Violinist Stephen Shipps on Leave from Michigan after Sexual Misconduct Allegations Go Public

December 15, 2018, 7:04 PM · University of Michigan violin professor Stephen Shipps has been on leave since Dec. 7, days before an article in The Michigan Daily described allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against Shipps that spanned a 40-year time period.

Shipps, 66, also has stepped down as Chair of Strings at Michigan and as director of the Strings Preparatory Program, a university-affiliated pre-college music program for local middle and high school students, according to the article. No charges have been brought against Shipps, who has not publicly responded to the allegations.

Stephen Shipps
Violinist Stephen Shipps.

Shipps has been teaching violin at Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance nearly 30 years, since 1989. He served as the associate dean for academic affairs from 2002 to 2007 and as a member of the Music, Theatre & Dance School’s executive committee from 2001 to 2004. Before that he taught at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, from 1980 to 1989.

The Michigan Daily article was written by sophomore music student Sammy Sussman, who had been investigating the story since October, according to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review. In the course of his work, Sussman found allegations dating back to as early as the late '70s.

Shipps' involvement in the classical music and educational community runs deep. He studied with Josef Gingold, Ivan Galamian and Sally Thomas and played in the Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Opera and Omaha Symphony Orchestra. He has served the board for the Sphinx Competition, on the Committee for Studio Instruction for the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and on the board for the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. He has been featured in pedagogical and news articles here on Violinist.com and in most media related to the violin, and his name appears on numerous editions of music.

I have reached out to Shipps for comment, but he has not responded. The allegations against Shipps follow recent revelations about Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil that led to his resignation from the Cleveland Institute as well as his dismissal from the Cleveland Orchestra. That followed the publication in late July of a Washington Post article focusing on sexual harassment, misconduct and assault in the classical music world.

Replies

December 16, 2018 at 04:06 AM · really about time they get rid of these horny old perverts for good

December 16, 2018 at 04:08 AM · One does wonder how many more there are.

December 16, 2018 at 05:01 AM · I thought the article came out first and then he stepped down....?

December 16, 2018 at 05:12 AM · The article contains an update that says: "University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Stephen Shipps has been on leave from the University since Friday, Dec 7. He has stepped down as Chair of Strings and as director of the Strings Preparatory Program."

December 16, 2018 at 05:53 AM · Shipps' leave was not confirmed by the University until Tuesday, December 11th though he was placed on leave Friday, December 7th.

December 16, 2018 at 10:49 AM · The article in the Michigan Daily was badly written and unsubstantiated. One of the pinnacles of bad journalism is accusing Prof Shipps of sexist and misogynistic remarks. But none are quoted. At SMTD we have witnessed a different behavior. Prof Shipps is always complimentary, in their presence and absence towards all his female students. He cares for diverse students and is especially sensitive to people with special needs and challenges and caring of his students. He is, however, quite intense, and although fair and gracious and patient he can be intimidating. It is not even necessary to be that to make enemies. Many people every day will hold grudges for offenses they falsely perceive directed against them. The student writing the article did a shabby job in his investigation and writing. It smells like trying to detract attention from the story that broke out about the singer affiliated with SMTD at the time this student started investigating the story on Mr Shipps. It is interesting the student did no further investigation on a story of criminal drugging and raping a student who is now a professor at Texas. How many more victims did those characters have? Instead at the time that story of criminal behavior broke, the student started putting together a shabby article about Prof Shipps. It feels like a lot of smoke and mirrors. The school should be able to protect the teachers too. Men should also be protected against false allegations and malicious or negligent destruction of their lives. If you have sons you would wish that as much as you would that your sons would behave as they should.

December 16, 2018 at 12:34 PM · The tell tale article was written by a sophomore student after less than two months of research. Anything that easy to find out should have been discovered and publicized long ago. Why wasn't it? What held people back from public exposure for so many years? Why was the information first published in a student journal? Why didn't any of the victims of the sexual abuse appeal speak out about it? Forty years is a long time to keep such matters secret. There are more questions than answers here.

Thanks, Laurie, for bringing it to our attention.

Pauline Lerner

December 16, 2018 at 02:27 PM · As Robert Caro noted in his multi-volume biography of LBJ: "Power reveals..." Many professions have lingering rites-of-passage where many forms of abuse are common and have been ignored or accepted as: "the way things work."

No free passes from me, but a realization that what we see in a current abusive person is usually the product of multiple generations of abuse; parent to child, teacher to student, boss to subordinate,... all of it ignored or glossed over. Unfortunately, this is simply "too terribly human."

"Do not do to others that which you would not have done to you." A human understanding first written down well over 6000 years ago, but still ignored by too many people.

No, we haven't see the end, nor the submerged part of the proverbial iceberg.

December 16, 2018 at 04:50 PM · "...what we see in a current abusive person is usually the product of multiple generations of abuse; parent to child, teacher to student, boss to subordinate..."

But isn't that a kind of "free pass?" Personally, I don't believe that men who abuse their role do it because they were necessarily themselves seduced. The reason they do it is far simpler: They do it simply because they can.

No other psychobabble is necessary.

I had lessons with Shipps in the early 1990s, and found him to be personable, thoroughly professional and a good teacher. However, when I worked at Meadowmount in about 92-93 and had lessons there with him, rumors swirled about his behavior with female students. And I distinctly remember it said that the parents of one of his star young students knew about his behavior and forbid him from being alone with her. I would say that hearing about Owen Carmen many years later was a shocker, although, not having been at MSU, I didn't know that much about him.

