Patrick’s Responses to GBC’s statements in the January 12, 2018 Toronto Star article

Originally posted: February 1, 2018

Statement: “We are absolutely aware of the concerns raised in that article and we believe decisive action has been taken to address those issues.” (Brian Stock, Communications Director: George Brown College)

Patrick’s Response: The College has not yet publicly made any specific indication what those “decisive” actions may be.

 

Statement: A March 12, 2017, email, written to a George Brown College executive and obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request, references the absence of the school’s “head of acting” who was either “taking a leave of absence” or was put on “administrative leave.”

Patrick’s Response: Is that with or without his $104,788.03 salary?

 

Statement: However, one student felt that despite Hammond’s sometimes “harsh” comments, he was an “incredible teacher.”

Patrick’s Response: There can be no justification for systematically, intentionally and continuously abusing students for years on end.

 

Statement:  “I realize that his methods are difficult to both explain and understand,” the student wrote. “But Todd has immensely helped me in my acting. His comments, to some, can be very harsh and I was devastated to learn the harm they have caused fellow students. “But many of whom I have spoken to feel strongly that he was a teacher we needed and the toughness of his method set high demands for us to improve . . . .”

Patrick’s Response: It is not unusual in abusive dynamics for victims to feel they are deserving of the abuse and that it somehow “improves” them. This well-established phenomenon should never be used as a justification by those in authority to allow abuse to continue unchecked.

 

Statement: James Simon, who teaches a course about the business of acting, wrote to the Star in an email saying he is “deeply saddened by the conflicted feelings some students have expressed on social media and online…”

Patrick’s Response: These are weasel words. The overwhelming majority of publicly accessible online comments by former students show an unambiguous, unequivocal, and unconflicted condemnation of the school’s abusive methods.

 

Statement: “Fear and intimidation are not teaching tools.”

Patrick’s Response: So then why build an entire teaching career and training program upon them?

 

Statement: Simon said that while he does not want to invalidate the experiences of the students who have come forward, he points out that the school has, in the past, received a “98-100% student satisfaction based on annual anonymous Key Performance Indicator surveys administered by the government.”

Patrick’s Response: What purpose other than attempting to invalidate the experiences of students does this statement serve? This is classic victim-blaming.

If these KPI surveys are to form the central pillar of the theatre school’s defense against a decades-long abuse scandal, I would invite the school to provide the complete results of these surveys along with documentation of their methodology and sampling methods. It seems exceptionally hard to imagine that the reported results capture the opinions of the roughly 50-70% of students who are expelled or leave the program each year.

Update (March 5, 2018): A subsequent Freedom of Information request to George Brown College has confirmed this suspicion. In the words of the FOI Coordinator: “students who left the program or who were not promoted would not be included in the KPI survey.”

 

Statement: He said that after the Intermission article came out, the school was “once more put under a microscope” and that the author of the article never came forward with any complaints while she was at the school. 

Patrick’s Response: As we have been saying for years, if any student came forward while attending the school, that person would have undoubtedly been immediately expelled. That is certainly the reason why I and so many others never came forward while attending the school.

 

Statement: Stock, the college’s director of communications, said “it’s completely unacceptable for faculty to comment on a student’s appearance relative to their performance.”  “We would never accept this today and we shouldn’t have accepted it in the past,” Stock said.

Patrick’s Response: Allegations received by gbsurvivors.org show that exactly these sorts of comments were made by faculty at least as recently as 2016 (less than two years prior to Stock’s statement). It appears the College has still been only all too eager to accept these behaviours today every bit as much as it has in the past.

 

Statement: [Brian Stock] also said there is no system of cutting, but when students are asked to leave the program they have been given ample indications, including being put on probation, and warned that they were not meeting requirements to continue with the program.

Patrick’s Response: In related news: up is down, left is right, the moon is made of cheese, and George Brown College is a beacon of professional accountability. To say that there is no system of cutting at George Brown Theatre School is to commit an act of gaslighting of the most bizarre and baffling extreme. Bewilderingly, Brian Stock’s statement also clearly directly contradicts itself. How can there be no system of cutting in which students “are asked to leave the program”?

There was never any “asking” involved. Students were routinely and permanently expelled with no opportunity to repeat failed courses or to engage in any meaningful appeals process.

Anyone who attended the school can tell you that mass expulsions occur as a matter of course at the end of every single semester. Cutting students is the core premise of the entire program. This heavily documented and well-established cutting system was a source of extreme anxiety and fear for many who attended the school. It was the school’s chief instrument of manipulation to induce unquestioning obedience and conformity. To judge whether students felt they had been “given ample indications” before being cut, please check out the stories of Anda, Bronwyn, Gabrielle, Lara, Natalie, and Rachel. Also check out the “Fostering A Constant Fear of Expulsion” section of A Legacy of Trauma.

Brian Stock’s statement is at best a tone-deaf and misguided mistake made by someone with zero direct experience of student life at the theatre school. At worst, it is an intentional lie designed to invalidate the experiences of former students in yet another egregious act by the College administration to absolve itself of all responsibility.

Last year (2017) through a Freedom of Information request, I obtained copies of hundreds of internal emails and memos from George Brown College related to the theatre school abuse allegations. One of those documents was a summary of the meeting held on February 22, 2007 between representatives of the College and theatre school administrations. That document contained an explosive statement directly related to the cutting system. In it, the head of the theatre school states:

I suspect that some of the students who are feeling overwhelmed with the demands are the ones who shouldn’t be in the program but are there due to budget targets.

Think about that statement for a moment. Reread it a couple of times. It isn’t every day that you stumble upon a sentence which manages to seamlessly combine textbook victim-blaming with a stunning admission of fraud from a publicly funded institution.

To see the original document, click here. The redactions are the College’s; the highlighting is mine.

This is the smoking gun which proves that George Brown Theatre School routinely admits students to its program who it has no intention of mentoring through to a successful graduation. I cannot help but conclude that they only ever intend to graduate fifteen or so students each year but admit more than double that number for the sole purpose of obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional tuition revenue from vulnerable, young, unsuspecting victims.

Statement: Stock said that as a result, the theatre school has updated its policies related to faculty behaviour, added courses on consent both on stage and in life and on how to manage acting challenges related to scenes of intimacy on stage.

Patrick’s Response: May I also suggest firing a number of employees? I have a long list of candidates for your consideration.