A group of University of Manitoba students are asking the school to beef up its sexual harassment policies after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against a well-known former music professor from the school last month.
Jazz professor Steve Kirby retired in late June after being on leave for six months. As the CBC News I-Team reported in September, an internal investigation had found Kirby's behaviour with some of his students amounted to "sexual harassment" after a group of students and former students filed complaints last February.
A group of roughly a dozen students carrying signs walked through the school's campus Wednesday before delivering letters signed by two hundred people to university administrators calling for change in the school's harassment policy.
"We would like to see some concrete policy change in order to support student safety. We think that obviously the policies that are in place right now are not functional," explained Chloe LeBlanc-Tod, a fifth-year music student at the U of M's Faculty of Music who took part in the protest. "They are not keeping our students safe. So I think therefore there needs to be some concrete policy change--they need to prove to us how they're going to do that."
Kirby has been a fixture on the local jazz scene since he moved to Winnipeg from the U.S. in 2003. He taught jazz at the U of M for well over a decade and is known internationally as a premier jazz bassist having toured and recorded with musicians such as Wynton Marsalis.
The group of students and former students who filed the complaint in February allege he was also using his position to kiss, hug and make lewd comments toward students.
Attempts by CBC News to contact Kirby have been unsuccessful but in the university's internal investigation report, he "denies all claims made of any sexual innuendo or outright sexual approaches."
LeBlanc-Tod, who didn't study under Kirby herself, said she's worried the university isn't taking allegations of sexual harassment seriously enough.
"I'm really frustrated because if it's happening in our own faculty how can we know that it's not happening somewhere else right now?" she said. "How can we know that it's not going to happen again in the future?"
Now that they've delivered their letters to the school's administration, LeBlanc-Tod says the group will wait to hear the university's response before deciding what steps to take next.