Kim Walker

I have been getting some visits to a previous post of mine which, whilst primarily reporting on an Australia Ensemble concert, also touched on the then state of play concerning Kim Walker, the dean of the conservatorium whose position might reasonably be described as “embattled.”

Ms Walker (actually, it’s Professor Walker, but I can’t take these ex officio professorships too seriously) was suspended from duties last year for a while over accusations of plagiarism before being reinstated. Various bigwigs around town wheeled in behind her to voice their support, including Rowena Danziger. Ms Danziger’s support alone made me look on Ms Walker less favourably.

Now there are fresh accusations of plagiarism, this time centring around notes for one of a series of what can only be described as socialite adult education talks given by Ms Walker at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Like the last piece of writing which attracted accusations, which was a bundle of educational-managerial puffery, this was not serious academic writing. Even then, Ms Walker didn’t even claim to have done all the work herself. It seems like she can’t even give a talk like this without getting some research assistant/casually employed postgraduates to do her legwork (that is what I take to be the import of the acknowledgments to Paula Brusky and an untraceable “David Stefano”).

The SMH has helpfully reproduced the notes distributed on Kim Walker’s behalf, as well as the relevant chapter from Will and Ariel Durant’s The Lessons of History. These have been helpfully marked up by someone in purple and blue highlighter. I wonder if there has been a highlighter audit going on at the Con since then.

Bearing in mind the qualified privileges available under the Defamation Act, SMH has sought comment from Ms Walker and also reports a statement by an audience member on the night who was there, though not just any audience member.

The Herald approached Professor Walker for comment and she responded through her lawyer. Mr O’Brien said the name “James” was a typographical error. “The typo was corrected in the speech when proper attribution was given to Will and Ariel Durant,” he said.

An audience member, Mary Turner, said Professor Walker had referred to Will Durant during the speech.

“Kim always gives attributions,” Ms Turner said. “She’s quite punctilious about this. It’s not sourced [in the lecture notes] and when she’s actually giving the speech she references them.”

It seems a fair bet that the Mary Turner quoted is the niece of the Hendersons of the Henderson bequest. It might be more accurate to describe her as a loyal benefactor.

Even if Kim Walker had prefaced every use of the Durants’ words or ideas with the necessary “as the Durants say,” the use of verbatim passages and ideas seems to me to exceed the bounds of decency for a public talk about great minds by a person who sports the title “Professor.” However entertaining and thought-provoking her lectures are, it looks like she is serving up the warmed-up leftovers of other people’s work.

Why does she do it? Can she just not help herself? Is she too busy? In particular, is she too busy big-noting herself giving talks like this which she appears unwilling to prepare properly herself?

Whatever the true story, it is clear that, as no man is a hero to his valet, Professor Walker is no hero to some of her fairly immediate subordinates at the Conservatorium. I just don’t know the rights and wrongs of this (other than being inclined immediately to side against someone who has Rowena Danziger on her side). I don’t think they would be crying foul so quickly if they didn’t have some other grudges. Anyone could tell you that just as a hunch. It is even more clearly the case if you read Nicholas Pickard’s recent piece on this, and some (or at least one) of the comments to that piece.

Pickard has been sent a copy of an anonymous letter to the Chancellor of the University, NSW Governor, Marie Bashir. I can only quote the bits which he has chosen to quote:

Dear Marie,

We are writing to advise you that your support of Kim Walker is misguided and is causing seroius [sic] personal hardship to the staff of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, to its reputation and to the reputation of the university. You are also bringing your own reputation into disrepute and you are rapidly losing the respect of your colleagues at the The University of Sydney.

Pickard summarizes:

The letter also alleges that a string of staff have left the Conservatorium, including three heads of school and even accuses the Dean of financial mismanagement, harassment and bullying.

And finally (presumably the parting shot):

“If you do not reconsider your position and withdraw to a neutral place and allow the university to conduct its business, details of your conduct, including your financial support of Walker’s legal costs, will be put into the hands of the press where it will be open to public debate.”

This Pickard’s over-punchy final paragraph:

The allegations are strong, the bile is even stronger and it appears that a Governor hailed by her people as one of the best leaders of her time is about to be forced to dance to a tune that’s more allegro than adagio.

