One of the more prestigious performing art colleges in Chicago is reeling over allegations by its former students. The accusations against Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University range from the treatment of students to unethical behavior and racial discrimination. Multiple former students have also come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against a current faculty member.
The controversy began when actress and former CCPA student, Netta Walker, posted a lengthy statement on Facebook following her win at the Jeff Awards the night before. She states,
“The BFA program at Roosevelt University is abusive. This university taught me that I was less than my peers in the following ways; they did not cast me, they chose white male dominated seasons, they deliberately did not try to utilize me, they refused to cast outside both the racial and gender binaries, and taught exclusively white theatrical history. This program is still heavily run by white men, and has not changed any of these practices.”
Later in the post, she describes a moment where she was considering dropping out due to her father’s declining health.
“I went to my Dean to talk to him about dropping out, and he responded by saying “Your father would be disappointed in you. YOUR FATHER WOULD BE DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. I cried and kept this to myself for a few months because I felt shamed and feared he would be correct. He was not.”
Sadly, Ms. Walker’s father passed away the next year.
In the wake of Ms. Walker’s post, multiple other former students have come forward on social media with their allegations. While some of them outline other patterns of abuse at the school, others are coming forward with sexual harassment allegations against Associate Dean and Director of Theatre, Sean Kelley.
One student states that Mr. Kelley “communicated explicitly that he was picturing my classmate and I having intercourse by saying he felt "it looked like we would have great sex".
Another student, who identifies as genderqueer, alleges that Mr. Kelley, “tried to get me to gossip about other women in my class who he thought were questioning their sexuality. “
Others have reported incidents involving unwanted touching and kissing by Mr. Kelley.
One student has stated that they reported various incidents to school officials, yet nothing was done.
Calls to Mr. Kelley’s office have not been returned.
A petition has already started to circulate, calling for Mr. Kelley’s termination.
In response to the mounting allegations, CCPA has released the following statement,
“As many of you have heard, over the past few days, there have been postings on social media that assert allegations against one of our faculty members. Please know that the University is now aware of the allegations and is in the process of investigating them. If you believe you have pertinent information, or have any concerns of your own that you would like to report, please contact:
- Toyia K. Stewart, VP for Human Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org, (312) 341-2137
- Alice Jones, Title IX Coordinator/HR Investigator, email@example.com, (312) 341-2051
Please know that the University takes complaints very seriously and also that the University strictly prohibits retaliation.
Roosevelt University values every member of its community, including current and former students, faculty, and other staff. It is important to us that these matters be investigated promptly and thoroughly, and that members of our community feel comfortable voicing any and all concerns. We will provide updates on these matters when/as we are able.”
Several faculty members from the department have also released a statement regarding this situation.
"To our Theatre Conservatory community,
Thank you to all of you who have bravely come forward. We are heartbroken and blindsided by the scope and depth of the shared testimonials from our students and alumni.
We are deeply upset and feel for all of you. Our educational and artistic spaces must be safe. Our students must be safe. We refuse to accept an environment that allows harassment, bullying, and abuse. We stand behind you and acknowledge the need for transformational change.
We are proud of each and every student and alumni, and we are reclaiming this as a place that we can and will be proud to work. That we can all feel proud to claim. We want to regain your trust - which we know has been broken.
We understand this is an unsettling and traumatic time - for all of us. We are ready to listen and to together find ways in which we can make the Theatre Conservatory the place you want to learn and grow.
Your faculty and staff [the undersigned]
Carolyn Jean Brady, Adjunct Voice Instructor
Becky Curl, Adjunct Faculty
Daniel D Drake, Production and Facilities Coordinator
Ray Frewen, Associate Professor, Assistant Director of the Conservatory
Nadine Gomes, Lecturer in Voice
Coburn Goss, Adjunct Faculty
Gina Graffagna, Adjunct Voice Instructor
Amanda Horvath-Adair, Assistant Director of Admissions
Janelle Rienstra Jones, Adjunct Faculty
Elise Kauzlaric, Adjunct Professor
Kendall Kelley, Managing Director
Shane Kenyon, Adjunct Faculty
Steve Kruse, Technical Director
Emily McConnell, Costume Designer
Ann McMann, Adjunct Voice Instructor
Allegra Montanari, Director of the Center for Arts Leadership
Dan Roberts, Adjunct Faculty
Kyle Sackett, Adjunct Voice Instructor
Rebecca Schorsch, Lecturer in Voice
Becca Skrha, Admission Counselor
Barbara Zahora, Visiting Assistant Professor"
We will continue to update this piece with new information as it becomes available.