Many male teachers I interacted with over my career were known seducers and pedophiles. Unlike Shipps, they didn't necessarily treat males that great, either: they could be unabashedly dismissive if you weren't a pretty girl. One coach would gush superlatives to the girls at chamber music coachings while totally ignoring males. My studio teacher at one school could simultaneously gush at the girls while verbally abusing me.

I have had male teachers who I felt were paragons of behavior and professionalism. I'm keeping my fingers crossed....

December 16, 2018 at 07:11 PM · Trying to understand better what might give rise to these kinds of tendencies is important from the standpoint of basic medical science: If we can understand, then may be we can treat or prevent.

Wanting to understand or hypothesizing a rationalization should not be confused with condoning the behavior. Unless someone is so pathological that they cannot determine right from wrong, then they're still responsible for their actions even if there are underlying "reasons." In other words, reasons are not excuses unless the individual is criminally insane.

What will happen now is a very long and expensive (perhaps justified) investigation into what the administrators at Michigan knew and when they knew it. Stay tuned. (no pun intended)

December 16, 2018 at 07:47 PM · I knew much about James Levine 's aberrant behaviour in the 1970's, but due to never being in a musical collaborative professional situation didn't 'gossip', as the Media weren't aware or not interested in classical male musicians at the time ~ All in the profession of classical Music are, without such being stated early on, beholden to behave as well as the Great Music we serve ~

Knowing Shipps was involved with National ASTA, I'm sure this will come as a jolt to many in the ASTA Administration and Community across America ... "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" says it all and is a 'holy' obligation for all in the classical Arts ~ Period. If we see more of this, our already terribly under funded Congressional Budget will shrink ever more.

What a time to witness 'The Unraveling" ~ Agreeing that a beginning Journalist had a minimal amount of evidence yet chose to write of Prof Shipps, is disturbing as was the assault on then Judge Cavanaugh by Prof Ford ~ That was and is shameful ~ We need to be our Best Selves and in so doing, most of this turns to dust . . . Look Up as today is Beethoven Sunday! A time of joy as heard/felt in his Missa Solemnis ~ Sunday, December 16, 2018

December 16, 2018 at 07:54 PM · Very saddened about the latest classical music scandal or long existing under the carpet quiet yet possibly kept so??

As a great American President said, "Trust but Verify" ~

Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago

December 16, 2018 at 08:13 PM · I agree with Scott. People do this because they can. And it's not just in music. It's pervasive across our culture. I do not know a single woman who has not been sexually harassed. I've only met a few who say they were never harassed in a professional setting. Paul, I don't know what medical science can do; but studying how institutions are complicit in these crimes (social science) could actually change things. It's not so much that an individual did this, it's that he was protected by the institutions he worked for. For YEARS.

It's often an open secret and institutions chose to turn a blind eye. They don't want the scandal to effect their program, admitting the crime opens them to financial liability, etc. It's easier to discredit the victims. Look at the above post, written anonymously: "it's just a crappy college newspaper, who is this 19 year old to take down this man' or "It's just sour grapes from enemies." The department head of my undergrad program (non music) was widely known to have affairs with students. I was hit on by my TA, and had a professor in grad school regularly sending a friend grossly inappropriate PMs at 2 am. All are still employed in academia.

December 16, 2018 at 08:44 PM · As a momther of a young girl who aspires to be a violinist, I would love to know which teachers can be trusted for summer camps, college, and beyond.

December 16, 2018 at 08:45 PM · "but studying how institutions are complicit in these crimes (social science) could actually change things"

Here's the starting point: Institutions, by their nature, are concerned first and foremost with perpetuating themselves. It applies across the board in a variety of ways, from the Vatican to major oil companies to real estate developers to colleges and universities to hospitals.

Is science needed? I don't think so. Even the Chinese and Ottoman emperors knew enough about human nature to have their harems guarded by eunuchs...

December 16, 2018 at 09:35 PM · The cold truth is that there have always been people who have a quietly-rumored reputation. Go to certain camps or schools, and students will quietly warn each other about so-and-so, who might be known to merely flirt, or to ignore the boys in favor of the girls, or to have a tendency to touch underage students more than they should, or have a tendency to sleep with their students, or, noted more darkly, with whom one should take care never to be alone with.

In some cases, journalists don't have to look hard because everyone already knows and has known for decades. This applies to music as well as many other professions.

December 16, 2018 at 10:39 PM · Some institutions are better than others about responding to allegations and creating a positive corporate culture. There's a whole field of research called institutional logics that's been around for a while.

December 16, 2018 at 10:52 PM · I would suggest that those denigrating either the writing or the research behind the Michigan Daily article spend a few minutes reading the article at the Columbia Journalism Review on how that article was sourced and written. https://www.cjr.org/q_and_a/stephen-shipps-university-of-michigan.php

It is also worth reading the comments on the Michigan Daily article, which include a few more first-hand reports from named sources.

December 17, 2018 at 12:55 AM · I agree with Julie that's important for us to break down the institutional protections that exist for these people, and recognizing that they exist is obviously the first step -- one that I believe we've already taken at least partly.

Kiki wrote, "As a mother of a young girl who aspires to be a violinist, I would love to know which teachers can be trusted for summer camps, college, and beyond."

As far as camp, they are the teachers that you are in the same room with while your child is having a lesson or a master class or a quartet rehearsal. For that reason consider camps that you attend with your daughter, at least until you can trust her to tell you if something untoward happens during one of her violin lessons.

Note also that the abusers, overwhelmingly, are men. So if you want to play it safe when sending your daughter to a "drop-off" type of camp, then insist that any instructors who might be with them, especially in one-on-one situations, be female. And you can ask the camp organizers for names of parents who have sent their kids there a few times so you can call them and explore these topics with them. Again, insist that those be parents of girls. If the camp organizers can't accommodate these requests then they've got their heads in the sand about what's going on in the world and what concerns parents on a daily basis.