Calling any state governor a “leader,” let alone “a Governor hailed by her people as one of the best leaders of her time” is ramping things up a bit, surely. As for the tempo of the tune, there are some quite grim tunes which go quite slowly. The death of Siegfried in Götterdämmerung is just one example (OK, maybe not very dancelike) which comes to mind. (Winsome Evans always used to say that God Save the King/Queen was a sarabande, but that is another story, which -see comments below – it seems likely I have misremembered.)

Pickard’s piece has been followed up by another in Crikey by Alex Mitchell (not someone I think of with any overwhelming interest in the Arts, but judging from his stories, with fairly good links to the Liberal Party and likely to receive a call from Rowena or somebody like her) which I have not read yet (money is asked for) but which is headlined “The malicious attack on the Dean of the Sydney Conservatorium and the NSW Governor, marks a new low in academic intrigue and skulduggery.”

If the story continues in that vein (on a par with Pickard’s “bile”) it will miss the point.

Bashir is Chancellor of Sydney Uni. As Governor, she is also Visitor. In either role, she may have to look into irregularities. She can and should support the institution but she really does have to be careful about taking sides when disputes arise within the uni, as is obviously the case here. If she really has been paying Walker’s legal costs, that could be embarrassing for her.

On the other hand, the letter to Bashir doesn’t seem very well thought-out. (“Reputation into disrepute” – what were they thinking?) Threats (let alone anonymous ones, even though that is understandable in the circumstances) don’t seem the right way for Walker’s opponents to proceed, and Bashir is hardly likely to want to look as though she is giving into them. [Of course, we don’t know who has circulated the letter: it could very well be someone on Walker’s side.]

Oh, and did I mention Rowena Danziger?

Afterword

It is sufficient to quote the last 3 paras of Alex Mitchell’s crikey piece:

Who do the members of this sick-minded academic mafiosi think they are? Their very words should be sufficient to condemn them in the court of fair play, decency and scholarship.

As for Walker’s lectures at the Art Gallery – apparently the mole of this ivory tower clique had to sit through five lectures before finding one tiny error, a misnaming in notes of a source, which she corrected in speaking to the audience. The Herald’s Harriet Alexander stretched this footnote error into a shock-horror story, raising the word “plagiarism”, something which will always raise a headline among the cut-and-pasters at Fairfax.

Oddly, the latest brouhaha reported by Pickard had little effect on the lecture audience last Friday: they gave Walker the warmest reception – and flowers.

The last paragraph is really the only piece of new information Mitchell provides in the entire article. The rest is either comment or conjecture. Mitchell is wrong about Walker just slipping up on a footnote. Sure, a talk at the Art Gallery is hardly the stuff of high scholarship (nobody expects that of Professor Walker), but the purple and blue highlighters (you have to click on the links above for this) still tell a sorry tale. It’s only a few paragraphs, but it is the stuff that those Media Watch double-voiced read-throughs are made of. And I don’t think it is right to say that Walker was cleared last year – she was reinstated, but that is something quite different.

But I do love that “mole of this ivory tower clique.” Shades of “Dalai Lama clique” and all – you can always link it to Tibet if you want to, Nicholas (see comments below for explication).

Postlude (or Afterafterword)

The SMH is not leaving this alone. Wondering why I still get hits to this post, I discovered that I had missed this. The paper has obtained a number of letters from donors urging Kim Walker’s reinstatement written last year during her suspension. Their identities are masked but one is fairly likely to be Mary Turner. One letter referred to funds and pledges of $500,000 for a legal fighting fund for Walker. The article mentions that Danziger is now the Art Gallery of NSW Foundation chairman. It all reeks of her particular brand of influence peddling. I now regret not wielding my entirely symbolic vote against her at the Opera Australia AGM all the more.

Codetta – February 2013

The stately progress of this matter through the courts has now come to public attention. Professor Walker has John Garnsey, QC acting for her. Apparently it’s all about the employer’s implied duty of good faith. This is Mr Garnsey’s special topic – he appeared for David Russell in proceedings which raised some similar issues.

