September 26, 2018

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U of M paid disgraced prof $156K for half year's work

Compensation for 2017 'gross insult upon injury,' says ex-student who protested school's silence

A disgraced former University of Manitoba music professor who retired 14 months ago amid allegations of sexual harassment received more money in his last half-year of employment than he did for the entire previous year.

According to the U of M's compensation disclosure report, Steve Kirby earned $155,944 in salary and benefits in 2017, compared with $134,255 in 2016. He left the university in late-June last year.

Kirby, a U.S.-born jazz bassist and academic, joined the U of M in 2003, later receiving tenure. On Thursday, the university confirmed that he had been on leave for the first half of 2017.

The university wouldn't comment on the nature of the leave.

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A disgraced former University of Manitoba music professor who retired 14 months ago amid allegations of sexual harassment received more money in his last half-year of employment than he did for the entire previous year.

According to the U of M's compensation disclosure report, Steve Kirby earned $155,944 in salary and benefits in 2017, compared with $134,255 in 2016. He left the university in late-June last year.

Kirby, a U.S.-born jazz bassist and academic, joined the U of M in 2003, later receiving tenure. On Thursday, the university confirmed that he had been on leave for the first half of 2017.

The university wouldn't comment on the nature of the leave.

John Danakas, a university spokesman, would not provide details of Kirby's 2017 compensation, including how much of it consisted of severance.

The university has been silent about the circumstances surrounding Kirby's departure since the Free Press first reported on it last September.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Steve Kirby, the former director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba, left in 2017 for reasons the university did not specify.</p>

SUPPLIED

Steve Kirby, the former director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba, left in 2017 for reasons the university did not specify.

'The university's response has been despicable. They gave him that power. They're responsible for what he did with it'- local musician Daniel Jordan, who returned his University of Manitoba music diploma in protest of the school's handling of the Kirby affair

Daniel Jordan, a local musician who alleged Kirby bullied him as a student, said it appears that the university "just paid him off" while refusing to publicly acknowledge any wrongdoing on the former professor's part.

"The university's response has been despicable," Jordan said Thursday. "They gave him that power. They're responsible for what he did with it."

Last fall, Jordan, a member of the folk trio Red Moon Road, packed up his U of M music diploma and mailed it back to the institution because it hadn't properly apologized to female students who were harassed by Kirby.

Jordan referred to the 2017 payments to Kirby as "gross insult upon injury." He said he is especially frustrated by the university's silence in the matter.

"They need to be held accountable," he said. "And so far they haven't admitted any wrongdoing — or a problem."

Jazz pianist and composer Michelle Grégoire told the Free Press last November that Kirby bullied her so much that she opted to relocate to Calgary, where she remains. She said there was nothing sexual in Kirby's comments or bullying towards her. Much of the time, it was character assassination, she said, in which he would tell somebody in the jazz community a lie about her. Other times he belittled her in person.

Steve Kirby performs for kids at the Sinclair Park Community Centre in 2015 as part of the Jazz on Wheels program.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Steve Kirby performs for kids at the Sinclair Park Community Centre in 2015 as part of the Jazz on Wheels program.

Reached Thursday, Grégoire preferred not to comment on the amount of money Kirby received from the U of M last year because she said she lacked details as to the circumstances surrounding the compensation.

"I'm really just glad that he's out of there (U of M)," she said.

After he left the U of M, Kirby landed a job at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. However, when the college learned about the allegations against him in Manitoba he was immediately placed on leave.

In a statement Thursday, Danakas said the U of M "cannot speak to any specific complaint or investigation" of sexual abuse. However, last fall the Free Press spoke to a source who said the university met with several female students to look into concerns before the start of that term's classes.

The university has said under its respectful work and learning environment policy and its sexual assault policy, it cannot confirm whether a complaint has been made, or whether it is investigating a staff member, to protect the confidentiality of all parties.

On Thursday, Danakas said the university took steps last academic term to "listen closely" to music faculty students. Sessions were held with faculty members and students to discuss the policies and the importance of maintaining a respectful culture within the faculty, he said. "The University has also done a review of best practices and has received a number of recommendations that are now being considered," he added.

In the upcoming fall term, the music faculty will organize three sessions on health and wellness, hold monthly meetings with student groups to discuss student issues and concerns, and have a committee of students and faculty examine the university's policies, Danakas said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Friday, August 24, 2018 at 9:18 AM CDT: Clarifies Kirby "retired" rather than "resigned"

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