Ayden Adler, who had been appointed Dean of the School of Music in July, abruptly vacated her position Tuesday, President Mark McCoy announced in a tense roomful of students.
The announcement comes two months after Anthony Jones, vice president for enrollment management, similar abrupt departure in January. Both Adler and Jones had been hand-picked by President McCoy. The School of Music faces personnel uncertainty, now that the woman who replaced President McCoy is no longer there.
In his return to the large ensemble room in the GCPA, President McCoy delivered the news that Adler would no longer be in her position as Dean of the School of Music during a meeting with the students of the music school. This news comes after four music school administrators willingly left their positions over the weekend. Caroline Jetton, associate dean of the School of Music and director of education, Toni Robinson, director of admission, Steven Linville, director of operations, and Jennifer Soster, aide to the dean, all cleared out their offices on Monday.
The meeting with the music students consisted of a brief introduction to the situation by President McCoy, followed by an informal question and answer session..
“I miss seeing you guys,” President McCoy said, “I miss seeing you work as musicians.” The room fell silent as President McCoy composed his emotions and led the conversation with students. The students were advised to attend the assembly following an email invitation yesterday afternoon, a full 24 hours after the administrator’s’ offices were cleared.
President McCoy went on to explain that he was not at liberty to disclose specifics of the situation due to pertinent legal matters. “What I can tell you is this: while Dr. Adler will not be returning as the Dean of the Music School, we are attempting to have staff here as quickly as possible,” he said. “I will let you know as soon as I know. I can’t make people take jobs or come back to jobs or whatever, but I can attempt to give you guys the ability to succeed.”
While students digested the news of Adler’s departure, President McCoy outlined the School of Music’s plan to ensure stability for the school going forward. In the wake of the leadership vacuum, Anne Harris, vice president for academic affairs, with the help of a returning Jetton, will be temporarily running the School of Music. President McCoy included that the School of Music plans to hire an interim dean for the next year. Meanwhile, the administration will work in tandem with a professional search firm to conduct an international search for a long term solution to a position that has seen significant turnover.
For senior clarinet player Gretchen Stibich, this turnover is problematic, specifically for sophomores who will have a new dean every year they will have attended the School of Music.
“I guess my biggest fear with the sophomores is that they will have someone different every year with different agendas. Different curriculums were set up because of Dr. McCoy and I think that will cause a major disruption and a lack of cohesion,” Stibich said.
Many students felt the session was far too ambiguous to be considered entirely helpful. “I think it was near pointless because if the entire meeting was to reassure students that things were going to be okay. It was such a sketchy situation, and they didn’t do anything to alleviate the mystery around the situation,” senior violinist Akil Davis said. “These four people that are so important to the school of music are doing something this dramatic, they are clearly trying to call attention to something problematic that is going on.”
In addition, students’ lack of knowledge established a sense of distrust between the institution and its’ students. “I feel that not knowing any of the reasons is really disheartening. I’m creating a worst case scenario in my head about why people are doing these things,” junior vocalist Saige Huiet said.
Although students were surprised and confused, President McCoy insisted that these problems had been developing for some time. “There have been concerns about the music school going back to last semester. Nothing is recent. There is nothing that just popped up,” President McCoy said.
President McCoy reassured students that faculty who had left earlier this week were more than likely to return. In the case of Caroline Jetton and Toni Robinson, who will both finish out their current duties this semester, this plan is already coming into effect. “We will know more about that tomorrow but in many cases that answer is yes. Folks will return,” President McCoy said.
While the possibility of all administrators coming back to their original positions remains unclear, Davis took some consolation in their willingness to continue to work at DePauw.
“It is nice to know that [those who left] are still willing to work with the university and ensure students are getting what they need. It’s not the worst case scenario that they absolutely cannot work at this university. The problem might have just been Adler and a personal issue between them but not knowing that, it’s just too speculative,” Davis said.
In response to the pointed questions about the future of the music school, President McCoy kept the focus on the students’ academics. “You are the reason we are here. We are here to support your education and your performances,” President McCoy said. “This should in no way impact your education.”
Although President McCoy recognized the challenges that the School of Music faces, he connected his career as a musician as a rallying cry for School of Music students.
“Everyone in this room has been in a performance where it goes wrong. You can be rattled by that thing, or you can focus on the music in front of you at this moment,” said President McCoy. “I encourage you all to keep the good music happening.”