A Culture of Accountability

Oliver Neubauer and Gaby Pho (both BM ’22) delve into the nuances of social media culture and discuss how we can adopt a more productive model of accountability moving forward.

Several months ago, a student in our community (who will remain anonymous) posted a video of himself to his private Snapchat story. The content of the video was a misogynistic rant in which he called women “hypocrites” and expressed his belief that women lead easier lives than men. The video was not only offensive and demeaning but demonstrated a lack of awareness of gender discrimination and the reality of women’s experiences. The student displayed an ignorance of the history of sexist and oppressive gender roles that had led to the very stereotypes he was using to support his claims. 

Understandably outraged, one recipient of the student’s private story sent the video to a friend; that friend then sent it to a group chat with approximately 70 people, and within an hour the video was shared on Instagram by several people. The responses in the group chat and on social media were naturally expressions of anger and disgust. Many people who formerly saw the student as a friend or amicable colleague joined their peers in the din of condemnation. While the long-term consequences remain unclear, the potential damage is severe considering that relationships in the music world can be critical to one’s professional career.

When reflecting on an incident of this nature, we have to ask ourselves what the end goal is. Thankfully, the majority of our community seems to share similar views regarding this goal. At the end of the day, we all want a community of tolerance and acceptance, a place where everyone can feel safe and welcome regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or any other characteristic. We all want a community free of any and all forms of hatred whether it manifests as racism, sexism, homophobia, or bigotry. Unfortunately, this incident and many others shine light on the fact that our community is not yet at this point and that hateful rhetoric is alive and well.

What is to be done about this? When addressing this scenario or others like it, we inevitably arrive at the word accountability. The idea is simple enough – as a community, we need to hold people responsible for their actions. But this is vague, as the term accountability is used in many ways and contexts. In order to determine an effective response to this specific case, we need to envision the ideal outcome. In an ideal world, the student would never have had or expressed these sentiments in the first place. To that end, working to educate ourselves and our community is one of the most powerful tools we have against hate. But since the action can’t be undone, the ideal outcome would be for the student to reform, educating himself and becoming an advocate for women in the future. Ideas rarely exist in a vacuum, and it would also be ideal if the student worked towards informing others who support and enable this kind of rhetoric. It is clear that if we want to hold this student accountable for his actions in a way that leads to progress as a community, then accountability has to leave room for growth. 

Social media has become a very complicated platform for accountability. It is an unquestionably powerful tool, one that can cause widespread positive change but can also lead to considerable damage. One factor that contributes to this negative potential is the permanency and the breadth of the exposure. With a couple of taps on a screen, any post can be shared with thousands of followers within a matter of seconds. The immediacy of social media often fails to leave time and space for nuanced discussion, and the level of exposure can lead to very extreme real-life consequences. In many cases, widespread ostracism ensues, where those personally or professionally associated with the person condemn them publicly. If institutions punish someone because of a social media post without due process, that is another issue in itself. Regardless, we should be sensitive to the power social media holds in our current culture and recognize the potential consequences of any post as a reality. 

This kind of social media exposure can set an example that discourages people from voicing those opinions publicly. However, it fails to adequately address the root of the problem, often causing harmful rhetoric to continue more quietly behind closed doors. At worst, the negative attention is empowering, fueling even more hate-filled speech and in severe cases, destructive action. Ironically, in this case it also validates some of the student’s remarks. He admitted that people would probably attack him for his remarks, and the response likely affirmed his self-perceived victimhood.

The implication of many social media call-outs is a statement about someone’s inability to change. At moments like these, people often define the person in question by a single comment or action, reducing them to a symbol of misogyny or racism. The impersonal aspect of social media contributes to this tendency and makes it easy to condemn. Equating a comment or action with the totality of any person is neither useful nor accurate. And the truth is that anyone is capable of radical change, even as it pertains to the most extremist views. The idea that someone’s views are intrinsic to who they are is both unfounded and dangerous. It stifles potential progress, eliminating the possibility for growth as a society at large. To believe in societal change, we have to understand that people can change their views.

Take the example of Megan Phelps-Roper, a writer and activist who was born into the Westboro Baptist Church. Many will be familiar with the Church since members of the hate group paid a visit to Juilliard in 2016, an institution that they claim is destructive and sinful. Phelps-Roper was indoctrinated with deeply homophobic and anti-Semitic beliefs, picketing funerals of U.S. soldiers with her family from a young age. But in her memoir Unfollow, she explains how strangers on Twitter who were willing to discuss and even empathize planted seeds of doubt that ultimately led her to leave the Church in 2012. Her story is one of extreme transformation, but it is one of countless stories of people who reformed their views and became advocates for the people they had previously attacked. Clearly, the question is not whether people can change their views but how.

Often, the most powerful change starts on a personal level. In a scenario like this, a logical first step would be for those closest to the student to have a conversation with him, using their personal connection to explain the hurtful fallacies in his rhetoric. Discussions of this nature are most often taxing. It is easy to feel unequipped for a debate, or feel emotional strain from trying to refute viewpoints that are hurtful on a personal level. Confronting a friend in this way can be uncomfortable and often takes courage, but these conversations become easier and more productive the more we have them. They require a willingness to continually educate ourselves on the needs of our community and society at large. There are several online resources that can be valuable tools when navigating these waters, including the “Hollaback” bystander intervention technique (a resource that also offers free, online bystander intervention training), which is listed below. While all of these strategies require personal initiative, they are important tools for growing empathy, building a more accepting community, and becoming better equipped to handle conflict. This is an initiative worth taking as we are all likely to encounter difficult and offensive confrontations moving forward in life.

Self-care and protection should always be a first priority. If one person feels they aren’t emotionally capable of handling a conversation that could be hostile, it can be beneficial to enlist the help of a friend or acquaintance. When hurtful messages are directed at specific groups, those who are not part of that targeted group have as much of if not more of a responsibility to intervene or address the person directly. Sometimes, it is too difficult for students to have personal discussions, particularly when they feel unsafe or personally hurt, and this kind of delegation can be necessary for self-protection. 