December 17, 2018 at 03:34 AM · Unfortunately, It seems like it's not so much the children, but the 18-22 year old naive undergrads who suffer the most, despite the strict no fraternization university policies.

December 17, 2018 at 03:59 AM · "at least until you can trust her to tell you if something untoward happens during one of her violin lessons."

Paul, your idea here makes sense on paper but I have to respectfully suggest that expecting a young adolescent or even a college-aged female student to reliably report when a male professor crosses a line is putting too much responsibility on someone who may not be ready for it. Generally there are conflicting feelings going on: loyalty to the professor, fear that the girl is somehow at fault (was I too nice? did I lead him on? these thoughts can be intrusive even if completely irrational or baseless), fear that she won't be believed, fear that she'll be blamed for any fallout (and that is a completely realistic concern as can be seen in many comment sections), fear that the girl will be damaging her future--what if the professor is judging the concerto competition? and so on.

It.is.not.that.simple.

December 17, 2018 at 07:33 AM · The most difficult question in all of these situations: where is That red line, which should not be crossed.

Just an example. When i have moved to the western Europe, my professor (who was over 70 y.o.) from my point of view was "just polite" opening the doors for me or bringing me a chair for meetings. In my turn, if i was preparing tea, i always would suggest him as well.

For my fellows from east it was nothing special. But i remember a very hard talk with local women, who asked me, why i do not report sexual misconduct. Sorry, what? What is sexual? Open a door? Or notice that i have a nice dress? (Which is true, from my point of view).

I strongly believe that most of the problems due to different view on what is acceptable, and what one concludes from one or the other small sign. And note, all these signs will be red differently in different cultures. It is impossible to make a general rules. Only, if we start to interact as robots.

I am not talking about the real sexual abuse and braking the laws.

I think men in general do not have that feeling over what is acceptable, what is not. And they simply can not imagine how the other person feels in respond to his behavior.

But what i see now, the famous professors get punished, while average persons being not interesting for the media, go free.

And the reason for this, that now journalists play role of justice system, and they dig only the cases over hot persons.

December 17, 2018 at 09:21 AM · Let the university investigate. Nothing will come up. This may just be some kid trying to make his mark by writing a hot expose. If nothing turns up, this kid should be expelled for defamation.

It's unfortunate, but many women like to make things up. As an employer, I've had to investigate allegations of criminal assault, made by women. It was simple, I looked at the security camera feeds...nothing happened. All made up. Hell hath no vengeance like a woman scorned.

December 17, 2018 at 09:29 AM · We're all heading towards one direction. Security cameras in lesson rooms.

December 17, 2018 at 10:32 AM · I sadly agree with the security camera in the lesson rooms. This is not just about music, but even in caring home, there seems to be less abuse when the staff members know there may be secret camera or elderly's relatives occasionally check in. This is rather sad, because it reflects that a lot of people just not going to behave themselves unless they are being surveillance.

December 17, 2018 at 12:29 PM · Mary Ellen, I know it's not that simple. I realize that my credibility in these kinds of conversations goes immediately by at least half because I'm not female, and I understand that's because I've never been at significant risk for being a victim myself. But it is something I think about a lot. I have two daughters (including one HS senior), and it's something I have discussed some depth with my wife and female colleagues. We had a lot of challenging family-suppertime conversations when the Kavanaugh hearings were in the news.

Let's just say I don't expect my daughters to tell *ME* if something like that happened, or to go running to the Provost or the University Police or the Title Nine Coordinator or whatever. However I do expect them to tell their own mother (not coincidentally, my wife). Perhaps that's a naive expectation, but there it is. After all these things do not only start happening to girls when they turn 18 and go to college. History grimly teaches us that a child can hardly be young enough for immunity from sexual abuse. So it's something that we've been working on and worrying about (to varying degrees) since our kids first went to day care. Turns out the day care has only female employees. I suspect this is quite common, but I do wonder how many men apply for those jobs.

Regarding cameras in lesson rooms, if I were teaching violin, I'd put up the camera myself. I've mentioned this many times in this forum. I'd put up the camera, and I'd ask students to bring their own SD cards. What they do with that data is up to them, except that I would have a "no YouTube containing my image or voice without permission" rule just to avoid anything being maliciously edited.

December 17, 2018 at 01:26 PM · "Let the university investigate. Nothing will come up."

And you know this how? Because on another occasion involving other people, it turned out that a woman was lying, therefore all women under any circumstances are lying? Wow. Did you read the comments on the Michigan Daily article? There are corroborating stories there posted by named sources.

"This may just be some kid trying to make his mark by writing a hot expose. If nothing turns up, this kid should be expelled for defamation."

Do you not think that there are adults associated with the Michigan Daily who are well aware of the exposure to lawsuits such an article would result in if it cannot be supported by the facts? Did you read the Columbia Journalism Review article linked above that gives background on how the article was sourced and written?

Most significantly, do you really think Stephen Shipps would have gone on leave a few days in advance of the appearance of the article if there were no substance to the accusations? People who are unjustly accused do not generally step down without a fight.

December 17, 2018 at 02:03 PM · Quote:

"Most significantly, do you really think Stephen Shipps would have gone on leave a few days in advance of the appearance of the article if there were no substance to the accusations? People who are unjustly accused do not generally step down without a fight."

___________________________________________

That's a rather troubling presumption. Sometimes, the emotional and financial cost of fighting something is just more than some people want to take on.

