Formal Announcement of the Resignation of the Chair of IASPM

Dear IASPM members,

it is with great regret than I announce my resignation as Chair of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM).

I have written and rewritten this email numerous times. It is rather long, perhaps you only need to read the sentence above, but I felt the need to explain my perspective.

General meetings of branches in both Latin America and Spain, voted to ask that I resign. I took these votes very seriously, as I said in my emails to the list. IASPM has 1500 members, I take my responsibilities to them all seriously, and have been trying over the last weeks to assess how many members feel I should resign. It does make a difference if it is 20 members asking me to leave at a general meeting, or if it is 200, so I have been waiting for a response from these branches to my question of how many voted in their general meetings.

These calls were recently followed by a statement from the Executive Committee (EC) of my own branch, IASPM UK and Ireland. They informed me of their request for my resignation a week before an announcement on the email list, and I immediately decided to resign once the UK&I branch EC had added their announcement. These policies then represented together about half the membership of IASPM by proxy. We are a democratic organisation, and so I of course respect those decisions and resign.

I wanted to inform the IASPM international EC of my decision at our meeting today, before this response. For this reason I put a short message on the IASPM email list earlier this week. IASPM Benelux has yesterday added to the call for my resignation. As with so many things, there is no policy in IASPM for censure of officers, which once again leaves me to make a decision on my own, the irony of which is not lost on me, considering the reason for these calls. I am sure a better process for questioning EC decisions will be put in place when an IASPM complaints procedure is established.

Another key reason I am now resigning, is that my continued presence as Chair has become a distraction from the serious matters being considered within the association, and because I hope that without a focus on me as an individual, perhaps IASPM can focus fully on the important issues at hand. I want to make it clear I am not resigning because I have in any way acted in order to protect perpetrators of sexual violence, or to silence debate; that is simply not the case. Neither do I think that my resignation evidences any particular commitment by IASPM. I have myself shown my commitment to opposing sexualised violence in academia through working as Chair to address the current allegations, and working to ensure IASPM develops policies to do all we can to protect its members.

Some consider “the deletion of the original post and a number of comments to be a serious mistake”, I understand of course why they say that. I would like to clarify a few points on the context of what happened. I have not done so in detail thus far, because it did not seem helpful.

I had to decide what to do as an IASPM Facebook page moderator, faced with a series of posts focused around allegations amongst other things of rape of an IASPM member by another IASPM member, and had to consider:

  • IASPM’s approach to social media; the official IASPM Social Media policy states members must “express themselves courteously and professionally” and states “harassment, and bullying in all their forms are unacceptable and will not be tolerated on the Associations social media platforms”. I’m not sure if those calling for my resignation will have been able to read this official policy, which was written by our social media committee members.
  • the appropriate approach to a very serious allegation of a rape committed by an IASPM member, but that occurred outside of IASPM activities
  • The seriousness and unprecedented nature of the accusations and situation
  • a post that said “I know every single fucking thing about you” and “You can all fuck off”.
  • A separate post that said a moderator “has a thing for being raped in her fantasies”
  • what to do with a post by a 3rd party or “bystander” that makes an allegation about rape where it is not clar the victim has agreed to make this public on social media, bearing in mind that such a public statement can cause serious problems for future legal action, and that it can compromise the confidentiality or anonymity of the victim.
  • further posts with allegations of inappropriate behaviour, but without allegations of illegality, such as in the case of the 3rd man named, again by a third party, and raising the same issues of permissions
  • Another post in which someone attacke an IASPM member because of their facial features
  • The way the thread was developing
  • IASPM’s lack of relevant policies or code of conduct against which to judge, and lack of disciplinary procedures to hold people accountable
  • The legal position, for IASPM in Sweden, and for moderators and EC members affected by legislation in their home countries of the UK, Finland, Australia, Brazil, the US, Germany,  etc., especially considering IASPM has no public liability insurance, leaving individuals potentially personally liable. IASPM is spending a 5 figure sum on Swedish legal advice; we do not yet have the full results of that advice, and that advice will not apply for example to me as a UK national.
  • Whether as IASPM chair it was appropriate to leave these many posts for someone else to action.

It’s suggested it was a serious mistake to delete a number of posts, was I right to remove some of these posts? What about the other issues raised? Should some but not all of these posts have been removed? If so should I use the IASPM social media policy to decide which to delete, even though this policy did not anticipate this situation and provides limited clarity of guidance? In that case I am forced to resign based on disagreement on interpretation of the social media policy. Acting as a moderator, I considered that deleting only some of the posts would be to impose my version on the thread, which I didn’t think appropriate. I felt I had to do something due to the nature of some of the posts, and felt that as a result I was left with no other choice but to delete the whole thread. I would suggest I made an unsatisfactory decision in a difficult situation. The allegations are not silenced, but moved from social media to a formal investigation.

I am surprised in an academic situation, of this approach of judgement, condemnation and blame, when so much is unknown. I am surprised at decisions made without discussing all the relevant facts, such as the IASPM Social Media policy or the legal situation. How was I supposed to assess what I should do if it has taken lawyers weeks to understand the relevant law. With no IASPM policy, whose standard am I being held to? What is the place here for evidence or argument? All choices in a situation like this lead to potential subsequent consequences. I understand why I have been criticised. I regret that I didn’t instead consult with others over what to do, and have apologised for not doing so, but I had no immediate way to consult in that way.

Of course I support any statements that make clear the “unconditional commitment of the association to the sexual security of our members and against all kinds of abuse and injustices”, “zero-tolerance to abuse and abusers”, “echo the support and solidarity with survivors and victims of sexual assault, harrassment, and violence”, and “commitment of the association to the sexual security of our members and against all kinds of abuse and injustices”, to repeat the fine words of our branches. 

Despite the global pandemic, I’ve enjoyed my time as Chair: developing and running our research seminars; developing our social media channels; helping plan the South Korea conference (twice); finding venues for 2023 and 2025 conferences; sorting out finances; finding an editor for IASPM Journal; finding a treasurer (2 or 3 times); and most importantly helping to develop new branches in China, Poland, Portugal, Greece and South Korea.

I will remain a member of IASPM, as I have for the last 23 years, and hope you will all give your full support to the remaining EC members at this difficult time.

Yours Sincerely,

Rupert Till