While the administrative system may have its flaws, there are a variety of valuable resources at our disposal. People can also always reach out to Camille Pajor, the Title IX director and bias response officer, even when the grievance is not a policy violation. Title IX and Bias Response welcome any conversation with community members, including discussing hypothetical situations, rights, resources, response options, and preferences. It is also worth noting that individuals and groups can request customized training from Title IX and Bias Response, as well as other offices like EDIB, on topics such as equity and conflict management. The faculty and administration are certainly not exempt from accountability and have mishandled situations in the past. Normalizing conversations about accountability and including faculty and administrations in these discussions could be key in ensuring lasting improvement as a community.

It cannot be overstated that personal discussion is not a replacement for consequences, particularly when there are policy violations involved. When there is harassment, violence, or a violation of school policy or the law, it is not up to students to deal with the matter on a personal level. In these situations, students should consider reporting the issue by whatever means they feel comfortable. Juilliard has an array of report forms that can be submitted anonymously (see link in resources). The administration has a responsibility to take all grievances seriously and investigate and follow through with all parties involved. Its main goals are to stop, prevent, and remedy misconduct, and to do so, they aim to apply policies fairly and in a trauma-informed way. If they don’t achieve these goals, students should continue to keep the administration accountable; these instances are complex and the process of holding administration accountable should be a topic of further discussion.

Social media, like any other tool, can be used effectively or ineffectively, and the difference can be difficult to determine. Social media call-outs are part of a precarious gray area where one word or share could be life altering. This is not to say that social media call-outs have no purpose or value. In more extreme situations, often involving discrimination, harassment, or assault, social media can be a tool for garnering support when the existing infrastructure for justice has failed to address the issue. It can be a way of letting victims know that they are not alone. Beyond that, it has potential to bring down dangerous people in positions of power that are otherwise untouchable and who have not been held accountable for their crimes. The #metoo movement, for example, not only brought down powerful sex offenders, but contributed to a global movement against sexual harassment and rape. In cases like that of Harvey Weinstein, the framework for accountability failed on every account, or never truly existed. However imperfect it may be, we do have structures of accountability in place at Juilliard, and as a student body, we have the power to build on this existing framework.

If we’re reflecting critically on our community, it seems that we lack a strong, productive culture of accountability. People tend to turn a blind eye to offensive comments made by friends or laugh off jokes that are offensive to the point of being damaging. Often, people don’t want to alienate themselves from colleagues they may be working with for the rest of their lives. Sometimes people just don’t know how to respond or how to call someone out for a hurtful statement. There are exceptions, but on the whole, accountability in in-person interactions is a rare thing to see.

Changing this culture could be a powerful tool in ensuring meaningful progress as a community. Each time someone ignores or laughs off a misogynistic comment, they enable and validate that rhetoric, adding fuel to a fire that could really hurt certain members of our community. In this sense, we need to hold ourselves and each other accountable for the way we approach accountability. This web of accountability could create a framework that protects those who are most vulnerable in our community and ensure that everyone feels more safe and welcome. 

Nothing in this article is said to discount the harm caused by this particular incident to members of our community. Working to repair that harm is just as essential as properly addressing the issue of the student. The question is how to repair that harm. One idea that is common in the rhetoric in favor of social media call-outs is that it does justice to the victims by exposing wrongdoing. This is a purely retaliatory idea of justice and one that has no real foundation. The true way of honoring those hurt most is to ensure that real progress is made and work towards this rhetoric not happening in the future. Another idea is that call-outs of this nature are important since they show people that something is wrong; in this case, posting the video could be seen as a way of demonstrating that these ideas are misogynistic and hurtful, thus empowering victims. But we have to recognize that there are many other ways to make this statement that don’t involve potentially destructive consequences.

This recent incident is neither the first nor the last of its kind. Our discussion of it is not meant to harp on the past or personally attack those who shared on social media. We are using this incident to comment on a larger cultural trend and highlight the complexity of the issue. In this instance, it can easily be argued that the social media response was justified since the video was posted to social media in the first place. But what is “deserved” is beside the point, and the important question is what response is most productive and beneficial for the community as a whole. While incidents like these are disheartening in the sense that they bring to light sentiments that shouldn’t exist in our community, they also provide us with opportunities to make real, positive change and progress. In the midst of a pandemic, it is understandable that people tend to turn to social media as a tool for accountability. But as we gradually venture towards a post-Covid world, we can use this as an opportunity to reflect and define ourselves as a community. Together, we can create a stronger, more empathetic, and more robust culture of accountability moving forward.


  • Bystander Intervention Techniques:

Hollaback! Bystander Resources

Hollaback! Free Training

  • Megan Phelps-Roper TED Talk:

I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here’s why I left

  • Juilliard Resources:

Report Forms


Health and Counseling

Title IX webpage

EDIB webpage 

  • NYC Well: 

24/7 mental health support/referrals via talk/text/chat

Breathe. Just Breathe.

Frequent Citizen-Penguin contributor Joseph Peterson writes an open letter to anyone who has been labeled “weak” or “lazy.” CONTENT WARNING: This student-submitted editorial contains serious subject matter regarding mental health, as well as profanity.

Photo by Fiona Robberson.

CONTENT WARNING: The following student-submitted editorial contains serious subject matter regarding mental health, as well as profanity. We at The Citizen-Penguin are not mental health professionals, and the advice herein is that of the author, not of The Citizen-Penguin or The Juilliard School. If you’re in need of help, please contact the Student Health Center, text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741, or if in immediate danger, call 911.


An open letter to those who have been labeled weak and lazy:

It’s easy to pretend that you are ok.

That you don’t hurt. That you aren’t overwhelmed. That you don’t ache in all of the places that you imagine it’s possible to ache.

That you don’t sign out a practice room just to be alone and cry. That you don’t put in 16 hour days just so that you don’t have to be alone with your thoughts your thoughts your thoughts. That you don’t self-medicate, because going to a doctor only makes it real.

