#MeToo's Reckoning Has Come for the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance

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Trigger Warning: This story describes an alleged sexual assault.

According to Andrew Lipian, a graduate student in UM's School of Music, Theatre & Dance(SMTD), on March 24th, 2017 his voice professor David Daniels invited him over to his residence to watch “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” because he was “lonely” and wanted to discuss Lipian’s career ambitions.

After being served multiple drinks, Lipian mentioned he was tired and needed to get some sleep for a performance the following day. At that point, Daniels handed him what he said was a Tylenol PM but was actually the sleep medication Ambien. Daniels then forced himself upon Lipian and groped and touched his genitals and face."

A short time after that, as possibly a way to make amends for the alleged assault, Daniels told Lipian he would likely receive a fellowship covering his two years of master's degree studies and offered to help in "opening doors" for him in his career.

This incident not only was the worst incident involving Daniels but also the latest in repeated alleged harassment from the opera star. According to Lipian, leading up the assault Daniels also sent sexual photos and videos of himself, and requested sexual photos and videos from Lipian.

Yesterday, Lipian filed a lawsuit against not only David Daniels but also the University of Michigan. According to the suit, a faculty member became aware of the alleged sexual assault and reported it to the UM Office of Institutional Equity, but Lipian has not been contacted by the office. :"The University was deliberately indifferent to the actions of Daniels," the suit says. "(The University of Michigan) knew, or should have known, of Daniels predilection to seek sex from students, and/or create a hostile environment based on sex." 

It’s important to note that this isn’t the first time that David Daniels has been accused of sexual assault.

 David Daniels

David Daniels

Last August, Samuel Schultz alleged that not only had David Daniels sexually assaulted him but also his husband, Scott Walters. Schultz told the New York Daily News that in 2010, both Daniels and Walters assaulted him in the couple’s residence after a closing night party on May 14, 2010, for Houston Grand Opera’s run of “Xerxes,” which Daniels had starred.

Schultz detailed his attack to the Daily News:

“Schultz, a marathon runner, said he doesn’t normally drink alcohol, but accepted a drink to not cause waves.

He says he only remembers taking a few sips of the drink at the couple’s apartment — and then he blacked out.

He says and wrote in his police complaint that he woke up the next afternoon, “in a bed alone, completely naked. I was sore and I didn’t know why. I made my way to the bathroom to figure out why I hurt. I was bleeding from my rectum. I became numb. I was paralyzed with fear. What had happened? How could I escape? How would I get out? Where were my clothes? I tiptoed out of the bedroom to discover that David and Scott were not there. When they came back from eating somewhere, I think they asked if I had a good time. … I remember David saying, ‘Don’t worry about the BB thing, I’m totally negative.’ BB in this case meant bareback, otherwise known as raping me without a condom.”

After the story was published in the Daily News in August, the University of Michigan and Daniels agreed that he would take a leave of absence from teaching this fall while an investigation was launched.

While Daniels has not commented on Lipian’s allegations, he did deny Schultz' claims in August. In response to Lipian’s claim, the university released the following statement,

"Shortly after allegations about Professor Daniels from years earlier in another state were shared publicly, the university made a statement, Aug. 22, that Professor Daniels had agreed to take a leave of absence and would not be teaching at U-M this fall," university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

"All reports to the Office for Institutional Equity that allege actions that may be criminal in nature are transmitted to law enforcement for review," Fitzgerald said. "The university's standard practice with any allegation that could be criminal in nature is to defer to the law enforcement investigation before commencing an OIE investigation. A criminal investigation takes precedence over an investigation of a possible policy violation." 

I spoke to members of not only the SMTD community but also within the opera industry as well. One student told me that while they hadn’t witnessed or been the target of sexual misconduct, they weren’t surprised by the multiple allegations. I spoke to another singer who told me that they weren’t surprised either because “this industry is rampant with sexual assaults. Sadly, it’s almost a rite of passage now.”

We’ve seen this countless times now. Esteemed performers and influencers using their position of power to victimize aspiring performers and students. Daniels’ stature in the opera world cannot be understated; he’s a bonafide star. So much so that massive opera fan Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated his wedding to Walters in 2014.

The alleged incident involving Daniels is horrific, but sadly, it’s just the latest issue hitting SMTD when it comes to sexual misconduct.

Just yesterday, UM’s student newspaper published another story regarding a sexual assault within the SMTD between a student and graduate intern. And just like Lipian, the student details her frustration with the university’s response. The story also goes on to state how one of SMTD’s professors hopes that the accused intern sues the student paper for libel. Prof. According to the Michigan Daily, Prof. Michael Haithcock even went as far as cautioning the paper against reporting on an ongoing investigation and urged reporters to hold the story.

UM said complaints of sexual misconduct involving faculty, staff and third parties spiked from 90 in 2016 to 235 last year. In response, UM President Mark Schlissel announced in September a new awareness campaign to address sexual misconduct and educate the entire UM community — including UM-Dearborn, UM-Flint and Michigan Medicine — along with the development of training for faculty and staff.

UPDATE: David Daniels has released the following statement regarding Lipan’s lawsuit:

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We will be updating this story as new information becomes available. If anyone has any addition information, please contact us at cpeterson@onstageblog.com