In the meantime, you can read an attention-grabbing report from last year on Crikey. It is sourced primarily from a complaint to ICAC [!] by “former conservatorium professor and Fulbright-winning flutist Alexa Still” “who has taken temporary leave from the Con to serve as an Associate Professor of Flute at the prestigious Oberlin conservatory in Ohio.” Italicisation is of the bits which, if the contents did not make clear anyway, suggest which side of the dispute this story is sourced from.

Watch for Development[s] – I’m notching back my settings into first-movement sonata form to accommodate what is to come.

25 Responses to “Kim Walker”

  1. Thom Says:

    Or is God Save the King/Queen a galliard? It seems to lack the necessary second-beat stress for a sarabande, while being quite suitable (if played at an energetic tempo) for the jumping steps of the galliard. Incidentally (and even further off topic, sorry, but you have reminded me), the galliard was considered a man’s dance, but Queen Elizabeth I would nonetheless dance one each morning in her nightdress as a means of exercise. (At least that’s what Winsome told my class!)

  2. marcellous Says:

    The consensus on a quick Google seems pretty firmly to be that it is indeed a Galliard. I don’t know why I remember WE saying it was a Sarabande.

  3. Nicholas Pickard Says:

    Of course, Marcellous, I will defend my use of the ‘bile’ bit. The letter in its entire form is like a stream of consciousness made without any contemplation.

    Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors aside, the letter made me think of poor Othello:
    O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
    It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
    The meat it feeds on.

  4. marcellous Says:

    I see you haven’t bothered to defend the glorious leader bit and the tempo markings.

    To dismiss the anti-Walker faction (for want of a better word) on the basis of one tirade, however, would be akin to the Chinese dismissal of the Tibetan cause on the basis that the street rioters in Lhasa are hoodlums or “hooligans.” That’s one reason why I wonder if it isn’t supporters of Walker who’ve seen fit to release this letter, just as the Chinese made free with photos of knife-brandishing Tibetans and burning shops.

  5. Nicholas Pickard Says:

    That old chestnut, China! I think you may find that both issues are a lot more complicated than a few quick witted lines.

    And apologies for not defending Marie bashir further, but I think that you may find in NSW that she is one of the most respected leaders we have had for a very long time.

    So much so that her tenure as Governor has been extended once again, which proved to be the only thing this government has done of late that attracted praise.

    I don’t know what state you are in, but here, communities have a great admiration for her… hence the statement “one of the best leaders of her time”.

    I know it doesn’t mean much when we have goons like Iemma, Costa et al but it does count for something here in this god-forsaken state.

  6. marcellous Says:

    As to China, as with the Con, we now seem to be in agreement. My more specific point is that when people are aggrieved, they can often behave badly. This tends to be treated as disqualifying them from ventilating their grievance, which is not necessarily fair at all.

    I did not mean to suggest that you might have defended Marie Bashir, but your rather florid praise/prose.

    I’ve met Professor Bashir (we sat next to each other, or rather, with the interposition of an aide-de-camp, at an SSO concert last year) and seen her around on other occasions. She seems a pleasant enough person. But I still don’t really treat governors seriously as leaders, and I don’t think we really have adequate mechanisms for expression of public opinion other than various luvvocracies and the self-confirming puff of PR and journalism to speak of her as having been “hailed” in any way.

    As Governor, I concede that she is generally well thought of, but that position really depends on her remaining relatively anodyne. That’s the difficulty if she gets embroiled in this affair, which was the point of my post, so far as it concerned her.

    As you would gather from the above or from reading any other posts on this blog, I am in NSW. Otherwise, I could scarcely be interested in all this, could I?

  7. Nicholas Pickard Says:

    Very true.

    And I totally forgot about your Twelfth Night experience..!

    Apologies.

  8. Robert Dyball Says:

    I have written several letters to SMH in support of the Prof. Walker, and not one has been published. I know of others who have written letters of support, with the same result. It seems that either my – and all the others – are either terrible writers, or that there is some some sort of block on positive press for the Dean. As a student I feel a bit helpless, since the Dean’s supporters seem to have no voice, yet we are bombarded by Ms. Harriet’s re-hashed stories monthly, with information supplied in part by her moles in the Con, who are relatively few in number, and plaster the walls of the building with annotated photocopies of the SMH stories.
    Anyone have a tip on how to get a letter published in Herald?