We also don't know whether or not the University may have "incentivized" him in some way to leave, so that the University could avoid the continuing negative publicity which would come with a protracted fight or investigation.

If one was near retirement age (66), and was offered a nice financial package to quietly go away, wouldn't that be something a reasonable person might consider?

Or mightn't someone want to quietly leave, to cause the shortest disruption to programs they cared about?

December 17, 2018 at 03:53 PM · Guys: if you were routinely doubting on man-on-man assault allegations, murder allegations, arson allegations, etc., I'd be willing to consider your refusal to consider sex abuse allegations as caution, rather as misogyny. Even if some allegations turn out to be fake, the fact that you immediately jump to doubting abused women, as opposed to say, assaulted men, family members of a murder victim, homeowners, etc., says it all.

December 17, 2018 at 04:31 PM · *sigh*

I come here to read about the latest in violin tech, playing techniques, new methods, listen to ideas from good players perspectives, make a joke or two etc. and instead am greeted with something that feels dirty to even read.

If we get an accusation every week about yet another well known person accused of sexual misconduct will we keep seeing these kinds of articles?

What about the thousands of good players, teachers and professors who never get any attention for their commendable performances and good teaching methods to both sexes? Why does it need to come to this? Why does human nature seem to gravitate toward the bad news?

I think the subject needs to be addressed. I'm just not sure throwing these kinds of things out there does anything but polarize people.

It has been said "do unto others" mentality should be followed. I agree.Put yourself in their shoes. Even if you were guilty wouldn't you want to be investigated in a fair manner? Would you want things to be said about you that might not have been the entire truth? If you weren't guilty it would be all the worse. This all begins to feel a lot like a lynch mob instead of due process. And what good ever came from people taking heated sides to any issue? In my thinking this all tends to focus on something negative which tends get negative results.Case in point- Now mothers are afraid to take their daughters to a violin lesson with a male.

My suggestion would be to have the teacher checked out. I need FBI and child clearances to work at my university even though I never come close to students. Surely this is a reasonable answer to those parents who have very real concerns.There's enough female teachers out there, by all means obtain a female teacher. Just know that might not be a proof positive either in this day and age.

I guess I don't like to look at these things. They make me uncomfortable. I feel it should be dealt with through the proper channels.I don't believe anyone is qualified to make judgments without all of the facts in front of them.There seems to be an avalanche of stories concerning this, or is it just because the very few stories are being put out there as an overall percentage? I don't know. I would guess the latter because trash sells papers better than good news.

No matter how credible things seem to be, it all still feels a lot like water cooler gossip to me.I can't seem to shake the dirty feeling it gives me. If due process was initiated, then why is it still necessary to have a student write an article to further expose the situation? Do we really want to give the impression that all men are predators and have no concern for people or the right ways to do things? This is my concern, that eventually after the 40th predator is caught no man anywhere will ever be trusted again. Some of us are very trustworthy and are willing to go to great lengths to make sure we do everything the right way with the utmost respect for both sexes. If public perception eventually changes we will all be guilty until proven innocent.

December 17, 2018 at 04:38 PM · David, I'm sure he wouldn't want to disrupt all those sexy young programs he cared so much about.

Jesus, I will never understand how much some people want to stick their heads in the sand about abuse in various institutions. Let's all just filter the news through our rose-colored glasses because clearly there is no benefit to even knowing the truth and reality.

December 17, 2018 at 04:43 PM · Christian, all I was saying is that I don't think a willingness or unwillingness to fight should be considered a useful metric in concluding guilt or innocence. That's it. Nothing else. And I would apply that equally to a man or a woman.

Nowhere have I expressed an opinion on Mr.Shipps guilt or innocence.

December 17, 2018 at 05:15 PM · That's fair. I was just being snarky.

My second paragraph was a response to Tim's and a few other people.

December 17, 2018 at 06:08 PM · Gentlemen, if you're tired of reading about these stories, imagine how tired women are of living them.

Many people reading this website and reading news articles about MULTIPLE ALLEGATIONS SPANNING YEARS coming to light have themselves been victims and some readers are the predators. These stories are important, both for the victims, who finally get validation, and as a cautionary tale to those men who harass women. Thank you Laurie, for reporting them.

I know men don't like to hear the stories- it's a disturbing realization that it's as prevalent as it is. It's disturbing when you remember your best buddy bragging about a conquest and realizing that he took advantage of a situation. It's disturbing to realize that perhaps some of your own behavior hasn't been appropriate. It's easier to close your eyes. It's easier to create false narratives about 'scorned women.' It's easy to hold up straw women and say 'not all men.' At this point, given the number of women coming forward with stories in every single field- music, tech, retail, restaurant, entertainment, etc. ad nauseam, if you insist on defending predators, you are complicit. If you deny that it's a pervasive problem, you are complicit. You're as guilty as if you have done it yourself.

December 17, 2018 at 07:16 PM · David, you are completely right. I know we were talking about the systematic abuse of women by men in power and the people and institutions that protect them, but you were right to derail the conversation to talk about your wife's menopause.

Are you drunk? One of these is a serious problem, one of these is just whining.

December 17, 2018 at 07:17 PM · It's not a gender blame game to look at the reality that it's more men than women doing this kind of abuse, and it's not a gender blame game to look in comments for these kinds of stories and see that most of the pushback is coming from men. Everyone is entitled to their own standard on a preponderance of evidence, but it's pretty evident just looking at comments on these stories how the genders tend to skew as far as how they comment - To deny that under the strawman of the "gender card" or the "race card"(?) is to deny what is plainly displayed on anyone's screen.

