Author:
Andres Tennus

Rector’s address to university members regarding the case of improper behaviour by director of Viljandi Culture Academy

Dear members of the university family, 

Many of you have probably already read about what happened at the Viljandi Cultural Academy. Unfortunately, as this case concerns employment relations, I cannot share all the details. I still consider it necessary to explain the background of the management decision.  

I sincerely regret that we have to deal again with a management error at the university, which resulted in a valued young colleague leaving us. 

As rector, I was informed of what had happened on 19 June by the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, who told me that the director of the Culture Academy Juko-Mart Kõlar had handed over to his young colleague a diary-like text containing detailed personal observations and fantasies about the latter. After considering the information and the parties’ explanations with my team, we unequivocally condemned Juko-Mart Kõlar’s actions. Handing over his writing to the young colleague and putting her under pressure, Juko-Mart Kõlar acted extremely unprofessionally; he should never have placed a colleague in such a situation.  

I decided that Juko-Mart Kõlar would be given a formal warning for his actions. A formal warning is a strong response from the university; it includes a message to the employee that the university may cancel the employment contract in the event of subsequent inappropriate professional behaviour. The decision to issue a warning was made, taking into account Juko-Mart Kõlar’s voluntary confession, explicit remorse, apologies and understanding of the impact and consequences of the act. Since Kõlar had no previous misconduct on record, I did not consider the immediate cancellation of his employment contract as a proportional sanction. The considerations motivating the decision to limit the disciplinary procedure to a formal warning included, among others, the assertion by both the affected employee and her colleagues in Viljandi that at no time during the entire period of their working together had Juko-Mart Kõlar overstepped the boundaries of collegial communication.  

I am deeply disappointed that the director of the Culture Academy, through his thoughtless and unacceptable behaviour, created an unsafe working atmosphere in the team, which led a blameless person to leave the university. When I heard of the case, I immediately contacted the affected colleague to express my regret and offer her the opportunity to find another suitable job at the university. I also commended her for not failing to react to the director’s inappropriate behaviour. I sincerely hope that our cooperation can continue in the future.  

On the morning of 6 July, Juko-Mart Kõlar announced his decision to resign as a director. Kadri Steinbach, the Director for Academic Affairs at the Culture Academy, will take over as acting director as of 1 September, and the university will hold a competition to recruit a new director. 

This is a serious case and a lesson for the university. One of the university’s central principles is ensuring our staff members’ well-being and equal treatment; we will pay even closer attention to this in the future. As the rector, I continue to expect that my colleagues, and particularly managers at different levels, are guided by the university’s core values and good practice in their work.   

Rector Toomas Asser 

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