Dear Juilliard Community,
I write to you to address a September 2020 Drama Division workshop that has impacted our school community. While I am sharing a message below that was sent to the drama community by Evan Yionoulis, dean and director of the Drama Division, I believe it is important for our school community to hear directly from me.
To live our values requires an acknowledgment of mistakes we have made. To that end, I want to state unequivocally that this workshop was ill-conceived and should not have occurred in the manner that it did. I extend a heartfelt apology to the individuals who have been adversely affected by it.
The workshop which was titled “Roots to Rep,” was intended to celebrate and learn about the origins of the African American musical tradition. The guest lecturer who created and presented the zoom workshop is a respected artist and teacher, and has presented this workshop to other artistic communities. He also has a strong track record of work in equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) issues in the educational performing arts field and as a consultant at Juilliard itself.
It is our responsibility as artists to tackle difficult topics in our work but we must ensure that we do so in a manner that respects and protects the members of our community.
The first section of this workshop concentrated on spirituals, and included an auditory experience of enslavement that was extremely distressing and problematic. We deeply regret that the materials used in the auditory exercise were not screened in advance, and that once the exercise was occurring it was not stopped.
Immediately following the exercise, the leadership of the Drama Division took responsibility, apologized for what happened, and worked to provide support to students, faculty, and staff. That work continued through meetings with individuals and in groups within the Drama Division over the next weeks and months, in an attempt to restore trust.
In the months that followed, Provost Meyer and I worked to provide guidance and support to the Drama Division and its students, and have been in close contact with Dean Yionoulis about related work the department has done in the time since. Among other efforts this year, the Drama Division has assessed and changed various practices within the division, including steps put in place to more appropriately onboard each guest director and presenter prior to their work at Juilliard.
As an institution, we have worked hard to instill and practice the values of EDIB and I believe in the collective effort and progress that has been made. This exercise and the manner in which it was handled was not in line with our collective belief in these principles.
We will continue to address issues arising from this experience, examining our practices and learning from this mistake as an institution. We are deeply committed to the practice of learning, which will guide us as we move forward in this work together. I want to close by stating again how sorry I am to those who have been affected and to the larger Juilliard community.
Dear Drama Division Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I am writing to address the conversations regarding the workshop that took place in September 2020.
At that time, I expressed to individual students and our entire drama community that this should never have happened. I am deeply sorry for the trauma it caused, both through the exercise itself and the failure to intercede and stop the exercise once in process. I want to reiterate my remorse to you today.
We took steps immediately following the exercise to support our community and facilitate healing, including cancelling the remainder of the workshop, holding community meetings, facilitating discussions, and providing counseling resources. However, we recognize that we cannot fully change the impact of what happened, nor can we erase all that was experienced in that moment.
Thank you all for the care and commitment you have shown as we have worked through these issues together this year. I hope that we can continue to come together as a community to create the program we all strive for, one in which every student can feel seen, heard, celebrated, and free to reach their full artistic potential.