Rome’s prestigious British art school has complained of being a ‘poisonous’ place to work

A taxpayer-funded charity that runs a prestigious art school in Rome has been accused of failing to take care of it after allegations of mismanagement, a “toxic” work environment and unfair work practices.

The British School of Rome (BSR) launched an investigation in April 2020 after 24 staff, alumni and alumni complained to its trustees about charitable activities. It was alleged that the workers were suffering from “physical and mental health problems” due to poor working conditions.

It is alleged that the trustees of the charity set up a “complaints panel” to investigate the allegations, which was suspended before its results could be reported. The charity said last week that it had conducted an “extensive, independent and confidential” investigation.

BSR was founded in 1901 and is housed in a neoclassical building in Rome designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Alumni include Turner Award winners Elizabeth Price and Mark Wallinger. It receives more than half of its funding from the British Academy, supported by grants from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Engineering.

A two-page complaint, written in April 2020, was sent to the Charity Council, whose members are its trustees. The council is chaired by Mark Getty, a member of the Getty family’s oil dynasty and co-founder of the media company Getty Images.

Mark Getty
Multimillionaire Mark Getty is chairman of the charity council. Photo: Gareth Catermol / Getty Images

Dr. saw the complaint Observer She said there were serious concerns about mismanagement at school, unfair work practices and the alleged abusive language towards some female employees. The letter alleges a “toxic” and “divisive” work environment.

The document states: “Since July 2019, a number of trustees have been contacted and these issues have been brought to their notice, but nothing positive has been achieved. People should be given the opportunity to speak in a safe and secure environment.”

In one case of alleged unfair work conditions, a senior female art researcher who lived and spoke at the school Observer He said he was expected to work as a “doorman” some nights, and was given a torch and high-visibility vest to patrol the premises.

He said: “I actually found a naked man in the lecture theater on Saturday evening and I had to deal with it. I think he was addicted to drugs.” When he complained that off-hours responsibilities were not in his contract, he claimed that he had been told that he would not be given his leave unless he agreed to work over-hours. Was, but he says he sued in an unjust dismissal court in Rome and was compensated in a settlement.

The charity’s oversight council conducted an independent review in June 2020 The panel recommended the formation of a grievance panel and identified the “urgent” need for staff to have access to human resources advice and assistance.

A grievance panel consisting of lawyers appointed only by the BSR conducted the hearing in July 2020. In September of that year, 37 staff, alumni and alumni wrote to the British Academy, alleging that the panel had not informed them of any results and that the charity had “failed in its responsibility to care”.

The British Academy and the BSR have reviewed the governance of charities. Reforms were proposed, including a new code of conduct, the formation of a senior management team, and a new approach to diversity and inclusion. The British Academy reported to the plaintiffs in June 2021 that the Council had “decided to suspend the proceedings of the Complaints Panel” despite having not resolved any of its previous problems.

The charity, which has about 30 employees, said last week that all review recommendations had been implemented. It said it could not fully respond to specific demands due to confidentiality measures, but that no member of staff was subject to disciplinary action.

It said it had consulted with staff about the grievance panel last summer and the council had concluded it was appropriate to consider closing the procedure. It said no researcher was asked to act as a doorman, but residential staff shared responsibility for emergencies outside the hours. From the spring of 2020, a professional security service was launched, the charity said. In 2021 an HR manager was hired.

Mark Getty, Chair of the BSR Council, said: “I am confident that with an improved framework for governance and new dynamic leadership for the BSR, the BSR is now well suited to develop the UK’s creative and academic presence in Italy.”

The British Academy said it was not its remit to investigate specific allegations from staff, but said it was satisfied the problems identified in its governance review were “at hand”.

The director of the charity, Professor Stephen Milner, passed away at the end of his second term in January 2021, at the time of the allegations. Milner, an Italian Serena professor at the University of Manchester, said last week that the BSR would respond.

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