November 15, 2016

Landmark rule to be tabled at judges’ AGM

copy of a letter from Robert Wallace, a current member of the SPJA, sent to SPJA Secretary Jack Taylor, who subsequently shared it with other SPJA members at the request of Wallace. Wallace writes:

Code of Conduct: The pupil/teacher proposal is unfair. If there is a problem – and I do not for one minute believe there is – then the blanket ban the committee is suggesting for Oban, Inverness and London needs to be extended to ALL solo competition. The principle involved does not diminish relative to the stature of the competition. The B or C grade player is entitled to the same protection from the great evil that you identify as does the premier piper.

This proposal should be replaced with a simple: Conflicts of interest – members are encouraged to declare these to their fellow judges and/or promoters. Conflicts of interest may be defined as having a family, teaching, commercial or other connection with the competing piper.

If a member is found to be repeatedly favouring a particular piper when the playing does not merit it then presumably the promoter(s) will receive a complaint and will speak to the adjudicator concerned or simply withdraw any future invitation to judge.

Where is the problem on which so much energy and dark heat has been expended? Does the committee not realise that the law of the land dictates that any complaints procedure must be conducted in a completely transparent manner and by a body which is separate from any interest? The SPJA is not a company or government body dealing internally with the alleged misdeeds of its paid employees and has no right to act as though it were.

Wallace goes on to conclude:

I therefore propose that this ‘Complaints Procedure’ be dropped and replaced with a simple: Should a complaint against a member arise then the Committee will deal with it as is deemed appropriate in the circumstances.

It is time some common sense prevailed don’t you think? In the interest of fulsome debate I would be happy for this to be circulated to as many members as possible.

Wallace added in his letter that he doesn’t plan to attend the meeting.

If the code of conduct is approved by SPJA members on Sunday, the aspect on teachers judging students would be something of a landmark decision. No association is known to have enacted such a rule, despite hundreds of years of perceived conflict of interest creating controversy and denigrating the perceived legitimacy of prizes awarded to students by their teachers. Probably the most famous instance of calling out the problem was the late Seumas MacNeill who wrote in his Piping Times monthly digest that prizes awarded to pupils by teachers are “not worth a pail of spit.”

Rules that prohibit perceived judges adjudicating immediate family have been in place by some associations, beginning with the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario on the 1990s, and was recently implemented by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association this year, although not always adhered to.

A recent poll of pipes|drums readers resulted in 78% of respondents answering No to the question, “Should teachers judge their pupils in competition?”

[Disclosure: the editor of pipes|drums wrote a personal opinion piece about the issue of teachers judging students.]

The seminar element of the day is likely to be a more congenial event. Those watching the livestream will see Taylor, who is also president of the Piobairecahd Society, moderate a discussion by Andrew Wright on the Silver Medal set tunes from the Piobaireachd Society Collection Book 16, and John Wilson discussing tunes by Donald MacLeod, with some tunes played on the pipes.

The seminar will be streamed via the National Piping Centre’s website beginning at approximately 1 pm GMT, and will continue until about 4:30 pm. An archive video of the seminar will be made available afterward.

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for further developments on this potentially pioneering decision.





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