Music and Dance Director Steps Down
Lack of continuity disrputs college.
November 20, 2003 4:49 PM
The world-renowned Australian pianist who was tapped last year to head the recently merged school of music and dance has resigned as director of that program.
Barely a year into his term, Professor Roger Woodward stepped down as director of the school of music and dance in early September, according to top-level administrators.
Wan-Lee Cheng, associate dean for the College of Creative Arts, is currently the acting director through the end of the fall semester while the department seeks to hire a replacement.
Some students say his resignation comes in the wake of much confusion about Woodward’s leadership and concerns regarding the direction of the school.
A group of students formed the School of Music and Dance Student Council, which has drafted a letter expressing further concern about rumors that the university may require going outside the school to find a replacement for Woodward.
Their draft letter to President Robert Corrigan and Dean of the College of Creative Arts Keith Morrison, which they are asking students to sign, reads in part, “The School of Music and Dance has been leaderless for the past year. As a result, faculty and students have suffered.
“Faculty members have scrambled to keep classes and administrative processes going. They are stressed and overloaded. Students are confused about who is running the school, frustrated that we have been kept in the dark about decisions that affect our education and are becoming increasing disillusioned.
“The thought of continuing in this manner for at least the next 18 months angers us. The idea of the school of music and dance disregarding qualified candidates from within its own walls seems absurd.”
Woodward remains on the music faculty teaching piano. He would not comment on his resignation because of advice from his lawyer, nor has any official explanation given for his stepping down as director.
“Roger is no longer the director. Beyond that, it’s really not appropriate for me to talk about it,” said John Gemello, SF State provost and vice president of academic affairs.
SF State’s legal counsel, Patricia Bartscher, to whom [X]press was referred to by Gemello, said she would not comment on personnel matters.
The world-renowned pianist was appointed in Fall 2002 to oversee the first semester of the merged departments of music and dance. As part of his vision for the program, the Australian native was going to use his international connections to give students more opportunities to perform overseas, according to an SF State press release announcing his appointment.
Before coming to SF State, Woodward was Chair of Music at the University of New England, New South Wales and has performed with the New York, Los Angeles and Israel philharmonic symphonies to name a few in a lengthy and impressive performance resume.
Administrators and faculty are in the beginning stages of discussion over the various plans for hiring an interim and permanent director. There was no official word as to when those plans would be formalized and begun, though there was a suggested goal of having a director by Fall 2005.
Members of the SMD Student Council, which was formed in Spring 2003 by vocalist major Anishka Lee-Skorepa, are concerned about a plan for an external search that was mentioned by Dean Morrison and Provost Gemello in faculty meetings.
According to several student council representatives, Morrison made comments at faculty meetings suggesting that the administration would look outside the music and dance faculty at SF State for candidates for the permanent directorship.
The student council members are concerned that a director coming from outside the school wouldn’t be familiar with the particularly demanding inner workings of the school of music and dance.
“The real issue now is the hiring of the new director,” Lee-Skorepa, 22, said.
“It was officially announced a week and a half ago that the candidates cannot come from the school of music and dance,” said Emily Woo, a student council member and jazz vocal major. Woo said the student council learned of this plan at the Oct. 27 faculty meeting.
The [X]press was denied access to the school of music and dance faculty minutes, but e-mail correspondence from Morrison to Gemello, other administrators and faculty members confirmed this.
In these emails, Morrison explained, “We (Morrison, Gemello and President Robert Corrigan) all agreed that it would be best to have a national search, and then we discussed the timeline.”
He continued further in the e-mail, “On October 27 the faculty of SMD expressed to me their concern that these procedures may abrogate their right to recommend their own governance. I urged them to make whatever recommendation they wished.”
“The issue has not been determined one way or another,” said Gemello in a phone interview. “It is still in the stages. We’ve discussed that (an external search) as a possibility. No decision has been made. These things can take on a life of their own.”
Several faculty members who were contacted for this story would not comment on either Woodward’s resignation or the hiring plan discussions.
As a result of the suggested external search, the student council plans to schedule a meeting with the dean and president to discuss the matter.
Last spring, Lee-Skorepa started the council, when she and fellow students became alarmed by what they viewed as signs of growing problems in the school. They are concerned that the only class offered for vocalists, Vocal Ensemble, was cancelled last year.
They wonder why vocal students were suddenly required to pay for accompanists for auditions and finals last spring. They are also troubled over the conditions of practice rooms and restrooms in the Creative Arts building.
A representative from the five-member student council, which represents each discipline within the department including classical and jazz instrumentalists, classical and jazz vocalists and dance, started attending the weekly faculty meetings this fall, including the mid-September meeting when Morrison announced Woodward’s resignation.
Looking for answers to students’ growing concerns, Lee-Skorepa, a senior, sent a petition in May outlining those concerns to Morrison, Ron Caltabiano, assistant director at the time and Woodward. Among the list of concerns was Woodward’s role as director.
“In light of all of that, a friend of mine and I wrote a petition wanting an explanation,” recalled Lee-Skorepa. “We didn’t ever know what was really going on so that’s why we formed this student council.”
The council brokered a meeting last May, to which roughly 100 students showed up with administration and faculty, including Woodward.
“We were told that the faculty and administration could not be at the meeting,” said Lee-Skorepa. “Morrison was the only one allowed to stay. It ended up being a royal waste of time. He couldn’t answer any of our questions specific to our department.”
Attending faculty meetings has helped some in opening the lines of communication. The council is planning to file paperwork to become a legitimate campus organization.
“Our goals are to be of service to students,” said Lee-Skorepa. “Working toward making it a better department by building a bridge between faculty, administrators and students.”
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