December 17, 2018 at 07:33 PM · Julie, i am not drunk, by any definition.

I fully understand that accusations of treachery or incompetence can be alleged, any time one disagrees with another. My preference is not to make decisions or false accusations on that basis alone, and my hope is that others can see their way past that as well.

December 17, 2018 at 07:51 PM · Chrisian, let's just admit that there are more than a few women who are more than willing to "get nekked" around people of wealth, influence, and power. Men too.

Some of my best buddies are women. I don't see any value in trying to twist this into a gender conflict situation, unless you are some kind of conflict addict.

December 17, 2018 at 08:38 PM · David, You come here, say you have no comment, then proceed to comment. Effusively. With bizarre non sequiturs. You're doing everything you can, no matter how off topic, to change the subject, which is MULTIPLE WOMEN ARE COMING FORWARD WITH ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE.

I honestly don't understand where your moral compass is pointing. Or your compassion for the millions of women who don't want to, as you so charmingly put it 'get nekked,' but just want to get an education and get a job.

December 17, 2018 at 08:57 PM · Julie, the emotional judgements in your post speak for themselves, and no line-by-line retort on my part is needed.

If you have been sexually or emotionally abused, please get help to come to a better place.

Not all men are evil, nor are opinions which don't conform exactly with yours.

Both men and women need to be cautious around each other. Agendas aren't always the same.

December 17, 2018 at 09:08 PM · What is wrong with you? I haven't been sexually or emotionally abused. I'm angry because women can't get violin lessons without being sexually harassed. Why aren't you?

December 17, 2018 at 09:43 PM · David, I'm not denying anything about people getting naked.

Were you bringing this up because there is a claim here about women (or men, since you are being so egalitarian) trading sex for money, power or prestige? I mean, surely, that would have been brought up - Or were you just bringing up some kind of unrelated talking point to serve as the cherry on top of your speculation on commenters' traumatic pasts?

I think your claim about (both sides) doing (things) really helps illuminate the pressing issue of (stuff) happening in the (world) and various other Madlib situations.

It's one thing to try and stay neutral or play devil's advocate, but you betray either bad faith or what to me at least is a shocking lack of empathy by assuming that someone arguing that a system that houses abusers for years should be reformed and arguing for justice and a better system is likely making that argument as a result of their own abuse and not simply because they are interested in justice.

David, some of my best buddies are black.

December 17, 2018 at 09:49 PM · Back to the original topic, the way institutions and individuals protect abusers is really obvious. Anyone who tells the truth is attacked and discredited. That's how these men (and yes, a small number of women) are getting away with this for so long.

When I was 15, I had a teacher for a couple of lessons, he wasn't very good, so I switched teachers. A few weeks later, his privileges to teach in our district were revoked. I asked my orchestra director, really great guy, and he said it was for inappropriate behavior, but didn't elaborate. He was never inappropriate with me, and I don't know who the student involved was. I was bored one day, so I googled all my old teachers. Found him:

https://peekskill.dailyvoice.com/police-fire/westchester-violin-teacher-faces-child-porn-charges/661531/

Had the school called the police, had they treated his 'inappropriate behavior' with any seriousness, maybe he wouldn't have spent 20 something years from then until his arrest around young people. But they swept him under the rug to avoid lawsuits and questions from parents.

I think that if an HR department hears an allegation, they need to take it seriously. They need to talk to the person against whom the allegation is made to make sure that they are behaving appropriately. If there are rumors swirling around a particular teacher or professor, they need to be addressed by the institution. Instead, it seems like some people- mostly, not exclusively men- get a pass due to a cult of personality. Maybe if someone had put Shipps on warning years ago, he would have modified his behavior and we wouldn't be having this conversation now.

December 17, 2018 at 09:49 PM · I moved my teaching from my home to an independent studio that has large windows on every room facing a common area. To avoid both temptation and false accusation there is unfortunately the "Wall Street Rules". If you have a one-on-one meeting the door stays open. On business trips have rooms on separate floors. No restaurant business meals without a third party. No male to female mentoring, etc. The dilemma is that to be perfectly safe one must now risk an illegal, unintentional discrimination. Perhaps the solution is the security camera & microphone in every room suggestion. Which could be turned into a positive tool by automaticaly forwarding each weeks lesson to the parents' email.

December 17, 2018 at 10:15 PM · The fascinating thing is that men tend to assume that other men are innocent of these accusations and/or that the accusations have been blown out of proportion -- and that therefore they, as (hopefully) actually innocent men, have something to fear.

Do people sometimes make unjust accusations? Sure. But I would guess that most of those are eventually investigated and dismissed.

Do innocent things that men do sometimes get misconstrued? This is a harder question. The answer is possibly yes, but it tends to happen more with men who do not have good social skills / adequate boundaries -- typically they have done something inappropriate but did not have the awareness to realize that it was inappropriate.

And are some men just outright predators? Yes. (Some women are, too.)

And by the way, some people aren't heterosexual. So if you were really genuinely worried about false accusations, you'd have to limit your interactions with those of the same gender, too.

Which might actually help some men understand appropriate boundaries. If you did this to another guy, would it make him uncomfortable? If so, it's not appropriate with a gal, either.

December 17, 2018 at 10:34 PM · Lydia, I still have no compunctions about hugging guys, even when they are people who would not have initiated it, or from cultures which would not have initiated it. Maybe I should be more careful?

I no longer do that with women, unless the woman initiated it first. Is that wrong, or paranoid, or more along the lines of "best practice"?

Does that make me guilty of not treating men and women equally? Should I be more aloof with both men and women?