  9. marcellous Says:

    I dunno, RB. Sign your letter “Con Vaitsas,” perhaps? Maybe a group letter would be more effective. Until you can rustle up numbers or enlist the support of some organisation, statements about how many or few Ms Harriet’s moles are in number are pretty meaningless.

    You could always try rehearsing your views here and we could make suggestions.

    But do the Dean’s supporters say “No, she hasn’t been a shoddy plagiarist” (this surely requires consideration of the textual evidence) or “Maybe she has, but it wasn’t important stuff, we don’t care and we think she’s doing a great job.”? At present, it seems the university hierarchy’s response has been in the latter category, which is tricky when someone is supposed to be an academic.

  10. Ken Nielsen Says:

    The finding of the university (after a long and expensive enquiry) was the Walker’s only lapse (it was never called plagiarism because that is a technical term, not applicable to any of this) was publication (in Music Forum) of quotations without attribution. This was unintentional and voluntarily corrected by her when she saw it.
    So the university decided that she did not commit plagiarism or anything like it. So she was reinstated without reservation.
    The most interesting aspects to all this are, it seems to me:
    How can an organisation suspend someone- a very serious act – and then reinstate her: should not there be an enquiry about how that happened? Who screwed up?
    What is really going on at the Con? Clearly there is a faction fight. Who is doing what to whom? Why has not the university resolved it?
    What is the Herald up to? It is clearly fighting a campaign to get rid of Walker. Why?

  11. marcellous Says:

    Ken,

    Are you sure it was only the Music Forum article? I though that there were also two internal reports which drew liberally on documents written by people at Indiana, or at least had extensive resemblances to them.

    I don’t understand your point about why publication of quotations without attribution is not plagiarism, other than possibly because it was accidental – which must basically involve just giving someone the benefit of the doubt unless printing or publisher’s errors are involved.

    But I agree with you that it obviously isn’t just about the plagiarism. As a matter of reportage, the plagiarism charges are a safe haven because it is easy to produce the documents in question. The problem is that defamation laws pretty well ensure that you will never get straight reporting of what is really in dispute. Who would dare come out on the record?

    What “resolution” do you think the university should effect? Clearly, they baulked at removing Walker. That would involve a big loss of face for the uni and also for those who appointed her, as well as the likelihood of some further legal dispute with Walker. Personally, that’s how I interpret round one (last year). This is rather less favourable to Walker than your interpretation appears to be. Once the decision was taken to reinstate her, it had necessarily to be without reservation or else there would be no point in doing it, so I don’t draw quite the same conclusion from that as you do.

    I wonder whether quiet words were slipped to Walker about maybe not antagonizing people so much as she clearly has, or to her subordinates about falling into line or waiting patiently until Walker’s term is up. If so, they were in vain.

  12. Angela Judd Says:

    “However entertaining and thought-provoking her lectures are, it looks like she is serving up the warmed-up leftovers of other people’s work. Why does she do it? Can she just not help herself? Is she too busy? In particular, is she too busy big-noting herself giving talks like this which she appears unwilling to prepare properly herself?”

    Perhaps that all-important “why” is at the heart of all this?
    It seems pretty poor judgement to serve leftovers, as you put it (lol!), but then to get others to do the reheating? You say the ghostwriters/research assistants are postgraduates but the results from what I’ve read and heard in person seem very undergraduate to me.

    Look, public lectures aren’t necessarily expected to contain original or ground-breaking scholarship. Many entertaining and illuminating presentations of this type stand on the shoulders of others, for sure. But where’s the coherent gathering together and synthesis of ideas to make an original and persuasive argument?

  13. marcellous Says:

    So, Angela, do I take it you went to the talks or to some of them? Did you go to the talk in question?

    I should make clear that I don’t know exactly what leg-work the research assistants did. For all I know, they tracked down the recordings referred to at the end of the notes. Surely they didn’t copy out swathes of Messrs Durant?

    Not that using research assistance is such a sin as you might think. Sometimes it might get you off the hook, as with the obviously unconsulted source referred to in a footnote to a joke about “Cassanova” and Voltaire which I referred to in my post about Justice Susan Crennan not so long ago.

