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Juilliard fires professor after independent investigation finds credible evidence of misconduct

<i>Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images</i><br/>Robert Beaser
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Robert Beaser

By Caroll Alvarado, CNN

(CNN) — Robert Beaser, the former chair of The Juilliard School’s composition department, was fired after an independent investigation found Beaser had “engaged in conduct which interfered with individuals’ academic work and was inconsistent with Juilliard’s commitment to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for its students” and had an “unreported relationship” that violated school policy, the prestigious performing arts school in New York announced Thursday in a memo sent to students, staff, and faculty.

In the memo provided to CNN, Juilliard says that in December 2022, the school undertook “a comprehensive review of … alleged sexual misconduct in the Composition Department from the late 1990s and early 2000s.” While the school’s statement mentioned that it was writing “to share an update on allegations of sexual misconduct,” the memo did not specify any findings about sexual misconduct involving Beaser.

In a statement to CNN, Beaser’s attorney, Richard C. Schoenstein says “that Dr. Beaser denies sexually harassing anybody and that the Juilliard announcement did not indicate any evidence – credible or otherwise – of sexual harassment.”

Allegations against Beaser, who chaired the department from 1994 to 2018, were made relevant again after classical music magazine VAN published an article in December looking into accusations Beaser had made repeated sexual advances toward students and entered into sexual relationships with some of them.

In the article, VAN magazine claims Beaser faced several allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, with some dating back to the late 1990s and early 2000s. According to VAN, Juilliard’s Title IX coordinator was made aware of some allegations in 2018.

Following the publication of the report, Beaser was placed on leave and Juilliard hired the law firm Potter & Murdock, P.C. to conduct a review of the alleged sexual misconduct in the composition department, according to the memo.

“Some of these allegations were previously investigated by Juilliard’s administration in the late 1990s and early 2000s and again in 2017-18 and were handled based on their understanding of the information provided at that time,” the memo read. “However, to review new information reported in the media and to better understand the relevant facts, our administration launched an independent investigation in December 2022 and placed composition faculty member Robert Beaser on leave pending its outcome.”

During the time the allegations were brought up, the investigation concluded “some students, especially women, experienced an environment in the department that did not live up to the school’s values and expectations.”

“The relationship referred to in Juilliard’s announcement happened 30 years ago and was well known to the school for many years. It was the subject of prior investigations,” Beaser’s attorney, Richard C. Schoenstein. “Dr. Beaser denies any allegation that he misrepresented facts. Moreover, he participated in this investigation (and the past investigations) fully and voluntarily. The other allegations suggested by the school are both unspecific and unattributed.”

The independent review also found credible evidence former composition professor and Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer Christopher Rouse made sexual advances and comments toward students, but the allegations could not be fully investigated because Rouse died in 2019, the memo said.

In addition to terminating Beaser, the school says it plans to prohibit all amorous or sexual relationships between faculty and students starting in the fall. Previously, the school only prohibited amorous or sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students. However, it allowed relationships between faculty and graduate students where there wasn’t a power imbalance that could be exploited, such as being in the same department.

“The school recognizes the leadership role it plays in helping to address historical inequities in the field of composition, and has been working to address these inequities over the last years through artistic programming, mentorship initiatives, and artist residencies.”

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