I wrote this statement soon after the New York Times article on sexual harrassment broke on October 29, 2020, and posted this to the Court of Master Sommeliers’ intranet. I have edited it to reflect an environment that is three weeks on and wanted to share my thoughts with our larger comminity.
Sexual harassment is inexcusable.
Predatory behavior is repugnant.
Contrition is a first step.
As a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers-USA (CMS-USA), I apologize to the survivors of sexual harassment and assault who shared their harrowing stories with the NY Times. As a male colleague in an industry in which sexual harassment and assault have been endemic for decades, I apologize to all women who have been subjected to the unforgivable.
In and of itself, apologizing publicly is not a substitute for the hard and painful work needed to drive the institutional change required to move forward and, in the case of the CMS-USA, to regain trust and credibility.
Many constructive ideas have been and are being put forward that can and should be integral foundation blocks in the overhauling of the Court’s operations, revising codes of conduct, and affirming a moral covenant with its constituents.
I would like to share my thoughts on the challenges ahead as we move from expressed outrage to action.
A clear transition strategy must accompany any wholesale leadership change. Incorporating dispassionate qualified third-party counsel must be part of this strategy to ensure incorporation of practices and approaches from people far better versed in these matters than we are.
And in crafting this transition strategy, it is critical that women and BIPOC sommeliers have seats at the head of the table. Yet they cannot be expected to bear the burden of fixing the Court themselves, on top of the burdens they are already bearing in this industry and in society more broadly. As one of the many white male Master Sommeliers, I will have a role to play in helping the Court regain trust and putting in the work to help make this organization antisexist and antiracist. I know there are others who are committed to doing the same, and I am confident that they will join me and take this as opportunity.
The CMS-USA must be a North Star in modeling the leadership needed for transformation, not just for itself but for long overdue industry-wide reform. And I personally commit to helping as we embark on these changes and collaborative rebuild.