  14. Ken Nielsen Says:

    M:
    I suggest that you go back and read the SMH reports. Harriet Alexander is pretty accurate on the university decisions.There were, apparently, all sorts of allegations but all were rejected except the minor Music Forum one. And that was a case of editor’s errors corrected by Walker when she saw it.
    In academia, plagiarism has a specific meaning limited to scholarly writings so was not relevant to any of these cases.
    I do not know whether any quiet words were slipped to Walker but believe that some not so quiet words should have been slipped to the small number of staff members who have been plotting against her since soon after she arrived.
    That is the management failure: quite often in business or other organisations someone from outside is appointed to make changes. Some people do not like those changes. In most places outside universities, they would either accept the situation or leave. In universities (and I could quote cases of this going back 30 years) they stay to plot.
    And much damage is done to people, the institution and the students.
    That is the sad thing in all this.

  15. marcellous Says:

    Ken

    Of course I didn’t rely on just my own memory.

    I went back to Ms Alexander’s story from last October, Silence persists in halls of music, as follows (excerpts only):

    What is known is that the university, acting on a complaint from people within the university, quietly stood aside Walker in July and appointed an industrial lawyer who is a member of the university’s law teaching staff, Anthony Britt, to investigate.

    Britt spent 10 weeks looking into allegations of plagiarism involving at least three documents produced by Walker, including her reports to the college board of the conservatorium in May 2005 and February 2007. He also examined an article Walker had written for the magazine, Music Forum, last year which contained material drawn from work by the academic Nancy Cantor, without attribution.

    Several months ago, the article was taken from the magazine’s website but has since been restored, amended to include footnotes acknowledging Nancy Cantor.

    Britt’s report was the size of a phone book, according to a source close to the controversy. The Herald understands that Britt found Walker had a case to answer on some, though not all, the matters raised. Several weeks after Britt produced his findings, and just as mysteriously, Walker was reinstated, with no apparent action taken against her. Not even the caretaker deans knew she was returning until the day she arrived back in mid-September.

    The university’s vice-chancellor, Gavin Brown, refused to indicate why she had been stood aside for more than two months. But to quell concerns at the Con, he issued an email to all its staff saying that Walker and he had agreed they “should be looking to the future rather than backward”.

    “On a personal basis I am looking forward to further outstanding achievements as a result of the collaborative efforts of all at the conservatorium under the leadership of Professor Walker,” Brown wrote.

    A fortnight later the Herald published a story which showed a copy of Walker’s February report to the conservatorium’s college board containing a number of passages identical to documents from high-ranking officials at Indiana University over recent years. Almost two-thirds of the text in the February report replicated material in the Indiana documents. Walker refused to comment to the Herald when asked whether there was a plausible explanation for the replication.

    When the Herald contacted the original authors of the documents that Walker was alleged to have plagiarised, both of them former presidents of Indiana University, they said they had not been contacted by anyone from the University of Sydney about the alleged plagiarism.

    The former president Adam Herbert said he had never been asked for permission to quote from his speeches and knew nothing of the controversy. The other former president, Miles Brand, expressed similar views.

    Significant sections of the American academics’ orations on wisdom and knowledge, which had been delivered to students and academics in two major annual speeches at Indiana, appeared in Walker’s monthly college board report.

    Occasional figures had been replaced, such as the dollar sum of commitments the conservatorium had received, or the number of hours of community service its students had performed, but the text was identical to the original speech, which had been sitting on Indiana University’s website for some time.

    Both Herbert and Walker coincidentally believed they must “continue to build on [Indiana University/the conservatorium’s] long and illustrious history as an international community of learning”.

    Both said they had reached an epiphany when the importance of such a task was made clear to them.

    For Herbert, it was when addressing a summit on international education convened by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, the previous year. For Walker, it was when visiting a conference in Salzburg the previous year.

    Both documents reached a crescendo when describing what they envisaged for their institutions: “a place where students learn the slow and arduous processes of mental discipline, by which knowledge is acquired and wisdom won; a place where frontiers of new truth are pushed back by the research explorer and old truth is subjected to critical analysis until it assumes new significance; a place where reason is exalted over emotion and force”.