I highly disagree with your notion that men tend to assume that other men are innocent. Most of us know how men can be, and if many of us fathers had our way, our daughters wouldn't have even dated until most of the men were already deceased.

Oops, then our daughters might be desperate. How about in their 40s? ;-(

December 17, 2018 at 10:56 PM · I was just letting you know that some of my best friends are black.

Also, I used to volunteer at a food bank.

How are you not understanding this? ;-)

December 17, 2018 at 11:02 PM · Agree with Lydia's characterization 100%

My point is not the actual abuse that occurred. It was the school district that chose to cover it up instead of taking the situation seriously. That's what allowed multiple victims over many years, not just one or two. The same dysfunction happens a colleges and universities, as well as in the workplace. The offending individual is symptom of a dysfunctional corporate culture that does nothing when confronted. Pretending that these are isolated incidents or fabrications is just not in line with women's testimony or often the facts presented (ie, one allegation could be ambiguous. But Multiple allegations? That's a little harder to dismiss)

Look what happened here: I was called crazy, it was implied I might be menopausal and sexually abused, told to get help, called emotional. David, if your next comment uses the word 'feminazi, I get a bingo.

December 17, 2018 at 11:31 PM · David, the feminazi bingo comment was a joke. The rest of your comments are true, scroll up to verify.

I have no idea what 'fantasies' you are talking about. Please elaborate.

December 17, 2018 at 11:36 PM · Also, I once shared a cab with a Mexican guy (At least I think he was Mexican), so let me tell you my thoughts about NAFTA.

December 18, 2018 at 12:13 AM · Christian, please be serious, men are having to take 'extraordinary measures.'

Extraordinary Measures!

December 18, 2018 at 12:27 AM · I have said that sexual harassment of women in the workplace is wrong and it's a problem.

I have said that dysfunctional institutions like U of M protect men who have committed crimes.

I have said that men who know that crimes have been committed are complicit in those crimes.

I have said that men who pretend that a dozen women with similar allegations are all liars are complicit.

What in that is fantastical?

You have not responded to the story at all, but gone off on multiple unsubstantiated tangents whining about men's oppression. And you slandered me. Although in all fairness, I said that I think you might be drunk. And now I'm changing to maybe some sort of fumes in your shop. Check your ventilation system.

:)

December 18, 2018 at 12:55 AM · Julie, thank you - I really appreciate your posts.

Most of my colleagues have been expecting something along these lines to come out about Stephen Shipps for a while, since the cultural zeitgeist has shifted enough that predators are being held accountable.

December 18, 2018 at 01:10 AM · Irene, Wow! The open secret part is heartbreaking to hear.

December 18, 2018 at 02:30 AM · I'm with Irene (and Julie).

And for the inevitable "well, if this was really happening, why didn't she say anything at the time?" aside from the tender age of many of the victims, one need only read the comments here and everywhere else that the Michigan Daily article is being discussed. The women are not being believed. The women are still not being believed. The knee-jerk reaction is, don't believe the women.

Yes, I get it, examples exist of women lying. I know someone personally who was falsely accused. In his case and in other cases where the accusations are unjust and untrue, it is generally ONE woman with something to gain from the lie. But when multiple women from different eras, different places, with nothing to gain except online abuse from strangers, are all coming forward with similar stories, and the kneejerk reaction is STILL to defend the man and defame the women without even doing the most basic due diligence of reading the article for comprehension and following up with the Columbia Review of Journalism article on how the first article came into existence....well, it is disheartening to say the least.

FTR I was never sexually harassed, molested, or raped. My male violin professors were models of propriety. But I know more than one woman who was sexually harassed by another professor at one of my schools, someone whose name has not come out publicly. Those women went to the dean. I know another woman who was one of multiple victims of another professor at a different school, someone whose name has also not come out publicly. That's just off the top of my head, two professors at two major music schools, and the stories I heard were in the 1980s. There are an awful lot of chickens just waiting to come home to roost.

PS Christian, I get it! I too have volunteered at the Food Bank. We can discuss world hunger together.

December 18, 2018 at 02:47 AM · And don't forget that this follows on the scandal that afflicted every one of the UK's major music schools five years ago. That was particularly disgusting because it involved a lot of minors, not just college-age students. And IIRC there were both male and female victims.

December 18, 2018 at 04:02 AM · Julie writes:

“· I have said that sexual harassment of women in the workplace is wrong and it's a problem.

I have said that dysfunctional institutions like U of M protect men who have committed crimes.”

Why limit your statement to women (ostensibly being harassed by men)? Why not come forth with the more general statement that sexual harassment is wrong? Surely it is no more acceptable when a Catholic priest abuses an altar boy, or when a high school teacher starts a relationship with a teenaged boy in her class?

Gender shouldn’t matter here. It’s a power issue.

And if you think institutions only protect men behaving badly, you are mistaken.

December 18, 2018 at 01:26 PM · Of course all sexual harassment is wrong. But we're not exactly seeing an epidemic of students accusing female teachers of abuse.

David Burgess, on the subject of hugs:

I think, in general, people have come to realize that others are comfortable with different degrees of touch. This is individual as well as cultural. These days, I see people say, "I'm a hugger" when they are greeting someone whose hug comfort level they don't know. That allows the other person to initiate / welcome a hug -- or to offer a handshake if they want to politely turn down the hug. It's applied across genders.

Now, of course, there are potentially creepy and non-creepy ways to do this, and there may still be a power differential that pressures someone into accepting a hug that they may not want, but it's an acknowledgment of some degree of consent, at least.

December 18, 2018 at 03:52 PM · We weren’t exactly seeing an epidemic of men being accused until recently, either. Did that turn out to be a good indication of when the abuse started?

