Research reports KABK and WdKA
On March 23rd, the research report of the Bezemer and Schubad research bureau into the work culture at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague was published. As a result of this report, director Marieke Schoenmakers resigned. The independent investigation was commissioned in response to reports in NRC in October 2020 about serious transgressive behaviour and an unsafe working culture at the academy. On 31 March, the same research bureau published the report on an investigation into the learning and working environment at the Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA) in Rotterdam. This was prompted by a number of reports posted on an Instagram account in November 2020.
The research report on the KABK shows that the The educational institution experiences a lack of connection. Because the director did not invest enough in connection, the situation was created a climate in which many acted on their own discretion with which an unpredictable situation. It is also concluded that that themes such as diversity and inclusion are not yet sufficiently visible in the agenda. Many students experienced the culture at the educational institution as damaging, with some approaching students as if they were already working in the 'hard world' of the artist. To change this, something will have to be done about the culture. A broadly shared awareness and knowledge of undesirable behaviour seems to be lacking.
Involve students as much as possible in all these steps towards improvement
The study makes a number of recommendations, including drawing up an Action Plan, strengthening personnel management, organising talks with staff at the workshops about their feelings of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, and creating spaces in which lecturers and students can withdraw from each other. It is also advised to communicate clearly about the desired course and to investigate whether all employees are willing and able to conform to it. With regard to As far as social safety is concerned, the advice includes appointing two external confidential counsellors - who are given sufficient space and mandate - and to strive for diversity in this. In addition, it is recommended that a school psychologist be appointed, who will can also be supportive to staff members with regard to students with psychological problems. Furthermore, a advice to hurry up and organise training in didactic skills - in the broadest sense of the word. In addition to Many other recommendations, the last one reads: "involve students as much as possible in all these steps towards improvement".
Research was also carried out at the WdKA by research agency Bezemer and Schubad. The research focused on the learning and working environment within the academy. On the one hand it looked at specific transgressive behaviour and on the other hand at the general learning and working environment. The research confirms that there is unacceptable transgressive behaviour and that some groups of students and employees within the WdKA have experienced discrimination. However, due to the small number of respondents, the report can cannot be seen as the result of a general investigation The results of the survey are not directly related to the working and learning environment, but they do give a picture. The researchers recommend to examine what conditions are needed to further improve diversity and inclusion and to consult with students to develop a code of conduct with respect to the use of social media. They also recommend checking whether enough is being done to reduce the workload to an acceptable level, taking into account the balance between theory and practice. Finally, one of the recommendations is to examine whether the visibility, role and position of the - as well as the professional duty of confidentiality - is sufficiently clear to students.
And now what?
Both educational institutions have responded actively to the investigations, taken appropriate initial action and are continuing to work to improve the culture within the educational institution concerned. For more information, see the websites of both art schools: kabk.nl and wdka.nl.
You can also download the reports here: KABK and WdKA.