Because your problems are safe in your head. Because dreams are scary when they come true, so you keep them inside.

It’s easy to pretend that you’re ok because that’s what is expected of you.  

We learn early on that we’re worthless without the right kind of work. Well, worse than worthless: We’re actively harmful. The lazy are destructive, abolishing meaning for the productive. The lazy are an STD, a virus, a plague…

Something doesn’t feel right? Just work it off, it’ll go away.

We’re a burden on society when we don’t work, whether this is due to the limitations of our bodies or because of a conscious refusal of undoubtable self-harm. It doesn’t matter the work, and it doesn’t matter whether we like it or not. Work exists to keep us busy and give us value, rather than for our own personal betterment.

It’s all just in your head anyway. A complicit frame of mind. A choice. You are choosing to feel bad. You have no reason to feel bad.

We work to exist. To earn our air, not just our bread.

Stop feeling bad. You’re fine. Everything is fine.

And so, since our humanity being tied with our productivity gives us existential dread, or at very least mild nausea, we convince ourselves that we work better under pressure. You see, diamonds are made under pressure, and diamonds have value. Pressure gives us value. Illness is a fantastic form of pressure, it turns us into diamonds…

Or something.

We value mental illness as a sign of artistic truth, fetishizing the struggle instead of fighting it. Comfort is an artistic inconvenience and the gravedigger of truth. This is a thought we internalize. The struggle itself is the value, so the more we struggle, the more we succeed.


We are alone because our success only exists at the expense of our peers. Our work is in a constant state of comparison. So-and-so just got this job, they’re sooo good. They’re doing better than you…

They are better than you.

It’s a moral thing. If someone does better than us, no matter how close we are with them, then we’re less good. If we win, then we are the good-est. If we don’t do anything at all, then we are the worst. We’re in last place, then.  

Labor is a competition. It is undoubtedly.

Maybe my resume wasn’t laid out quite right, or maybe they just didn’t like the sound of my instrument, or maybe they didn’t like my body, how I look, who I am.

Darwin wrote that, naturally, the weak have extinction coming to them. Natural selection, or something. Only the strong are useful. The weak just take up space. Useful space occupied by useless bodies. Maybe we are just a burden, we who refuse to be weighed down by labor.

Famous last words: More weight.

We struggle alone. Against each other. The best work always comes after one loses their mind, never before. Struggle gives us value. Our empathy is commodified. Even death gives us value. The greats die young and alone.

Always Alone.

Nobody but you knows what goes on between your ears, so it’s convenient to lie and say you’re fine.

My weekend was fine. Home was fine. I’m fine. I promise I’m fine. I don’t need your goddamn concern, ok?

I’m fucking fine.

Though, you know that this isn’t true. Only you know that your thoughts feel like death. That you feel like shit and you don’t know why. That you feel hopelessly numb, tired, and, worst of all, lazy.

You’re not fine.

You do hurt. Your body does ache. You are overwhelmed. That’s the true true.

We feel isolated and alienated. Ironically, these are the most universal feelings we have. We are alone, this isolation is truth. Everyone feels this way.

But that doesn’t affect our real value. We are not our labor alone. We are not productive machines. We are human beings. We bruise and we get sick. We have ups and downs. We are our surroundings personified.

We are more than our labor. We are, We are, We are!

We are not heroes for pretending we are ok. Lying only kills us faster. It is an act of violence to value our labor above us, so those who do are not our friends, in fact they are our mortal enemies.

It is a radical act to own our unwellness.

Sometimes we need help.

Sometimes just talking to a friend will do, but other times it’s more serious. A lot of us need medication and most of us need therapy. This is our humanity.

We are not machines.

Sometimes we just need to vent. Other times we need to go to the hospital so that we don’t become another isolated, tragic casualty.

We are human beings. And, just so you know…

We need You.

We need you for your humor and your empathy. We need you for your bad jokes and your awkward laughs, your uncomfortable silences and the mistakes that keep you up at night. We need your weaknesses more than your strengths.

And we really need your anger. It is real, earned, and there’s a lot that can be done collectively about it.

We need you because you are an essential part of our world, no matter what personal lows and social values tell you.

And most importantly, we need you so that we can make this world, not the bullshit idealizations we manufacture in our minds, a better place.

You are still you when you don’t do anything. So too when you actively do nothing.

Fuck value and the isolating violence it impresses on us.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Only then can we begin to loosen our chains.

Truly yours,


Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging: A Call for Gender-Inclusive Toilets

Lee Cyphers and Joseph Peterson tackle the problem of Juilliard’s lack of gender-inclusive bathrooms, and offer a call to action.

At this year’s Convocation, new Juilliard President Damian Woetzel spoke a lot about making the school more collaborative and inclusive. “We must be intentional and proactive in fostering a robust representation of experiences and perspectives within our community,” Woetzel said. “I believe deeply in Juilliard as a community where each of us ‘belongs,’ and that education cannot be its best without being fully inclusive.”

Well said, Mr. President.

Now let’s talk about toilets.

Everybody needs one, and it’s impossible to make it through the day without using one. At Juilliard, that usually means entering either a “male-only”or “female-only” space. While many people may not even think twice about where to go, choosing between and physically being in these spaces produces unnecessary anxiety and fear for some trans, non-binary, and/or gender nonconforming people.

There is another option: they can go to a secluded corner near the Kaufman Dance Studio on the second floor, behind double doors and far from where most classes and rehearsals take place, and use one of the two single stall restrooms available there. While these are technically inclusive restrooms, in practice they only serve to further alienate those who may already feel alone.

Bathrooms have often been a battleground for larger social struggles. For example, in the classical music world, a space traditionally dominated by men, it wasn’t too long ago when women either weren’t allowed or were just not hired to play in orchestras. Even after those first trailblazing women started winning orchestral jobs, many concert halls didn’t have adequate space for women’s restrooms and changing rooms. Inequality was literally built in to the workplace.

