The Director of Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center Has Resigned Following an Investigation Into Complaints That She Fostered a Toxic Workplace

Some 30 employees have left the museum since Susan Dackerman took the helm.

Susan Dackerman. Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images.

Susan Dackerman, the director of Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center has resigned after numerous staffers complained of a toxic workplace culture, particularly for employees of color.

In August, the student-run Stanford Daily published a nearly 5,000-word report describing a culture of burnout, intimidation, and “a lack of basic human decency” at the museum. It noted that some 30 employees, more than a third of whom are of color, had resigned since Dackerman joined the museum in 2017. Many curatorial and management positions have remained vacant, according to the report, yet museum leadership nonetheless expected remaining staff to organize exhibitions within months, or even weeks.

Meanwhile, several former employees described chief of staff James Gaddy as “dictatorial.”

“Stanford has completed a careful analysis of the situation at the Cantor Arts Center, including an external investigation of specific issues,” the university told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Stanford and Cantor Director Susan Dackerman have mutually agreed that Dackerman will be leaving the museum. Dackerman will be available to assist with the transition.”

Representatives for the museum and university did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

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As director, Dackerman had pledged to drum up interest in the museum among students and the broader community. As part of her approach, she purchased Deborah Kass’s sculpture OY/YO and placed it on the plaza in front of the museum. “It is intended to beckon,” Dackerman told the Chronicle in January, “to say, ‘Yo students, yo Stanford, yo Palo Alto, yo San Francisco, yo Bay Area, come see what we’re doing at the Cantor.’”

Dackerman’s resignation comes at a time when museum employees nationwide have taken to the press and social media to air complaints of intolerable workplaces. Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector recently left the museum amid accusations of racism by a guest curator and broader complaints from staff, and the New York Times published a lengthy report in October about alleged abuses at New York’s New Museum.

Dackerman’s departure is said to be effective immediately, according to the Chronicle, which reports that Gaddy has left his role as well.


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