December 18, 2018 at 08:31 PM · A lot of it may have to do with teacher conduct policies becoming much more detailed and explicit. These can go well beyond just what is legal or illegal.

The legal "age of consent" in both Michigan and North Carolina is 16, although there are caveats. For instance, in Michigan, the age of consent currently rises to 18 when one of the parties is an "authority figure". So a sexual relationship between a teacher and a college student wouldn't necessarily be illegal, at least according to my brief search.

I don't know much about the history of various school contracts and codes of conduct, such as when each has been updated or amended. I assume most schools would have the current versions somewhere on their web sites.

This is not any endorsement or approval of such activity whatsoever, just information on where things stand, so it can lead to solutions or ideas for improvement.

December 18, 2018 at 11:17 PM · I assume we can agree that a 16 year old girl attending a lesson and not knowing whether it would involve violin instruction or a "blow job" is an issue? The gymnastics associated with defending this man are of Olympic medal quality.

December 19, 2018 at 12:21 AM · Any sort of sexual interaction between a young student and a teacher sounds icky to me, and like a really really bad idea for both the student and the teacher.

December 19, 2018 at 02:12 AM · I agree with 172.58.140.132. Mental gymnastics indeed. I am sickened.

December 19, 2018 at 04:57 AM · The student newspaper has reported that Shipps will be retiring in May and will not be teaching at Michigan again.

https://www.michigandaily.com/section/news-briefs/professor-accused-misconduct-multiple-women-officially-retire-may-2019

December 19, 2018 at 10:58 AM · University of Michigan

Standard Practice Guide Policies

Faculty-Student Relationships

http://spg.umich.edu/policy/601.22

I was rather surprised to find that the University of Michigan does not appear to specifically prohibit romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty members and students. Since the University is a public college (not a private college), could it be that they are unable to prohibit activities which are not specifically illegal? Maybe Laurie could ask the University to explain that?

I know that some private colleges do prohibit such activities. These might be factors for parents to consider when helping their children decide what college to attend.

In another document, The University of Michigan does appear to prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, connecting it with various State and Federal Civil Rights Acts.

I haven't chased down the policies at the University of North Carolina, or what they were in the 1980's when Shipps was working there.

December 19, 2018 at 03:17 PM · Update:

Looks like the University of Michigan's policies will be changing in early 2019.

"A new policy prohibiting faculty members from having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students across all three campuses is coming to the University of Michigan."

https://www.mlive.com//news/ann-arbor/2018/12/new-um-policy-bans-faculty-from-romantic-relationships-with-undergrads.html

December 19, 2018 at 05:59 PM · David, you're right. The overarching question is whether conflict of interest trumps the various first-amendment and privacy rights of the employee. Looks like "no" is changing to "yes" at Michigan. Of course rules and laws are just words until their constitutionality is tested in court.

Julie wrote, "I know men don't like to hear the stories- it's a disturbing realization that it's as prevalent as it is. It's disturbing when you remember your best buddy bragging about a conquest and realizing that he took advantage of a situation. It's disturbing to realize that perhaps some of your own behavior hasn't been appropriate."

Sure, it's potentially disturbing for all those reasons. But it's also disturbing because the specific requirements placed on universities to handle allegations of sexual abuse "in house" using Title IX procedures cuts against established principles of due process that were established in the 5th and 14th Amendments.

Jocelyn mentioned murder, arson, etc. The reason we don't have issues with those crimes is because they are investigated by the police and prosecuted through the criminal justice system, not through kangaroo courts comprising university administrators who don't even know the rules of evidence.

Lydia wrote, "Do people sometimes make unjust accusations? Sure. But I would guess that most of those are eventually investigated and dismissed." But that can take years, and by that time an individual's career and private life can be utterly destroyed and their bank accounts can be cleared out to cover legal fees, not to mention living expenses whilst they've been on unpaid administrative leave or unemployed. People who have suffered these consequences get pennies back on the dollar for the time and treasure they've lost not to mention the anguish they've suffered.

I had a conversation recently with a (male) colleague who actually said it would be okay if a few men who weren't actually guilty were fired or imprisoned if that's what it took to move the needle on sexual harassment. Of course he also said he would fight vigorously against a false allegation that came his way...

December 19, 2018 at 06:34 PM · As a parent who has a child that was studying with Professor Shipps, I agree with what Paul said on losing everything while trying to fight allegations. I guess I’m on the unpopular side of wanting to wait for all the facts to come out before making any judgement. I have known Prof. Shipps for years. And it was a real shock to all of us. He was always very generous and patient with his students. The unfortunate thing here is that whenever his former students come out defending for him, they get publicly ridiculed. I’m still in shock...

December 19, 2018 at 07:12 PM · Agreed. There has been no shortage of people in this thread alone who have tried to characterize others of defending predatory practices, despite their not having done so.

While I am in the same town with the University of Michigan, I don't have much contact any more with student and faculty gossip, since I am now primarily a maker, with most of my contacts elsewhere . Have I formed judgements on such gossip in the past? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

December 19, 2018 at 10:10 PM · It is possible for the same person to behave kindly and appropriately with some students and predatorily towards others. So while it is great for those current and former students who have had nothing but good experiences, their stories do not negate the stories of others whose experiences went another direction.

I'm still stuck on the 16-year-old's journal, which was referred to in the original article. And there are corroborations in the comments of that article.

December 20, 2018 at 02:42 PM · Mary Ellen wrote, "It is possible for the same person to behave kindly and appropriately with some students and predatorily towards others."