Trans (especially non-passing) and/or non-binary people today find themselves in a similar position – part of a marginalized group whose needs are only recently being considered in these spaces. The fact that Juilliard does not yet have gender-inclusive bathrooms sends a few implicit messages to any individual in the building whose gender identity or expression adds diversity to our community: “Your needs are not important,” “You are not welcome,” and, possibly worst of all, “There is not space for you to exist here.” Experiencing this type of indifferent denial of identity day in and day out is arguably a form of violence, and at the very least, is not conducive to a healthy learning environment.

As artists, we need to be able to take up space, grow, and explore different ways of being in the world. We need to feel safe enough to try new things, to be vulnerable. We need the freedom to be ourselves unapologetically in order to find our voice. We also need to listen to all sorts of people who are different from us. We need to soak up as much of humanity as we can in order to broaden our reach and relevance, and our understanding of the world. Our arts need diversity, and this includes trans voices.

To this effect, President Woetzel’s Convocation address rings true. We, as students, just need to hold him to it.

How do we do this?

We the Student Body must actively fight for better inclusivity at Juilliard, beginning with bathrooms. Two hidden single-stalls in the entire building is not enough. We need at least one gender-neutral option on every floor. Until then, we will be labeling every restroom in the school as all-inclusive, so all students can feel safe. If you want to help us on this mission, we will be holding a meeting to finalize the designs for the bathroom signs. We’ll meet on Wednesday, October 10 at 1pm, location TBD (stay tuned!) If you’d like to be involved but cannot make the meeting, send your sign ideas or write to lc4@juilliard.edu.

We all have a voice and we cannot be silenced.

Brought To You By Fake News

Last week, the administration approached Joe Peterson about his March 15th practice room op-ed, calling his work “fake news.” He writes: “Their concern shows that students, in fact, do have power. We just need to recognize it collectively.”

Photo by The Citizen-Penguin

Last week, a member of the Juilliard administration caught my attention in the hall and asked if I would be willing to speak with them about the practice room op-ed I wrote a month or so ago. Innocent enough, I thought; at least this was a sure sign that they read it.

What proceeded a conversation that gave the illusion of student support – “I’m on your side” – was a grilling on “proper” journalism. According to this administration member, I would have been more credible had I gone to them first with my concerns because only then would I have been enlightened with “all the facts.” I was told that some of what I said just wasn’t true, and they went as far as calling the work I produced “fake news.”

These are the absent facts that made the original piece “fake news:”

1. The practice room situation used to be a lot(!) worse back in the day.

2. Juilliard spent hundred(s!) of thousands of dollars on the new system.

and the most glaring omission in their eyes:

3. Juilliard really does care about their students.

Let me first say, excuse me for not prioritizing the feelings of a billion dollar organization over the legitimate concerns of a population of students, especially when students are paying upwards of $60,000 a year in tuition for their education. Student issues have a history of being suppressed and brushed under the rug by college administrations (this is made easier by the collective memory limitations of a four year institution), so I personally feel justified in having not gone through the administration first, especially when including “all the facts” would have changed the focus of the editorial. In the practice room op-ed, I wrote about the practice rooms as they are experienced today, and while I sympathise with what alumni had to put up with in the past, those were a different set of circumstances.

And the fact of “care” is an interesting one. I never declared outright that Juilliard didn’t care about their students – this was only suggested by the fact of the material conditions that I presented, which aren’t wrong. I really appreciate being told by a member of the administration that Juilliard cares about their students because this shows a willingness to move forward. When this care is realised through the best possible working conditions for one of the best conservatories in the world, I will even believe it.

Including information that tells readers how much better things are today, about how much money was (and is) spent on the current system, and about how much Juilliard cares about their students only serves to motivate passivity, which, frankly, seems to me to produce the aura of fake news as well. That’s not my business, though. In making these suggestions, the administration is effectively silencing what is potential for students to recognize and actualize their interests, which is not what I am about.

That these “facts” were said to have given more credibility to what was clearly an op-ed piece from a justifiably frustrated student perspective shows just how out of touch people in power can be. The point was not to try and convince anyone in the administration that the practice room issue was credible enough to be taken seriously, and the point was definitely not to lull students into complacency by telling stories of how much better things are now than they once were. The point was to open up a dialogue within the student body about how We can most effectively secure the conditions that allow Us to benefit the most from our education. I hope this is transparent.

Student action itself is much more valuable than administrative “facts” and “care” because students are why Juilliard exists. What needs to be recognized is the fact that the institution of Juilliard exists for their students, for our education and for our betterment, and the student body needs to hold the institution accountable when this doesn’t show. Students don’t serve the administration and shouldn’t be intimidated by it; the administration serves the students. The administration needs to hear the collective roar of outrage when things are bad, whether it’s to do with practice rooms or anything else. They need to know that if student issues are swept under the rug, we are the cereal that will crunch so that they know that we are still here.

In essence, sure, things used to be worse, but that is not a good enough excuse to refuse to improve. That the administration approached me with such concern shows that students do in fact have power. We just need to recognize it collectively.

The Practice Room Crisis: A Response

Zlatomir Fung responds to Joseph Peterson’s March 15th opinion piece “Where TF Are The Practice Rooms?” and provides his own solution to the ever increasing practice room issue at The Juilliard School.

Sometime last semester, my string quartet was cramming a last-minute rehearsal in room 424, one of the larger individual piano practice rooms at Juilliard. One of our members left to go to the bathroom, returned, and we got back to work. After about 15 minutes, a knock sounded at our door, and we dropped our heads in resignation, sensing the misfortune which then befell us: a fellow student had reserved our room through the kiosk system, and was prepared to claim it. We had failed to lock it, thereby renouncing our privilege to occupy it.

We tried to reason with the pianist, arguing that, being a quartet, we ought to have a notch more amnesty, but she continued to apologize with that falling, drawn-out “sorry.” She pitied us, but not more than she wanted to practice. After all, it was our mistake; if we really needed the room, we would have locked it. And so we trudged out and attempted a half-hearted rehearsal in the fourth floor hallways without our instruments, since it was 4:30 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, and there was little hope that we might find a room large enough to accommodate us.

The practice room crisis is a vast epidemic at our school. It has woefully fomented this ‘eat-or-be-eaten’ culture of practicing at Juilliard. I am grateful that Joseph Peterson, the author of the editorial to which this piece responds, had the courage to initiate a much-needed dialogue on this topic, for it is undoubtedly a grim reality affecting a large portion of the student body.

There are 95 practice rooms in the school, the majority of which have pianos. (For now, I leave the two dozen practice rooms in the Juilliard dorms aside.) Of the some 900 students in the school in all divisions, we can assume that at least 650-700 of them use the practice rooms regularly. Naturally, it would be ideal for each student to have their own individual practice room, always vacant when needed. The actual situation is far from that, and as it stands, the math is ghastly.

This brings us to a core philosophical question: does Juilliard, as an educational institution, owe practice rooms to its students? Some would argue it falls under the umbrella of the “artistic education” cited in the school’s mission statement, and most of us would consider practicing even more essential to our improvement than our private lessons.

I am sympathetic toward those who believe that our tuition costs entitle us to practice rooms. At the same time, I do not find it productive to reason solely from a position of entitlement. There are many positive changes that we can make without blaming the whole system for a single manifest failure.

The analysis of Juilliard practice rooms differs from, for example, corporate conference room booking, because of the highly personal, variable nature of practice schedules. Say that you believed that class schedules at Juilliard are structured unfavorably towards practice room availability. Your argument is as such: a large majority of classes are Tuesday-Friday morning or early afternoon for orchestral instrumentalists, thus priming the school for a dense wave of congestion on Tuesday afternoon. Yet, at 9 AM on Tuesday morning, there are plenty of rooms available because so many people are attending classes.

This argument becomes tricky, however, when you recognize that there is no guarantee this solves the issue at all, because even if those who are currently attending class at 9 AM were to attend at a different time (say, late afternoon on Tuesday), they might not want to practice in the morning. Perhaps it’s the case that most people enjoy practicing in the mid-to-late afternoon on weekdays.

It’s challenging to know what the underlying mathematical issue actually is. All observable patterns are subject to variance, so changes might only be verified through trial-and-error. This fact is a concession, but a necessary one. Given this, I now modestly present five suggestions for how we can modify our practice room system and culture, in order of feasibility:

1. Convert classrooms into kiosked practice rooms.​ This includes classrooms on the 2nd and 5th floors (e.g. 560A, 223A, etc. as well as the keyboard rooms of 500F and such), which are often unoccupied during the evening. Some of these rooms are premium rooms, currently occupied through the ASIMUT booking system. However, having them kiosked would make them more readily accessible. The kiosks would be in effect outside the hours of daytime teaching and the Evening Division courses, which means they would still be largely unavailable during the afternoon peak hours.

2. Create a virtual waitlist system.​ This would work when there are no rooms available and several different people looking for a room. A swipe at a kiosk will express your intent to practice, and you will be placed in a virtual queue and notified via text when a practice room has opened for you. Pianists will only be given piano rooms, and other instrumentalists will be given anything available. If you fail to occupy a room within five minutes of being awarded it, the room will be given to the next person in the queue. The current system of by-hand reservation will remain in place when there are multiple rooms available, quickly giving the user an idea of the different options. This way, no one will have to swipe incessantly at the kiosks, and there will be no competition. It will be a fair, productive system. Someone might even be able to write an algorithm based on observed practice habits and queue length to estimate the wait times for prospective practicers.

3. Fix the culture of abandoning practice rooms without releasing them immediately.​ I wager that the implementation of this would do more for practice room congestion than any other modification to the system. So often we leave practice rooms and forget to release them. These 15 minute increments of wasted time add up quickly to hours of practice space wasted each day. Part of the issue is that the “double-swipe” system of releasing a room is unintuitive. It is up to us as students to recognize that this facet of the large issue is our responsibility.

4. Vacate one floor in the dormitory and use it for practice rooms​. One floor in the Juilliard dormitory is 20 new practice rooms for non-pianists. This is about as close as we might get to Peterson’s first suggestion. Perhaps with the installation of some curtains, the noise levels would be small enough for this to become a real possibility. Obstacles remain, such as how one would go about integrating the main-building kiosks with these rooms- not to mention the financial implications.

Now I’d like to propose a more complex fifth option:

5. Create an advance booking system​. Any functional, communal practice room system must be based upon equity. This is the idea that each person who practices ought to be allocated the same amount of time to practice as each other person, within a given temporal range. Currently, we are faced with an inequitable arrangement, where certain people may occupy a practice room for hours at a time during the most highly trafficked time periods in the day, robbing colleagues of their equity.

To help relieve this, I propose that 35 of the 95 practice rooms be separated from the kiosks to be electronically booked in advance, through ASIMUT. No room can be booked for longer than two hours, and no single individual can book for more than 14 hours a week, or two hours a day. Practice rooms can be booked up to 24 hours in advance from the time when you wish to practice, except for chamber rehearsals, which can be booked 36 hours in advance with the approval of all the members. (It is actually more equitable for everyone to have chamber groups rehearsing during peak hours, since multiple individuals are only using a single room.) If someone fails to occupy a room they have booked, then the room will be released as a kiosked room for the duration of their booked session, starting 5 minutes after the booked time frame begins. If someone wishes to end a booking period early, they may release the room as a kiosked room until the next booked session. Each room and booking may be viewed on the Juilliard ASIMUT platform, so there is never a question of an individual’s right to occupy a room at a given time.

This system will, in itself, create a protected 14 hours per week of practice time for nearly 200 individuals, within common practice hours (11 AM-10 PM). This is a favorable ratio. Some might argue that a time limit on bookings creates a value cap on practice time. However, any sort of value cap on practice time must be considered in relation to the fact that, as it stands, many people are being left behind by the system and simply not getting a requisite number of hours in the practice room. Since some will still want to practice more than 2 hours for a given session, the non bookable kiosked rooms will be available for them, creating a healthy balance.

