Recording Academy Diversity Task Force Urges Changes After Deborah Dugan’s Shocking Allegations
The Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion has issued a very strongly-worded statement in the wake of shocking allegations former CEO Deborah Dugan has made against the organization, calling for the board of trustees to immediately implement "systemic changes" at the highest levels of the organization.
Dugan was placed on administrative leave abruptly at the end of last week, with allegations swirling about misconduct. She had only served as the head of the Recording Academy for a few months since taking the helm in August of 2019. Dugan was brought in to replace longtime Recording Academy head Neil Portnow, and it subsequently came to light that she had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stating that Portnow “allegedly raped a female recording artist," resulting in his contract not being renewed. Dugan also alleged sexual harassment, voting irregularities in the Grammy Awards, self-dealing and conflicts of interest in the organization in a formal complaint in December, and she claims she was forced out in retaliation.
As Billboard reports, the new statement begins with the members of the task force expressing "shock and dismay at the allegations surrounding the Recording Academy and its leadership that surfaced this week."
The statement then urges the board of trustees to implement all 18 of the changes suggested in a 47-page report the task force issued in December, which include committing to more diverse academy committees with an equal number of men and women, ranked-choice voting for the Big Four Grammy categories, creating a new executive position for a diversity and inclusion officer, and hiring an outside adviser to make sure the academy is complying with a culture of diversity and inclusion.
"To be clear, these are changes that need to be made at the highest levels and institutionalized so that they outlast any single leader," the statement reads.
Time's Up president and CEO Tina Tchen chairs the Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which includes country singer Cam; Stephanie Alexa from Universal Music Group Nashville; Michele Anthony from Universal Music Group; television journalist Giselle Fernandez; songwriter and producer Shakari Boles; rapper Common; singer Andra Day; songwriter, producer and musician Jimmy Jam; Creative Nation CEO Beth Laird; BET chairwoman Debra Lee; Lionfish CEO Rebeca Leon; ASCAP CEO Elisabeth Matthews; USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder and director Dr. Stacy Smith; Friends at Work founder and CEO Ty Stiklorius; Sony Music's Julie Swidler; Seven20 CEO Dean Wilson; and Women's Audio Mission Executive Director Terri Winston.
"The Academy's Board of Trustees and leadership must immediately commit themselves to real reform, take concrete steps to implement all of the Task Force reforms, and transparently and regularly report on their progress -- including transparently reporting on the pending investigations they have announced are underway," the statement adds, warning, "The Task Force will be reconvening in 90 days and expects to hear progress from the Academy by that time."
The various accusations and allegations have sent shock waves through the music industry, especially as they landed in the week before the 62nd annual Grammy Awards are set to take place. The 2020 Grammy Awards are set to broadcast live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday (Jan. 26), beginning at 8PM ET on CBS.
The full statement appears below:
As representatives from across the music community serving on the Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, we want to speak in our own voice about our shock and dismay at the allegations surrounding the Recording Academy and its leadership that surfaced this week.
Our Task Force devoted the last year and a half to determining ways of making this industry we love more inclusive and representative of all of our voices. On December 12, 2019, we issued a 47-page report, setting out 18 systemic changes we determined were needed to improve diversity and inclusion at the Academy, and drive constructive change across the music industry.
These new charges reinforce just how important and urgent it is that the Academy implement all of the changes in the report that we delivered -- without any delay.
The Academy's Board of Trustees and leadership must immediately commit themselves to real reform, take concrete steps to implement all of the Task Force reforms, and transparently and regularly report on their progress -- including transparently reporting on the pending investigations they have announced are underway. The Task Force will be reconvening in 90 days and expects to hear progress from the Academy by that time.
To reiterate, among the recommendations outlined in our report are calls for:
- Ensuring that all committees of the Academy, including nominations committees, are diverse, with equal representation of men and women -- an area where progress achieved last year was eroded in this year’s appointments;
- Implementing ranked-choice voting at both the nominating committee and final ballot stages for the Big Four award categories (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist), which we believe would be a more fair and representative way to decide among a large group of nominees;
- Changing the Board of Trustees election system so that the leadership of the Academy will be more diverse and inclusive. While the Academy announced a partial implementation of our recommendation last month, it does not go far enough;
- Hiring a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the executive level to lead the deeper changes that are obviously needed; and
Hiring an independent outside advisor to conduct a review of all policies to ensure the Academy has a compliant and inclusive workplace culture.
To be clear, these are changes that need to be made at the highest levels and institutionalized so that they outlast any single leader.
While we understand there are ongoing investigations about the issues raised over the last week, our experience and research tells us that if the Academy leadership, its staff, and the nominating committees that govern the Awards were more diverse and inclusive, there would be better processes for resolving problems and more trust in the Academy as a whole. Those seeking to make such reforms need to be supported, not impeded.
Change is hard. It won't be easy to make these changes. But we are deeply disappointed at the level of commitment by some of the Academy's leadership in effecting the kind of real and constructive change presented in our report. We are confident that they can do better.
Music has historically catalyzed and galvanized mass social change. And so it must again. Now.
Every Grammy Awards Best Country Album Winner Ever: