Education

Prestigious British artwork faculty in Rome accused of being a ‘toxic’ place to work | Italy

A taxpayer-funded charity that runs a prestigious artwork faculty in Rome has been accused of failing in its obligation of care after allegations of mismanagement, a “toxic” working setting and unfair working practices.

The British School at Rome (BSR) launched an inquiry after 24 employees, former workers and alumni complained in regards to the charity’s operations in April 2020 to its trustees. It was alleged that employees have been struggling “physical and mental health issues” due to poor working circumstances.

It is alleged a “grievance panel” arrange by the charity’s trustees to analyze the claims was suspended earlier than it reported its findings. The charity mentioned final week it had carried out a “comprehensive, independent and confidential” investigation.

BSR was established in 1901 and is housed in a neoclassical constructing in Rome designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Alumni embody Turner prize winners Elizabeth Price and Mark Wallinger. It receives greater than half of its funding from the British Academy, which is supported by a grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

A two-page criticism written in April 2020 was despatched to the charity’s council, whose members are its trustees. The council is chaired by Mark Getty, a member of the Getty household oil dynasty and co-founder of the media firm Getty Images.

Mark Getty
Multimillionaire Mark Getty is chair of the charity’s council. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The criticism seen by the Observer mentioned there have been grave considerations on the faculty with regard to mismanagement, unfair working practices and alleged demeaning language in the direction of some feminine workers. The letter complained of a “toxic” and “divisive” working environment.

The doc acknowledged: “Since July 2019, a number of trustees have been approached and these issues have been brought to their attention, but nothing positive has resulted. People should be given the opportunity to speak in a safe and protected environment.”

In one case of alleged unfair working circumstances, a senior feminine arts researcher who lived on the faculty and has spoken to the Observer mentioned she was anticipated to behave as a “janitor” on some nights, and was given a torch and high-visibility vest to patrol the premises.

She mentioned: “I actually found a naked man in the lecture theatre one Saturday evening and I had to deal with that. I think he was on drugs.” When she complained that out-of-hours duties weren’t in her contract, she claims she was advised she wouldn’t be granted her vacation depart except she agreed to do the out-of-hours work. The researcher was dismissed after refusing to work out of hours, however says she pursued an unfair dismissal case within the Rome courts and acquired compensation in a settlement.

The council overseeing the charity commissioned an unbiased evaluate in June 2020. The panel really helpful forming a grievance panel and in addition recognized a “very urgent” want for employees to get entry to human assets recommendation and help.

A grievance panel composed solely of legal professionals appointed by the BSR was carried out with hearings in July 2020. In September that yr, 37 employees, former workers and alumni wrote to the British Academy, complaining that they had not been knowledgeable of any findings by the panel and the charity had “failed in its duty of care”.

The British Academy and the BSR reviewed the charity’s governance. Reforms have been proposed, together with a brand new code of conduct, the formation of a senior administration crew and a brand new strategy to range and inclusion. The British Academy reported to the complainants in June 2021 that the council had “decided to suspend the operations of the grievance panel despite the absence of any resolution of the issues that came before it”.

The charity, which has about 30 workers, mentioned final week that each one the evaluate’s suggestions had been carried out. It mentioned it couldn’t absolutely reply to particular claims due to confidentiality preparations, however no members of employees have been the topic of disciplinary motion.

It mentioned it consulted employees final summer time in regards to the grievance panel and the council concluded it was acceptable to contemplate the process closed. It mentioned that no researchers had been requested to behave as janitors, however residential employees had shared duties for out-of-hours emergencies. Since spring 2020, knowledgeable safety service had been in place, the charity mentioned. An HR supervisor was appointed in 2021.

Mark Getty, chair of the BSR council, mentioned: “I am confident that with an enhanced framework for the BSR’s governance and with new dynamic leadership, the BSR is now well-placed to develop the UK’s creative and academic presence in Italy.”

The British Academy mentioned it was not in its remit to analyze particular complaints from workers, however mentioned it was glad the problems recognized in its governance evaluate have been “in hand”.

Professor Stephen Milner, director of the charity on the time of the complaints, left on the finish of his secondment in January 2021. Milner, Serena Professor of Italian at Manchester University, mentioned final week the BSR would reply on the problem.

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