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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Recording Academy's diversity task force was apparently a disaster

Illustration for article titled The Recording Academy's diversity task force was apparently a disaster
Photo: Kevork Djansezian (Getty Images)

It’s Grammys night, the biggest day of the year for the Recording Academy, but things haven’t been looking especially great for the organization this week. On Tuesday, former Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan—who was quietly removed from her position a week prior—filed a lawsuit against the organization that accused it of actively covering up sexual harassment allegations (including a rape accusation against her predecessor Neil Portnow, who infamously told female artists that they need to “step up” if they want to win more Grammys. Dugan also criticized the Recording Academy’s “boys’ club” mentality and poor history of addressing its diversity issues, which ties in with a new report from Variety about how the Recording Academy’s task force to help fix its diversity issues was apparently a “stifling” experience struggled to accomplish much of anything.


The Task Force was established in the wake of Portnow’s “step up” comment, but according to Variety’s sources, the majority of its meetings were attended by “top Academy officials” (including Portnow) and were held at the Academy offices, which some members believed was done so the organization could keep an eye on what was happening and more easily prevent any of the task force’s measures from moving forward. Or, as one anonymous member put it: “They’re looking over [task force members’] shoulders and not letting them do shit.”

Another one of Variety’s sources saw it differently, saying “the task force was running the show,” at least at first. That source says it was actually the task force that held the Academy back from making certain unspecified announcements or changes, but others say it was the Academy’s board that held back progress (“it was like pulling teeth to even get information from them” is another rough quote from a task force member). Another theory is that the Academy—as a big, slow bureaucratic organization—simply couldn’t move fast enough to make any visible progress, but yet another theory is that was all by design. The Recording Academy apparently consists of regional chapters around the country that are all in charge of electing their own board members, so getting the board to do something really meant getting all of these regional chapters to do something, which can’t be easy.

One particularly damning note from Variety’s story is that the board had apparently pointed to then-new CEO Deborah Dugan as the one would who be tasked with implementing the task force’s ideas at a “meeting in the fall.” That meeting got pushed back, we saw what happened to Dugan earlier this month, and now the task force itself has apparently been disbanded (at least partially because some of its members simply stopped showing up out of frustration).

Today, Recording Academy chair Harvey Mason Jr. responded to accusations from P. Diddy about the Grammy’s lack of respect for Black artists by saying, essentially, that the recommendations from the task force are still being implemented. Dugan’s attorney denounced this, saying it’s all “smoke and mirrors” and that the same board that ousted her is not going to suddenly reverse course and fast-track the pro-diversity measures the task force wanted. Basically, it’s all a mess and the Grammys are tonight.