    Herbert acknowledged the words had first been spoken by his predecessor, Herman Wells. The Walker document mentioned neither Wells nor Herbert.

    Contacted by the Herald, the retired Herbert said Walker had never asked his permission to quote from his speeches nor had she provided material for those speeches when she was employed at Indiana University.

    “None of her input was included in my inaugural speech or any of my speeches to entering freshmen. She was never involved in related research or the preparation of any of my speeches, essays or other publicly released comments outside of the arts and humanities area as referenced above,” Herbert said.

    Last week, when the Herald contacted Sydney University a number of times for a response, it reiterated its stance that it would not comment on any aspect of the Walker matter. Brown reiterated comments that he was looking forward to the future.

    It may be that you are right that plagiarism, in academia, or, more to the point, within the terms of the university’s plagiarism policy is limited to academic writings or possibly, at a pinch, the Music Forum article. This distinction may have saved Walker’s bacon vis-a-vis plagiarism as a sacking offence in academia, but it doesn’t make her non-academic plagiarism any less reprehensible in a non-academic sense.

    It is possible that this is a story of an change agent from outside being white-anted by her internally entrenched opponents. Sometimes what this actually means is that the changes were not all well conceived. (I presume the reduction in the amount of individual tuition was a money-based decision, which seems odd when the Con at the same time looks to be awash with funds.) Obviously, it means that Walker has not in this case impressed her staff as much as she has impressed the selection committee or Betty Turner or others who have been lapping up her (and the Durants’ ) talk at the Art Gallery.

    Nor am I convinced that unis are meant to be managed just the same way as private businesses. Academics stay and plot because they have a different kind of stake in the enterprise and also a more limited mobility. Planners for change need to manage this and account for this. Walker’s determination is her opponents’ “autocratic,” obviously. I know I have joked about Rowena Danziger in my post. Conversely, when people I think well of or people they think well of start speaking adversely of Walker, I’m not prepared to dismiss the present situation as the carping of a plotting clique.

  16. Ken Nielsen Says:

    “Conversely, when people I think well of or people they think well of start speaking adversely of Walker, I’m not prepared to dismiss the present situation as the carping of a plotting clique.”

    Ah, well that clinches it then. Can’t argue with that.

  17. marcellous Says:

    Sorry, I don’t mean to be holding some secret cards to my chest or up my sleeve, but eventually on these things you reach the point where you can’t go any further without breaking confidences or (in my case) my blogging pseudonym. So at this point my position becomes necessarily opaque.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t some carping, or that there isn’t a clique.

    What I meant is that it doesn’t seem to be only that. I can’t dismiss her opponents as simply some disgruntled baddies (not that I am saying that you were doing that).

    I agree with you that in the present situation “much damage is done to people, the institution and the students.” I am also prepared to believe that conflict is not a result of Walker herself but also what people higher up in the organization have been sold on (by her or otherwise). The sad thing is that once things get toxic, as they obviously have become, it is very hard to see the win-win solution which might solve things.

    My guess is that the university administration (to take an analytical cop-out for brevity’s sake) is just hoping to tough or ride things out for what I presume is the remaining 2 years or so of Prof Walker’s appointment. I am assuming that there was a fixed-term appointment, as that seems to be the modern way.

  18. marcellous Says:

    I want to add, Ken, it’s not a question of people drawing me aside and bad-mouthing Walker. It’s a combination of reported statements by people whom I otherwise know, or things passed to me (on my inquiry) via people I know well.

    Incidentally, since your last comment I have just listened to the streaming of Juditha Triumphans once again. What a revelation that was and what a pleasure it continues to be!

  19. Angela Judd Says:

    “So, Angela, do I take it you went to the talks or to some of them? Did you go to the talk in question?”
    > Not the talk in question, no. Other public lectures – sounds like they’re all pretty similar.

    Not that using research assistance is such a sin as you might think.
    > The sin isn’t in doing it, it’s in doing it badly. The examples in the Herald are pretty bad, I think, the ones I heard were pretty bad too. Clumsy, inaccurate in places, with poorly disguised borrowings. It means that the Dean isn’t good at these things herself, or it means that she’s not choosing the best people to help her with them. Because a good researcher/scriptwriter (whether that’s the lecturer or someone else) would assimilate and synthesise the ideas and present them with a consistent style and “voice” that wouldn’t leave the audience thinking: I wonder where that was Googled from?

    To go to a musical analogy: I don’t care if an opera singer can’t read music and uses a coach to learn the part as long as the resulting performance is good. For a non-academic lecture: I don’t care if the lecturer’s helped with research or writing as long as the lecture itself is well-crafted and has integrity. The analogy isn’t perfect – don’t drill down into the implications, please! – just trying to convey my basis for feeling unsympathetic to the Dean’s broader plight.

  20. Robert Dyball Says:

    “But do the Dean’s supporters say “No, she hasn’t been a shoddy plagiarist” (this surely requires consideration of the textual evidence) or “Maybe she has, but it wasn’t important stuff, we don’t care and we think she’s doing a great job.”?”

    Firstly I should clarify that from my perspective, the vast majority of students have not read anything to do with the matter, relying instead (again, in my experience – and it is a small campus-) on hearsay, or rather the venom produced by Kim’s more active opponents. Staff in opposition to Kim are tight lipped, those who support her are for the most part open. I don’t think for a moment that she is an easy woman to work for – the ‘untraceable’ you speak of would attest to that – but she’s hardly some kind of musical Mugabe who will have heads rolling for the mere act of disagreeing with her.

    In answer to your question, I believe Ken has summarised well enough: On charges of being a shoddy plagiarist, the Dean has been cleared of all but one “accidental misattribution” (or whatever they called it). I don’t think the con is worse off for having her there. It is because of her that anyone can walk in on any given day and see a decent, or even very good concert for something like $15 ($10 for concessions!). It’s even FREE for staff and students, few of whom take up the offer. It is because of her that the new Early Music department is flourishing under quite possibly the most qualified person in this hemisphere.
    True, it would seem the Dean is running the campus more like a business than most conservatories. But so what? Better that than some ridiculously outdated 18th-century Paris conservatoire model that didn’t work back then in Europe, and couldn’t possibly work now in Sydney.
    I don’t know if she’s doing a great job. But it’s a pretty bloody good one.

  21. marcellous Says:

    That’s a spirited defence and a reasonable one.

    Good to hear you have traced the untraceable. But is it surprising that the supporters are open and the detractors tight-lipped? I think you are underestimating KW’s powers of retribution against those who cross her. It needn’t be a question of heads rolling: especially if things are run like a business, a lot can be done with the awarding or withholding of money. No-one needs to be positively punished if the same can be achieved by withholding rewards or flows of funds from benefactors. I wonder if this is the origin of the accusations of “favouritism”?

    I am still am not sure if I agree with you and Ken about the situation re the “plagiarism.” This seems to me to depend on saying only the published article counts and that was accidental, and that the internal management docs do not count because they weren’t academic. This squares things off with the unis plagiarism policy just a bit too neatly. Still, I wouldn’t want to see her go if she is otherwise doing a good job just because of that.

    I’ll have to think about this “business” vs “Paris conservatoire model” dichotomy a bit more, though.

  22. Con student Says:

    I found this post worth reading and fair. It is obvious that Kim Walker has behaved completely inappropriately in committing acts of plagiarism.

    All that aside, I’d like to talk about the other things that she has done since becoming the Dean of the Sydney Conservatorium.

    In the Bachelor of Music (Performance) degree, she has abolished public recitals for second year students. This is a detrimental move for students wishing to become performers and I can not see any reasonable justification for this.

    She has radically overhauled the orchestral program. Whilst the introduction of Early Music program is a good thing, the standard of the Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra has dropped significantly due to her organisational changes.

    The orchestral program was previously based around one major Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra contained all the undergraduate string players and select wind, brass and percussion players. This orchestra would perform 3 concert programs a year. The main preparation for these concerts was one intensive week of rehearsals – daily from 10am-5pm. This worked extremelly well and produced very good results.

    For wind and brass players not in the Symphony Orchestra, there was a Wind Symphony and other training classes. The Symphony Orchestra also had regular repertoire sessions which proved highly invaluable and gave other wind and brass players some experience.