This proposition demands more fleshing out, to be sure. Please suggest changes, or argue against this system; my intention is to create a serious dialogue about the range of possibilities for change. I encourage all readers who are musicians at Juilliard to discuss this important issue whenever possible, and develop your own ideas about where the issues lie, and how we can go about fixing them. Once a united front, we may present ideas to the administration to cure our epidemic.

Where TF Are The Practice Rooms?

One student ponders why a school leading the world in musical education has an insufficient amount of practice rooms. Joe Peterson looks into an issue that has affected most, if not all musicians at The Juilliard School.

Photo by Fiona Robberson

Many musicians at Juilliard are intimately familiar with the electric red banner at the practice room kiosks signaling “All practice rooms are currently signed out by other students.” Every single day (including weekends) there are significant blocks of time when there are no open practice rooms available.

Often, there are lines of three or four people waiting at each kiosk, leading to a game of reflexes, won out of luck as opposed to who got in line first. Furthermore, the kiosks seem to break almost every day, creating even longer lines, and wasting more of our limited time.

On some days, many of us spend upwards of 30 minutes waiting for a practice room. Some days, even more. And then, some of us give up in frustration and go watch Netflix.

Considering we often only have 30 minute intervals to practice between each class, and considering many of us live too far to just go home and practice between classes, this situation is detrimental to our advancement as artists. Hours, if not days, of our time at Juilliard are lost to waiting for practice rooms, and this could very well be the time that determines whether we win our dream job or not.

It also seems to illustrate a lack of respect. Juilliard’s cost of attendance is upwards of $60,000 per year, which is by no means exceptional for a private institution (#cripplingstudentloandebt). Nonetheless, many of us pay tuition with the basic assumption that we will at least have the opportunity to work on our craft.

This provokes many questions. Does Juilliard not have enough practice rooms? Does Juilliard accept a larger student body than it is able to sustain? Does Juilliard™ spend more money on its brand then it does on our education? Or is it simply a matter of facility maintenance and faulty mechanics?

Regardless of the answers, Juilliard is supposed to give us a leg up, not an obstacle to overcome. We are a valuable commodity, and we deserve to be treated as such.  


  1. Build more practice rooms.
  2. Consolidate all the kiosks into one to eliminate the competition of reflexes.
  3. Maintain the kiosk so that there is never an empty room when a line is present.
  4. Accept fewer musicians.
  5. Practice less.

If you or a loved one can think of any better solutions, please share them in the comments.

LET’S GET REAL – A Conversation About Eating Disorders

In recognition of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, one Juilliard student speaks out about battling bulimia.

Editors’ note: due to the sensitive and important subject matter, we have broken our practice of requiring names for editorials in order to share this Juilliard student–submitted essay. Also note, we at the Citizen Penguin are not doctors and the advice herein is based solely on the author’s individual experience.

**Trigger Warning: Details of specific eating disorder behaviors ahead (not graphic).**

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018 runs from February 26 to March 4, and NEDA’s theme this year is “Let’s Get Real.” So let’s do that. Let’s have a real conversation, starting here at Juilliard, about food.

Around three years ago, I began using bulimia as a mechanism to cope with my emotions and everything else in my life I felt I couldn’t control. This was a very hard thing to admit. A year into therapy, I would still say to myself, my therapist, my doctor, and my parents, “I don’t have an eating disorder, though. That’s not what this is. I just get stressed sometimes, and I’ll do something stupid, but it’s fine…I’m done with that now.” Although I have gotten to a point today where I can fully acknowledge my problems with food, it is still very hard to talk about, and I am not comfortable enough to attach my name to this essay. I realize that a call for more open and honest discussion pulls less weight coming from an anonymous writer, but I am still dealing with my own internalized guilt and shame. I’m just not ready to handle the very real stigmatization and othering that can sometimes accompany a public admission like this.

I was in so much denial because I was terrified of what it would mean to be someone with an eating disorder. What did that make me? Was I really so vain and shallow? I also feared that if I ever admitted my problem to other people, they wouldn’t believe me. I hid my behaviors well, I never looked sick, and I was nowhere near “thin enough.” I know now that those thoughts were not rational. They were coming from the very part of me that is responsible for my eating disorder. The part of me that is full of negativity and will do anything to protect the disorder and keep me sick. One thing I’ve learned through psychoeducation in treatment, my own research, and listening to other people’s stories, is that eating disorders thrive on internalized shame, social isolation, and lies. This has definitely been true of my own disorder, which is why it was so important for me to find people to talk to, but also why it was extremely difficult to do so.

My reality may have been easier to come to terms with had I been able to find positive and inspiring representation I felt I could relate to, but there is almost none out there. In TV shows, books, and movies, eating disorders are rarely discussed, and typically anorexia is the only illness to get attention. Anorexia is often portrayed as a type of vain hysteria affecting a very small subset of the population. Basically, the story goes, a young white woman wants to be thin and pretty, so she goes crazy trying to do it. At the same time, many anorexia narratives focus on the extreme physical appearance of the sufferers to the point of fetishization and glamorization. Binge Eating Disorder, on the other hand, is almost never mentioned, even in many conversations about obesity and related illnesses. Meanwhile, bulimia is sometimes a trope used to represent jealousy between women, and sometimes an edgy punchline in a sorority movie. There are too many examples of eating disorders—which have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness—being erased or trivialized.

Anyone can have an eating disorder, and everyone who struggles with food and body image deserves help. Athletes have eating disorders, as do soldiers, and doctors, and certainly college students who are performing artists.

Media representation can seem like a petty complaint, but insufficient or bad representation has real-world consequences. Many mainstream media sources tend to handle eating disorders only by voyeuristically ogling tiny waistlines, or rolling their eyes at vapid drama queens with a “fake” disease “made up” in the 1970’s. And if these types of narratives dominate the discussion, how can the average person recognize and appropriately face an eating disorder in themselves or others?

