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Bullying allegations made against Con’s senior management

Samantha Jonscher reports on an impending employment dispute at the Conservatorium of Music.

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Nicole Dorigo, a teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music has lodged a bullying complaint with the Fair Work Commission over what she believes is a bogus redundancy

Dorigo is a language teacher who specializes in French and Italian language diction for opera singers.

Last year she became aware that students in her classes were recording her teaching and then reporting back to management for monitoring purposes.  She made a complaint to management, but nothing seemed to come of it. In January of this year,Dorigo was notified that her position had become redundant. In March she informed her employers that she would be disputing her redundancy.

Numerous emails sent by the management of the Conservatorium underpin Dorigo’s complaint, including emails sent by the Dean, Professor Karl Kramer, who signs off his emails as “2K”. In November 2013, months before Dorigo was informed of her redundancy, Kramer refers to her redundancy as “the nuclear option”. In an email exchange with Human Resources Manager Antoinette Holt, Kramer says of Dorigo, “Duct tape can’t fix stupid but can muzzle it” [sic].  In an email to two other lecturers in the OperaSchool with the subject line “Confidential- FYI”, Kramer told them Dorigo had been presented with the consultation paper for her redundancy and asked, “Are we having fun yet?”

Dorigo gained access to these e-mails through a request under the Government Information (Public Access) Actand brought the language to the attention of Human Resources. Last week, on the same day that theSydney Morning Herald covered the controversy, Kramer apologized for his language.

Dorigo trains classical and opera singers to produce authentic sounding French and Italian language and sentiments. She is internationally renowned for this practical training and she works with Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, Pinchgut Opera and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

Dorigo declined to comment for Honi Soit.

A Facebook page called “Nicole Dorigo should NOT be made redundant” has been set up  and as of 11th July has 308 likes. The founder of the page, second year masters student Daniel, is a long time student of Dorigo. Daniel says that most of her students only found out about her dismissal from the Sydney Morning Herald’s story last week. Daniel said that rumors have been circulating all semester regarding Dorigo’s future at the Conservatorium but students have been kept in the dark on her situation.

Daniel spoke to Honi Soit and expressed enormous praise for Dorigo’s work as a teacher.He said that her training was “absolutely essential” for any student that wished to pursue a professional career in Opera.

Honi Soit understands that her redundancy is making way for a new academic who will oversee a Ph.D. program and a research-based graduate study pathway. It is unclear if there has been any expression of interest in this program.

Daniel was surprised to hear that the subject would be taking an academic turn in Dorigo’s absence. He voiced concerns that the needs of vocal students were not being considered and; “what Nicole teaches is not how to speak French, it’s how to sound French and authentic, it’s practical”.

Dorigo will not be teaching next semester and the outcome of her redundancy remains unclear. A spokesperson from the University told Honi Soit that “at this point, no changes have been made to courses at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and students will be informed if courses change.  The University is unable to comment on individual employee matters”.

This controversy comes after a relatively quiet period for the Conservatorium, in stark opposition to 2011 when the Conservatorium featured heavily in the news cycle; students were hit with reduced contact hours, considerably fewer classes were being offered, and the then-Dean, Professor Kim Walker, was accused of plagiarism.