American Professor At Jamaica’s Edna Manley College Contemplates Hunger Strike Amid Student Sex Scandal “Coverup”

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[Spotlight Story On Sex Abuse]
Jamaica's Edna Manley College of The Visual and Performing Arts is rocked by local Me-Too scandal...
Photo: Professor Maluwa Williams-Myers

Visiting African-American Maluwa Williams-Myers has a story to tell about sex abuse at Edna Manley...

On Tuesday, African-American Professor Maluwa Williams-Myers told the Black Star News she is contemplating a hunger strike to force change at a Jamaican college where a serial sex offender has allegedly abused female students “for a decade.”

Professor Williams-Myers told Black Star News she is compelled to consider this drastic approach because officials at this college are involved in a “coverup.” She is worried about the victimization of other young women.

Is there a rape culture problem inside this Jamaican institution that is aided-and-abetted by the acquiescence of administration officials?

For over a week now, an emerging, and expanding, sexual harassment scandal has rocked the foundations at Jamaica’s Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. So far, at least four women have come forward to file complaints and accuse a longtime male professor of sexual abuse. Professor Williams-Myers—a visiting African-American professor and musician—said she was made aware of the situation when several female students confided in her about the ongoing sexual harassment by this teacher. The professor in question has been accused of pressuring female students for sex in exchange for getting good grades.

Professor Williams-Myers told the Black Star News about her possible plan to engage in a hunger strike to dramatize the need to address the sexual abuse of these students.

“The other thing that I have been doing, which I haven’t told anybody except for the person at the U.N. [United Nations], and I need to find out exactly where to do it, when to do it, and how to do it, and I’m actually thinking of fasting—hunger strike,” said Williams-Myers. “I’m like thinking ok would I do it in front of the prime minister’s…The question is where would I do it? Would I do it in front of a monument that represents women and freedom? Would I do it in front of a musician’s monument? Would I do it right where the prime minister is?”

Marigold Harding, Chairman of the Board of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts said she was only made aware of the sexual abuse allegations early last month.

“I was made aware of the allegation on the 9th of May,” Harding said. “I was made aware of it by letter from the acting dean for the department of visual arts. The letter stated that she was referring to a complaint, or complaints, that were made by two students, only two at that time.” Harding also said “We consider these allegations to be very serious allegations. And I’m going to emphasize they are allegations.”

Harding also said the accused teacher will face a disciplinary hearing.

“We have to follow the regulations - the accused has been written to, he was been given a timeline to respond,” Harding said. “He has now responded; we are now in the process of sending his response to the complainant. A date has been set for the hearing.”

However, Professor Williams-Myers told the Black Star News she believes Edna Manley officials “are basically trying to do a coverup.” She believes this because the alleged sexual abuse “has been going on for a decade.” Apparently, the accused professor has been teaching there for some time. According to Professor Williams-Myers, at least two former students attempted suicide because of abuse years ago. She finds it hard to believe Edna Manley officials never heard about these previous accounts of sexual harassment.

Professor Williams-Myers also made a damning statement against Edna Manley’s dean to the Black Star News. She announced this allegation on the Cliff Hughes radio show, in Jamaica, on Monday.

“When I was talking to Cliff Hughes yesterday, I told the public that I was warned by the dean ‘don’t you talk to those students about anything else but what you came here to do,” said Williams-Myers. “So even though they were coming to me with their problems, she wanted me to just ignore it. That’s what she was saying.” According to Professor Williams-Myers, all Edna Manley’s officials seem to care about is the reputation of the school—not the harm being done to these students. She put it this way, “they are collecting tuition, while traumatizing the future.”

Professor Williams-Myers has been doing interviews over the past week to shed light on the sexual abuse at Edna Manley. She says she has been shaken by witnessing, through the victims, “the fear in their eyes.” Some think this professor may’ve abused around one hundred women.

Last week, in an interview with the Jamaican Daily Gleaner, Professor Williams-Myers said “I have known about four or five of the cases involving students. Some of them have had their hair grabbed. Some have been asked questions or told, ‘I can’t wait until you are old enough to have sex with.” Others she said were told “basically, if you don’t do this for me, you are not going to have a good grade … a passing grade.”

As this sex scandal has enveloped Edna Manley, other female students have expressed concerns about this teacher. However, these students are fearful of speaking publicly. This fear seems to be partly because these students feel nothing will be done by officials.

A story, in the Nationwide News publication, illustrates this in their report about a female student who told them “that the professor had tried to harass her sexually.” In a Nationwide News recording, this anonymous student said, “I can tell you that he tried with me. But he didn’t get to the point where it was physical because I backed him off a little, and him got the point.” When asked if she heard about other students being harassed by this professor, this anonymous student said, “Yeah, I heard about them. But I mean I thought they reported it and stuff. But as they said that they reported it and they didn’t do anything about it.”

Professor Williams-Myers told the Black Star News about the resignation letter she wrote because of these events at Edna Manley.

“When I said that I was resigning,” Williams-Myers said. “I wrote them a letter saying that my early termination is as a direct result of the continuous sexual harassment in various forms and the mal administration which prevails at Edna Manley, and to which there seems to be a perpetual muted response—or no response at all.”

Professor Williams-Myers told the Black Star News about a prescient point another Jamaican professor made. That professor told her “Jamaica is a really nice place, filled with opportunities and amazing experiences. But we are being held back as a culture based on experiences of the past. Mental and psychological enslavement is destroying us.”

The accounts of sexual abuse at Edna Manley are deeply disturbing. Jamaican officials—not only inside Edna Manley—must address the vestiges of neo-colonial patriarchy that disempowers Black women, sometimes to soothe the wounded egos of Black men. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the emergence of the Me-Too-Movement. Women are rising up and fighting for the respect they deserve. Unfortunately, the people primarily responsible for perverse patriarchal rule, and rape culture, that poisons much of the world are not being pointedly blamed for it: White European men.

It is surely true many Black men are now just as misogynistically patriarchal as White men. But this wasn’t always so. African history teaches us that our people produced the first queens to walk on this earth—when White women were being clubbed in the head and dragged into caves. Matrilineal systems were common in Africa—before gender- imbalanced corruption came. Master teachers like Dr. John Henrik Clark and Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan tell us this.

Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman, the most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” While this is correct, Malcolm’s statement is true anywhere where White patriarchy’s fingerprints can be discerned.

Much of the world is now off-balance because the equality—and divinity—of women has been stifled by perverse patriarchy. But the winds of change are blowing. Jamaican officials need to step up now and address this problem which has been exposed by these students—and by Professor Maluwa Williams-Myers. Don’t the women of Jamaica deserve better?

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