The Recording Academy announced several new diversity initiatives on Sunday, just hours before the start of this year’s Grammy Awards.
“The music we create has always reflected the best of ourselves and our world. But what was true of music has historically not been true of the music business as a whole. Too often, our industry and Academy have alienated some of our own artists – in particular, through a lack of diversity that, in many cases, results in a culture that leans towards exclusion rather than inclusion,” Harvey Mason Jr., Chairman and Interim CEO of the Recording Academy said in a statement.
“Artists – especially women and artists of color – had long begun demanding transparency and taking on our traditional power structure. They have found allies across the industry who believe that we can do better and have joined the fight for change,” he continued, noting that while a Diversity Task Force was established in 2018, “it’s not enough to pledge ourselves to change.”
Continuing, the chairman wrote: “We must take action. There is no excuse for waiting, especially when so many of our members have been tirelessly advocating for a bold new direction for so long.”
The new initiatives include hiring a dedicated Diversity & Inclusion Officer within the next 90 days, as well as establishing an Academy-funded fellowship to review and report on their process. Additionally, the Recording Academy will create a fund to be given annually to “different ‘women in music’ organizations,” effective immediately.
As the statement concluded, Mason Jr. acknowledged the current controversy surrounding the organization, which includes the claim by CEO and President Deborah Dugan, who has been placed on placed on administrative leave, that the nomination system for the award show is rigged. The allegations have been denied by the Recording Academy.
“It’s been a challenging week for our Academy family. I’ve heard from many of you who feel betrayed and hurt by the untruths being spread about our motives and actions, the integrity of our process and the artists who’ve rightfully earned their GRAMMY Nominations, and the reminders of the hard truths we do have to face as a community,” he continued. “We can all be proud that we are recommitting ourselves to transparency, to independent investigations, and to following the facts wherever they lead.“
Dugan’s attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin, responded to Mason Jr.’s remarks in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“Harvey Mason’s public statement on the eve of the Grammys is all smoke and mirrors given that each of his so-called new ’initiatives’ had already been agreed to under the direction of Ms. Dugan. If the past ten days have shown anything, it is that the current Chair is not the appropriate individual to effectuate meaningful change at the Academy. This is the same Chair that put Ms. Dugan on leave because she was calling for increased diversity and the end to self-dealing and conflicts of interest. This is the same Chair that has leaked attack after attack on Ms. Dugan to the media, and done everything in his power to defame and disparage her. In fact, in the very same statement that Mr. Mason just issued calling for change, he makes additional attacks against Ms. Dugan. The prior male CEO was not even put on leave when he was alleged to have raped a woman. Yet, Ms. Dugan remains on leave to this day,“ the statement read.
“Therefore, in order for there to be real change four things must happen immediately. First, there must be an independent and qualified professional Chair and Board. Second, the Academy must agree to immediately suspend the conflict-rife nominating review committees (’secret committees’). Third, there must be a truly independent investigation into the Board’s relationships, self-dealings, and use of public non-profit monies. Finally, the Board must immediately reinstate Ms. Dugan as the CEO of the Recording Academy to oversee and effectuate such changes,” the statement concluded.
Be sure to check out PEOPLE’s full Grammy Awards coverage to get the latest news on music’s biggest night.
Mason Jr.’s statement was also released just hours after Sean “Diddy” Combs called out the Grammys over their lack of diversity while accepting the Clive Davis Icon award at a pre-Grammys gala.
“Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So right now, this current situation, it’s not a revelation. This thing has been going on,” he said.
“For years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interest to judge us and that stops right now. I’m officially starting a clock. Y’all got 365 days to get this s— together. We need the artists to take back control. We need diversity,” the rapper added.
The Grammy Awards will take place at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26. The telecast will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. EST.