The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Students’ Union has released a statement condemning the school for its lack of accountability and failure to put into place proper whistleblowing policies, after one of its former employees won HK$1 million in a settlement concerning alleged instances of sexual harassment.

The publicly-funded institution has thus far refused to comment on the case despite several enquiries by HKFP.

Earlier this month, HKAPA’s former Head of Acting Peter Jordan received a HK$1 million payout from the school and his ex-boss, the School of Drama’s dean Ceri Sherlock. Jordan was allegedly victimised and fired for confronting Sherlock over rumours of sexual harassment.

HKAPA. Photo: Google Maps.

In the statement released on Friday, the student union said that the when the investigation was ongoing, Sherlock had not been suspended and the results of the investigation were also not made public. Soon after, Peter Jordan found his contract was not renewed.

Taxpayers’ money

“We are baffled by the school’s handling of the case, and regarding former Head of Acting Peter Jordan’s HK$1m compensation, we’re concerned with whether the amount paid by the school is reasonable,” the statement said. “The students should have priority when it comes to the school’s resources, and the compensation was paid for with taxpayers’ money meant for sponsoring students’ learning. The school has a need to explain to the public the compensation amount”

The statement said that the incident affects the tertiary education institution’s reputation locally and even internationally.

Ceri Sherlock.

Policy failures 

It criticised the school for its failure to put in place a proper sexual harassment whistleblowing policy and protect students properly during the investigation process. It urged the school to review and establish a fair and transparent mechanism to deal with issues concerning staff conduct as soon as possible.

“The sexual harassment incident is only one of many unfair cases happening within the school, and [the HKAPA] should guarantee that students will not be unfairly treated or discriminated against, and should encourage them to speak out.”

The student union said students who required assistance are welcome to contact them, pledging to stand on their side and defend their rights and dignity.

Photo: HKAPA Student Union Facebook.

Academy remains silent  

Despite HKFP’s repeated enquiries, the HKAPA has refused to comment; in an email last week, the school said: “We understand the said case has been resolved and regret that we are not in a position to provide further information at this stage. Thank you.”

The school’s alumni association told HKFP that they were unaware of the case until learning about it from the news and did not have any information to share at that point of time. It said it will be following up on the incident closely.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.