Nobel Prize Swedish Academy Head Resigns After Sex Abuse Scandal
Sara Danius, the head of the Swedish Academy that selects the Nobel Prize winner for literature, resigned on Friday amid the growing crisis surrounding a supporter of the institution charged with sexual harassment allegations.
Danius is the first woman to hold the post since its foundation in 1786. Her decision followed a three-hour emergency meeting on Thursday night. The 18 members of the academy are appointed for life and are not permitted to resign. However, Danius justified her decision citing lack of confidence in the integrity of the institution, and stating that “all traditions are not worth preserving”.
Jean-Claude Arnault, director of the private Swedish Cultural Club Forum, is at the center of recent assault allegations. The club closed last year due to growing allegations from 18 women accusing Arnault of sexual assault over the span of two decades. The Forum was supported by the Academy, which withdrew its support since Dagens Nyheter reported that the photographer harassed and abused women for more than 20 years.
So far, Darius’ resignation already caused collective action movements such as Swedish women, including culture minister Kuhnke, posting images on social media of themselves wearing high-necked blouses with bows resembling the ones Danius is known to wear. However, there has been little legal action taken so far.
Although state prosecutors opened an investigation into the incidents, a March statement noted that there was a significant lack of conclusive evidence. The case is further complicated by the fact that Arnault is married to Frostenson, another member of the academy, who was forced to step down on Thursday after a closed-door vote of the other members.
However, it remains to be seen how much damage the scandal actually did to the academy.
While Frostenson stressed her “hope that the Swedish Academy will survive as an institution”, there is also increasing worry that the scandal might simultaneously affect the reputation of the Nobel Prize. Accordingly, the board of the Nobel Foundation also stated that it’s “not possible to say how this will damage the Nobel prize … It takes a long time to restore damaged confidence.”