Grammy Task Force Demands 'Real and Constructive Change' in Statement - Rolling Stone
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Grammy Task Force Demands ‘Real and Constructive Change’ After CEO Ousting

‘Those seeking to make such reforms need to be supported, not impeded,’ the Tina Tchen-chaired task force writes

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12:  Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund co-founder Tina Tchen speaks onstage during Vanity Fair's Founders Fair at Spring Studios on April 12, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Tina Tchen, chairwoman of the Grammys' Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

The Grammy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion has demanded “real and constructive change” in the aftermath of the battle between the Recording Academy and ousted CEO Deborah Dugan.

The Tina Tchen-chaired task force issued a statement late Thursday — signed by artists and task force members Common, Andra Day, and producer Jimmy Jam, among others — that criticized the Recording Academy for its slow implementation of change; in December 2019, the task force authored a 47-page report “setting out 18 systemic changes we determined were needed to improve diversity and inclusion at the Academy.”

However, as Dugan claimed in a pair of television interviews as well as her EEOC filing against the Recording Academy, her attempts to bring about change — including to a voting process she deemed “rigged” — were stifled by the members of the Academy.

“As representatives from across the music community serving on the Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, we want to speak in our own voice about our shock and dismay at the allegations surrounding the Recording Academy and its leadership that surfaced this week,” the task force’s statement read.

“While we understand there are ongoing investigations about the issues raised over the last week, our experience and research tells us that if the Academy leadership, its staff, and the nominating committees that govern the Awards were more diverse and inclusive, there would be better processes for resolving problems and more trust in the Academy as a whole.”

While the statement did not outright support Dugan, it noted, “Those seeking to make such reforms need to be supported, not impeded.” Among the changes the task force recommended were “implementing ranked-choice voting at both the nominating-committee and final-ballot stages for the Big Four award categories” and “ensuring that all committees of the Academy, including nominations committees, are diverse, with equal representation of men and women.” In the latter case, “progress achieved last year was eroded in this year’s appointments.

“Change is hard. It won’t be easy to make these changes. But we are deeply disappointed at the level of commitment by some of the Academy’s leadership in effecting the kind of real and constructive change presented in our report. We are confident that they can do better,” the statement concluded. “Music has historically catalyzed and galvanized mass social change. And so it must again. Now.”

A rep for the Recording Academy told Rolling Stone that the statement was issued “directly by the task force.”

Grammy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion Full Statement

As representatives from across the music community serving on the Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, we want to speak in our own voice about our shock and dismay at the allegations surrounding the Recording Academy and its leadership that surfaced this week.

Our Task Force devoted the last year and a half to determining ways of making this industry we love more inclusive and representative of all of our voices. On December 12, 2019, we issued a 47-page report, setting out 18 systemic changes we determined were needed to improve diversity and inclusion at the Academy, and drive constructive change across the music industry.

These new charges reinforce just how important and urgent it is that the Academy implement all of the changes in the report that we delivered — without any delay.

The Academy’s Board of Trustees and leadership must immediately commit themselves to real reform, take concrete steps to implement all of the Task Force reforms, and transparently and regularly report on their progress — including transparently reporting on the pending investigations they have announced are underway. The Task Force will be reconvening in 90 days and expects to hear progress from the Academy by that time.

To reiterate, among the recommendations outlined in our report are calls for:

  • Ensuring that all committees of the Academy, including nominations committees, are diverse, with equal representation of men and women — an area where progress achieved last year was eroded in this year’s appointments;
  • Implementing ranked-choice voting at both the nominating committee and final ballot stages for the Big Four award categories (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist), which we believe would be a more fair and representative way to decide among a large group of nominees;
  • Changing the Board of Trustees election system so that the leadership of the Academy will be more diverse and inclusive. While the Academy announced a partial implementation of our recommendation last month, it does not go far enough;
  • Hiring a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the executive level to lead the deeper changes that are obviously needed; and
  • Hiring an independent outside advisor to conduct a review of all policies to ensure the Academy has a compliant and inclusive workplace culture.

To be clear, these are changes that need to be made at the highest levels and institutionalized so that they outlast any single leader.

While we understand there are ongoing investigations about the issues raised over the last week, our experience and research tells us that if the Academy leadership, its staff, and the nominating committees that govern the Awards were more diverse and inclusive, there would be better processes for resolving problems and more trust in the Academy as a whole. Those seeking to make such reforms need to be supported, not impeded.

Change is hard. It won’t be easy to make these changes. But we are deeply disappointed at the level of commitment by some of the Academy’s leadership in effecting the kind of real and constructive change presented in our report. We are confident that they can do better.

Music has historically catalyzed and galvanized mass social change. And so it must again. Now.

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