helped, whether it was something that happened a long time ago or something that is happening now at Curtis,” she said. “We certainly hope it isn’t happening, but I think an anonymous reporting hotline is something that will be helpful.”