I think that this is true of most predators because they select their victims, at last partly, on their assessment of potential victims' vulnerabilities (perhaps even more so than on physical appearance, but that is mere conjecture on my part).

We who are parents of girls would like to understand what those perceived vulnerabilities are, and if they are at all consistent among predators, so that we can teach our daughters how to avoid having them or displaying them. This isn't victim-blaming. It's elementary self-defense.

December 20, 2018 at 04:34 PM · @Paul Deck: I think what people in positions of power look for in determining potential victims is obedience and a need to please. Especially with our primary music teachers, we're taught from a young age that we must do what they ask if we want to succeed as musicians. I think the students who stand out as the safest bet for victimization are those who not only themselves clearly revere the teacher, but whose parents do, as well. Such a student is less likely to question and certainly to stand up to sexually inappropriate behavior, and will be more pliable under the teacher's influence. Such a student will question himself or herself, rather than question the teacher.

Having myself been a victim of sexual misconduct early in my musical training, I think it's important to educate young people (of either gender but yes, particularly girls) that yes, in a demanding discipline like music their teacher might be hard on them, and demand more from them perhaps than their school teachers, but that comments and touching that make them uncomfortable / feel bad / feel confused are not ok. Also, that their teacher is not the boss of them--they have autonomy in relation to their teacher, and there is no ONE teacher out there who will make or break the child's career. So that if one teacher makes them feel like crap for any reason, their chances for a musical career won't disappear if they don't study with that teacher anymore.

Generally I think we all--parents, students, university/conservatory administrations--give teachers far too much power and I think that's why so many teachers, it sadly seems, feel they can get away with taking emotional and/or sexual advantage of students.

December 20, 2018 at 06:12 PM · Paul, thank you for trying to be a good and well-informed parent to your daughters. I have tried too, including informing them of both sexual and financial predatory practices.

It hasn't excluded them from making mistakes, but both are now very successful in somewhat different realms. One is involved in retail store management, and the other is involved in social work, largely focusing on improving conditions for the homeless.

With the benefit of hindsight, I could have been better as a parent, but I am proud of both of them.

Neither of my daughters (both who happen to be heterosexual) hate men, not that it wouldn't be more comfortable for me if they did. ;-)

Had any of my children been male, I would have made no less effort to educate them about the hazards of falling head-over-tail for either a male or female, along with trying to educate them about non-gender-related predatory practices.

"Falling in love" isn't something that just inevitably happens, completely outside of one's control and intellectual consideration.

December 21, 2018 at 04:12 AM · Stephen Shipps is as fine a human being as human beings get. Great mentor, musician, collaborator, teacher, friend, humanist. Ridiculous noise... that's all!

December 21, 2018 at 05:43 AM · To the anonymous poster above this comment: Wow! So it's pretty normal for a sixteen year-old to talk about sometimes getting violin lessons from her violin teacher, but sometimes him just wanting a blow job? She just made that up? In her private journal? People have many sides. People can be great in one area and ethically dismal in another. It still doesn't make the ethically dismal right and I for one would never cheerfully dismiss those who experience the "other" side of this individual. And you know, I was at Meadowmount when Shipps was there, and his studio was nothing special, nor was his playing, and nor did he seem to be anything to "hip, hip, hooray" about.

December 21, 2018 at 08:23 PM · One thing I try to keep in mind is that even when the rigor of a criminal court of law has been applied, using the presumption of "innocent until proven guilty", lots of mistakes have been made, which were uncovered when DNA evidence later became available, proving that it was someone other than the convicted person who had committed the crime.

Some chilling statistics from The Innocence Project:

1989: The first DNA exoneration took place

362 DNA exonerees to date

14: Average number of years served

5,014: Total number of years served

26.5: Average age at the time of wrongful conviction

43: Average age at exoneration

20 of 362 people served time on death row

40 of 362 pled guilty to crimes they did not commit

These were just cases where evidence capable of yielding DNA was ever taken in the first place, and still available.

So I am not eager to rush to judgement.

December 23, 2018 at 12:54 AM · I have come across many reasons why women don't come forward right away in cases like these -- if they ever come forward at all. One mentioned in earlier responses to this blog is the fear that they won't be believed.

Well, better to speak up and not be believed than not to speak up at all.

Another reason is fear of retaliation. But if you keep quiet for fear that the wrongdoer will retaliate and hurt your career -- well, shame on you! That's just plain cowardice. You have every right -- indeed, the moral obligation -- to call him out and see that he's held accountable. Otherwise, you're just letting the bad guys win.

One factor that has hurt the credibility of some victims -- and I mean true victims -- is that some women, with the mainstream media on their side, have, indeed, leveled false accusations against innocent men. I saw and heard most of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing this past August 27, when we first heard from Christine Blasey Ford, the accuser, then from the judge. Having served twice already as a trial juror myself, I listened intently to Ford's presentation -- and, at first, did find her convincing; but when we got to hear from Kavanaugh, Ford's case, for me, completely fell apart. I didn't believe her story -- just as I hadn't believed Anita Hill's accusations against Clarence Thomas 27 years earlier. To this day, I have to believe Ford was in way over her head.

From what I've read so far, Shipps doesn't sound squeaky-clean. Again, echoing some earlier input in these replies: A truly innocent man -- or woman -- wouldn't step down, let us hope, without a fight. Still, I don't have firsthand knowledge of Shipps or his alleged actions. If this were a court of law, and if I were one of the jurors, I would listen carefully to both sides -- and then weigh the available testimony and evidence -- just as I did in the two cases I did hear.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Meadowmount School of Music

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings

Violin Lab

Violin-Strings.com

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe