Past students of an eminent flute teacher are happy he has been awarded the title of Professor Emeritus, but say the recognition is too little, too late.
Prof Uwe Grodd, who has taught flute performance and conducting at the University of Auckland since 1984, confirmed to RNZ in June he was made redundant, as a result of a School of Music restructure process.
Though the 59-year-old’s teaching days at the University are over, he challenged the decision, and the University Council voted on October 17 to award him the title of Professor Emeritus upon early retirement, from November 2.
The Vice-chancellor Prof Stuart McCutcheon wrote in the letter offering the honour to Prof Grodd that “The significant contribution you have made throughout your career with the University is greatly appreciated and recognised by the University in the bestowal of this award.”
“It is an honour to accept this prestigious title on behalf of all my many fabulous students,” Prof Grodd told Newshub.
However, Prof Grodd’s past students and colleagues remain dissatisfied with – and skeptical of – the restructure process that cost the professor his job in the first place.
Clare Penny, an Auckland-based performer who recently completed her Masters of Music under Prof Grodd, said that while the Professor Emeritus title was “incredibly well-deserved,” it “does nothing to offset the silencing of staff, students and other stakeholders’ opinions during the deeply unpopular and damaging “restructure’ process.”
“Nor does it address the total failure of the University to provide the public with any reason whatever for the disestablishment of his position,” she added.
Newshub asked the University for comment on this claim and the others made in the story, but the Vice-chancellor responded only that the University does not comment on the situation of individual staff members and had no further comment for the story.
Ms Penny presented Prof Grodd with a bouquet of roses and lilies at his final flute class on 15 October, where seven alumni from around the world Skyped in to listen.
Oregon-based Abigail Sperling who completed her DMA (Doctor of Music Arts) under Prof Grodd in 2015, told Newshub it was a “major loss to the university and to New Zealand music” that he would no longer be teaching at the institution.
“I have witnessed some of the best performers and pedagogues in the world teach masterclasses and lessons and none of them have what you do or can offer what you can,” she wrote in a tribute to her former teacher on Facebook.
“Your intimate knowledge of the flute, your rapport with students, and your laudable teaching skills are evidenced by the number and quality of people who have opted for your guidance and coaching over the years.”
A student who completed her Bachelor of Music with Prof Grodd in June this year described her former teacher as “very patient, “amazingly kind and encouraging.”
The 21-year-old said she had been planning to attend Auckland University specifically to study with Prof Grodd since she was 15.
She said she was “very upset” she would no longer be able to complete her Honours year under the professor as she had intended, and had subsequently changed her plans to study secondary teaching instead.
A senior School of Music staff member, wishing to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal by the University, wrote on Facebook that disestablishing Prof Grodd’s position was a “dreadful decision,” and an “unexplained mystery.”
However, Liz Hirst, a former student of Prof Grodd believes that Head of School Assoc Prof Martin Rummel, who oversaw the restructuring along with the University’s Vice-chancellor, bears some responsibility.
“That the University Council has recognised Professor Grodd’s service and abilities with an Emeritus title speaks in their favour,” she said.
“I hope the Council will investigate fully the events leading up to the “financial” restructure at the now devastated School of Music, at which the current HOD [Head of Department] Martin Rummel is in no way representing his staff’s interests.”
Speaking to RNZ in September, assoc Prof Rummel maintains he was “caught up” in the restructure just as other staff were.
“Anyone who is in the process is caught up with it,” he said.
“Again this is nobody’s business. [The restructure is] not subject to public discussion.”
His response came less than three months after the Tertiary education Union accused the University of “silencing” music staff in a letter addressed to the Vice Chancellor.
University Communications Manager Lisa Finucane told RNZ the assertion was “untrue,” on the grounds that the Vice-chancellor was only requesting that staff comply with consultation procedures they “previously agreed to in their employment agreements.”
Students have also claimed they are not being listened to.
The president of the School of Music Students’ Association Leo Jaffrey wrote in a submission made to the restructure process quoted on RNZ that “students have been told that their opinions on this subject will be actively disregarded.
“It is clearly tantamount to a systematic attempt to prevent dissenting student voices from providing any input,” he stated.
Newshub contacted Assoc Prof Rummel for comment on the accusations twice but he did not respond by the deadline.
Áine Kelly-Costello was also a former flute student of Prof Grodd.