The reality is that people have had troubled relationships with food for a long time. While rates of diagnosed eating disorders in many countries sharply increased in the later 20th century, and seem to rise in accordance with food overproduction in a society, disordered eating behaviors have been around for hundreds of years. In fact, according to Psychology Today, the first documented cases of eating disorders occurred as early as the 12th century.

An even more important reality? Anyone can have an eating disorder, and everyone who struggles with food and body image deserves help. It isn’t just for the blond, rich, skinny cheerleader with her head buried in a teen fashion magazine. Athletes have eating disorders, as do soldiers, and doctors, and certainly college students who are performing artists. People of any gender, class, age, race, and size can and do have unhealthy relationships with food. Such relationships can affect a person’s quality of life, and can become more and more serious when left untreated.

Eating disorders are hard to define. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has updated its diagnostic criteria with every new edition, and clinicians are working to better recognize different kinds of eating disorders. But how helpful are these criteria for anyone who is not a health professional? As a layperson, I’ve found it makes much more sense to understand behaviors, thought patterns, and beliefs as existing on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is a person whose relationship with food is completely healthy and comfortable. At the other extreme is someone whose severe eating disorder has drastically impeded their ability to function, or has put them in a state of medical or psychiatric emergency.

There are a number of maladaptive behaviors that can be symptoms of a clinically diagnosable eating disorder, but can also be a part of someone’s life anywhere on the spectrum. Some such behaviors that I have either experienced personally or known someone who has, include emotional eating, bingeing, restricting, fasting, excessive or compensatory exercising, vomiting, laxative abuse, diet pill or diuretic abuse, supplement or steroid abuse, body-checking, calorie counting, obsession with a “healthy” diet or “clean eating,” chewing and spitting food, hiding food, and using caffeine, nicotine, or other substances to suppress appetite. One of the biggest red flags is a general feeling of anxiety or lack of control around food.

Too many of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves, probably exist somewhere in the grey area of the spectrum, and have used at least one of the above behaviors at some point. Maybe we feel like we need to “earn” our food by working out a certain amount every day. Maybe we look in the mirror and see a body that is too big or too small. Perhaps we eat far past our physical comfort level at a buffet, because we just can’t resist when there is unlimited choice. Any of these examples on their own would not constitute a clinical diagnosis, or even necessarily indicate an unhealthy lifestyle overall. However, for myself and for some of the people I met in treatment, behaviors that started out as seemingly innocuous or “normal” ended up spiraling out of control and becoming very dangerous habits.

Disordered eating behaviors do not come out of nowhere. Usually, they are a way to cope, or are the product of stress, social insecurity, and/or lack of control. At a competitive performing arts school like Juilliard, managing crazy schedules, trying to build a reputation in the field, and taking auditions are all a part of day-to-day life. For me, dealing with these situations can be mentally, physically, and emotionally wearing. Meanwhile, I find myself, as an artist, constantly striving to be better, reaching towards an unattainable perfection in my discipline. I know this is part of my own artistic journey, and it is what will hopefully allow me to achieve my creative potential. However, this constant reaching started to become harmful when I tried to apply those same impossible standards to the rest of my life, and determined my self-worth based on how close I was to “perfect.”

If you believe you or somebody you know may have symptoms of an eating disorder, it is important to know that you are far from alone, and that help is possible. This can start with a simple conversation. Sharing your struggles or worries out loud is a huge step towards reducing shame and stigma—and in being more honest with yourself. Disordered thoughts will make any number of convincing excuses for staying silent, one of the most common being, “I’m not sick enough.” Know there is no such thing.

Anybody on the disordered eating spectrum can benefit from talking to a counselor or a nutritionist, both of which are available through Juilliard Health Services—free of charge! It is important to note that sometimes, information regarding eating disorders is not widely known in the medical or therapeutic communities, so if possible, try to make sure the professional you are seeing is experienced in this area. There are tons of highly qualified therapists and dieticians who specialize in eating disorder-related issues all around New York City. Many professionals take various types of insurance, and will often work with clients on a case-by-case basis to establish a sliding-fee scale for private pay. If you already see somebody but are concerned that you may not be getting enough care, there are a number of treatment centers in the New York City area, including the one where I was lucky enough to be able to spend 12 weeks over the summer. These facilities may offer options for care such as support groups, intensive outpatient programs, day/partial hospitalization programs, and residential treatment programs.

Although formal treatment is not for everybody, and may not always be accessible, my experience was transformative. The structured environment disrupted my unhealthy routines, allowing me to form new patterns. It became a safe place where I was able to explore my scariest thoughts and feelings and try new things. Perhaps most important, I connected with other people in the group setting who were going through similar experiences. I felt understood and accepted in ways I had never felt before. Together, we learned from each other and shared our triumphs, our frustrations, our boredom and our compassion, and we reminded each other that none of us was alone.

My advice to anyone on their own recovery journey unable to access formal treatment, or for whom treatment is not enough? Find another way to incorporate that sense of comradery in your life. Whether it be through an affordable or free support group, family and friends, or online recovery spaces, make your voice heard. And have hope. Whatever you may be going through, you don’t have to do it on your own. We are lucky at this school to have so many resources available, so don’t be afraid to use them! And if you find some resources to be lacking, build and seek help from your community. Listen to friends with non-judgmental ears. We’re all in the same boat, trying to make it through young adulthood here at Juilliard, and doing our best to grow as artists and as people.

Choosing recovery has been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, and no part of it has been easy. I still have bad days. I still slip up. I still need to keep track of my mental health every single day. Ultimately, though, I know that recovery will have saved my life. I already feel happier, more motivated, and more alive than I did a year ago, before treatment. Change is possible. And thanks to my support system of friends, family, and health care providers, I have a whole network of people who are reliably there for me, and whom I am comfortable reaching out to whenever I need.

Getting real will always be hard, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.