    There was also a selective Chamber Orchestra. Entry was by audition. Only the best players got to play in this orchestra. This orchestra went on an international tour every second year which proved an invaluable experience for those involved.

    Now the selective Chamber Orchestra is gone. There are no more tours. There are 4 different Orchestras/Ensembles: Symphony, Chamber, Modern Music Ensemble and Early Music Ensemble. The talent is spread across all the orchestras/ensembles. Hence, the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras aren’t nearly as strong as they used to be. This is not a good change.

    I believe that it is welcome to have an Early Music Ensemble and Modern Music Ensemble but the Chamber Orchestra ought to be an extra orchestra on top of the orchestral program. Otherwise, the top talent is too sparse in each ensemble.

    There are no longer repertoire sessions but just preparation for concerts. These happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays. From experience the previous rehearsal format of one intensive week was more productive. People do tend to forget some things on a week to week basis.

    Robert Dyall said “It is because of her that anyone can walk in on any given day and see a decent, or even very good concert for something like $15 ($10 for concessions!).”

    It is true that there are more concerts for the general public to listen to. However, this is a training institution. The priorities should be with producing the best quality musicians and the best quality concerts – not the most number of concerts.

    Since the Dean has been in charge of the Conservatorium the chamber music program has gone down hill. An enrolled chamber music group is only allowed 2-3 tutorials per semester. This is totally inadequate.

    Spending $50k on a horse-whisperer wasn’t wise use of money either.

  23. marcellous Says:

    Thanks for your concrete comments, “Con student.”

    I am shocked to hear that chamber music ensembles have been reduced to 2-3 tutorials per semester. I am sure it used to be weekly and I would have thought this was essential. A lot of this must surely be to do with money. Does this really just mean that cuts have had to be made in some places to fund innovations in others, or is the Con under a general regime of belt-tightening behind the capital-expenditure glamour of its building?

    I am also sorry to hear about the cessation of the intensive workshop weeks. Why was this? Were they just administratively too awkward? Traditions are not necessarily as ancient as they seem: I think these were an innovation of Wolfram Christ’s. All the same, I remember they created a real buzz around the place.

    I was wondering when we’d get round to the horse-whisperer. Was it really $50K?

  24. marcellous Says:

    “Another con student” has commented:

    I have to agree with the con student, things have certainly gone down-hill, from what I’ve heard they used to be a lot better before Walker arrived.
    Talking to a few lecturers there since starting at the con in ’08 I’ve found that it seems to be a general consensus among the lecturers employed there that Walker has made a mess of everything.
    Departments are generally unorganized; in my first year i had a jury exam (which accounted for a large percentage of my final grade) until about 3 weeks before the set date, and my teacher was completely unaware of what was required of him in the private tuition of my chosen instrument.
    As a minor performance student, I was shocked to find out a few weeks into 1st semester of my 2nd yr that I only had 3 private lessons for my instrument left; the con pays for these lessons, and in 1st year everyone receives 14 lessons, but from 2yr onwards it is cut back to 6 lessons per semester for minor performance students(something that Walker decided to put in place). As I’m studying music education and intend to teach privately, I find these lessons absolutely necessary and now have to pay for extra lessons, which is something that not many students can afford.

    Walker dropped Wind Symphony this year, without any notice to lecturers or students, leaving everyone out on a limb with nothing to replace it, and no room for students to join other orchestras. The heads of department (brass department, wind department etc) had to organize alternatives at the last minute.

    Oh and according to an ex con-high student, Walker had feng shui crystals placed in a performance hall, and that money didn’t come out of her own pocket.

    And no one is willing to fire her as the pay out exceeds her income for the remaining contract.

    [snip: just my natural caution, anotherconstudent: pls have another go at the sentiment expressed in your final para if you want to by way of further comment which (and I confess this is why I have quoted your comment rather than edited it, because it is the default effect of the settings for comment moderation) I will then check to be sure it accords with my own necessary prudence as publisher and hence potential defendant].

  25. Professor Kim Walker goes out on a high note « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] could hardly fail to notice the various functions bidding farewell to the outgoing dean, Kim Walker. It all seemed a bit OTT, but what the hell – if she had a cult of personality going, she was […]

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