Free Counseling, Nutrition, Medical, and psychiatric appointments through Juilliard:

Eating Disorder Education:
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/screening-tool (Free, confidential self-screening tool)
https://www.youtube.com/user/KatiMorton (Therapist who specializes in ED’s and makes informative mental health videos)

Eating Disorder Treatment:
https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-centers/new-york-ny (List of possible treatment options in the NYC area)
https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/recovery/support-groups/new-york-ny (List of support groups in NY)
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/eating-disorders/ny/new-york (Support groups)
http://eatingdisordersanonymous.org/index.htm (Free meetings in local areas across the US)
http://renfrewcenter.com/ (Treatment center for women only)
http://www.montenido.com/mn_locations/new-york-ny/ (Treatment center for men and women)
http://www.centerfordiscoverynewengland.com/ (Treatment center for women only)

Mental Health Crisis Resources:

Artists as Citizens and the Need for Solidarity

EDITORIAL by Joe Peterson: As artists who happen to also be citizens, we often wonder what the world is actually getting of use from us; specifically, we wonder how playing shows for mostly rich old whit people performing works by mostly dead (or nearly mostly dead) white dudes contributes to civic culture.

As artists who happen to also be citizens, we often wonder what the world is actually getting of use from us; specifically, we wonder how playing shows for mostly rich old white people performing works by mostly dead (or nearly mostly dead) white dudes contributes to civic culture.

Though we can and do produce incredibly intense and life-changing emotional experiences, the honest response to the question of changing the world is that we  probably don’t, and that we do at most maintain a cultural equilibriumfar from invoking the change many of us feel is necessary. What we truthfully provide the world is an escape from harsh realities, and, unfortunately, after we bow and go home, that reality is still there, and there it will continue to be, until quite a few somebodies do something about it.

Luckily, we exist outside the practice room and off the stage, and we can offer our solidarity with the people doing the doing.

For example, March 8th is the International Women’s Strike. It is organized around the Resistance and Refusal of decades of marginalization and oppression. It is, according to organizers, by and for “working women inside and outside of the home, women of color, Native women, disabled women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian, CIS, queer and trans women.” This strike stems from a long tradition of workers using their control of labor to ignite institutional change.

And even when we do not belong to the communities subject to “misogynist policies, […] decades long economic inequality, criminalization and policing, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad,” we are still directly affected by their presence every day. It is necessary to show support with the resistance through solidarity, because anything less is tacit acceptance of fundamentally unjust social arrangements.

It is our job as artists to tell stories. It is our job as citizens to listen to our communities. So, it’s not that big of a step to combine these two and express active solidarity. Those struggling must not be left alone in Resistance and Refusal if these movements are to gain any ground. All forms of participation are necessary moving forward, from sharing information on Facebook, to marching in the streets, to heeding the call for a one-hour strike and rally in Washington Square on March 8th.   

As artists, but also as citizens, we can dedicate our lives to doing more than putting a band-aid on the struggles of existence: it is not that big of a step to recognize our own place among the increasing struggle for more just gender relations, and a more just world. We aren’t good citizens if we don’t participate in the life of our communities, and we aren’t good artists if we don’t leave the practice room.

So get out and march. Our future depends on it.

What’s the Buzz in Juilliard Student Council?

What’s the buzz in JSC? 

(Juilliard Student Council Topic Report, taken from General Council Meeting on Jan 14th)

Executive Council Tasks

Constitutional Revision

JSC is planning to revise the Student Council constitution. It will be officially updated and ratified by February 4th meeting.

Presidential Meeting

JSC is planning the next meeting with President Polisi- this will be our second meeting of the school year in a space with 2nd floor administration.

Student Body Concerns 

Sustainability CRISIS 

1st year student has been bringing his own reusable containers for eating in the cafeteria as means to promote sustainable cafeteria habits. JSC thinks this idea is EPIC, and we have an interest in exciting more students to participate in the cafeteria dining like this- encouraging students to bring their own re-usable Tupperware, silverware, etc to eliminate the heavy waste from plastic containers in the cafeteria, until Juilliard administration will comply in purchasing more sustainable dish ware/ waste options.

Student Spaces 

Daniel Parker and Janice Gho will walk the school space, with these questions in mind:

Where is there undefined space for student interaction? How can we feel more comfortable in this school environment? How can we spruce up the practice rooms, make them more user friendly and accessible? 

What’s up with the lobby art?

The Graphic design art that used to be in lobby is now on 4th floor. The “Shower Curtain” that used to be in lobby is now on the far side of balcony in Peter J Sharp Theater. Brittany Hewitt talked with Alexandra Day – The Larkin Foundation made gift for lobby improvements – worked with design group to create photo mural that will spell Juilliard in composite.


Brittany Hewitt plans to create a Juilliard-student initiated mural on one of the many white walls of the fifth floor. This will be a student collaboration with Joan Warren and facilities. We are seeking Juilliard visual artists who would be interested in this project. CONTACT US!!!!


JSC is working on further addressing the winter dorm closure issue. This is of SIGNIFICANT student concern, we are brainstorming solutions for the future.


“Take Back The Night”

Emma Pfitzer Price plans to team up with new Title IX Coordinator, Camille Pajor, and the Women’s Empowerment Club, to host a “Take Back The Night” event for survivors and victims of sexual assault and harassment -creating safe space for students to engage in these issues, reclaim sexuality and start conversation and how it pertains to our work here as artists. JSC interested also in finding more active, participatory ways for students to learn about sexual assault issues during Orientation Week, and sustain these lessons beyond.

Diversity Audit

JSC is working towards our long term goal in pushing administration for a school-wide diversity audit (similar to artEquity’s work with the Drama Division)

Interested in what we’re chatting about? Ideas/suggestions/concerns/inspirations? We need your input! Come on down! We are here to advocate YOU. Here are some upcoming meeting dates:

Wednesday, January 31st 8:30AM-9:30AM Executive Council Meeting, SMR

Sunday, February 4th 5PM General Council Meeting, SMR

Wednesday, February 7th 8:30AM-9:30 AM Executive Council Meeting, SMR