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Cleveland Institute of Music students to protest conductor, call for his resignation

Exterior of the front of the Cleveland Institute of Music's Kulas Hall and Mixon Hall.
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
Students at the Cleveland Institute of Music are planning a sit-in for Wednesday and circulating a petition stating that they have issues with the Title IX investigation into a professor accused of inappropriate conduct.

Cleveland Institute of Music’s student government is planning a sit-in on Wednesday, saying students have lost trust in Carlos Kalmar, principal conductor and director of orchestral studies and the conducting program.

The move comes in the wake of a Title IX investigation this year into accusations of inappropriate behavior by Kalmar. Last month, the school acknowledged the seriousness of the complaints but said "the specific allegations against Carlos Kalmar did not violate the Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Sex Non-Discrimination Policy Under Title IX."

In a Saturday post on social media, students were encouraged to sit silently, without their instruments, during Wednesday’s orchestra rehearsal. Supporters are asked to sit in the audience. Student government is also circulating an open letter to administrators and asking for signatures from anyone who agrees with one or more of the following statements:

I want CIM to foster an environment that supports all of its students.

I do not feel comfortable working with Mr. Kalmar.

I stand in solidarity with those who came forward during the Title IX investigation.

Though the investigation concluded, I have some doubts regarding Mr. Kalmar’s innocence.

I find it hard to move forward knowing what happened.

I am disappointed with upper administration’s disregard for the concerns of the CIM community.

I want Mr. Kalmar to step down as the music director of CIM.

About 30 students, faculty and staff were interviewed as part of the investigation by former U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon. In dismissing the case, acting Title IX Director Dean Southern said "the conduct was not on the basis of sex, nor was it so severe or pervasive as to create an objectively offensive environment such that it denies anyone equal access to educational opportunities at CIM based on gender."

After the investigation was announced in April, Title IX director Vivian Scott departed the institution for undisclosed reasons. In July, the school cut 15 percent of its administrative staff.

On Friday, the editorial board of the Observer was highly critical of CIM’s handling of the investigation and questioned why Scott was removed. The paper is part of student media at CIM’s neighbor, Case Western Reserve University, with which it runs a joint music program.

Uruguayan-born and Vienna-trained, Carlos Kalmar was named director of orchestral and conducting programs at CIM in 2021, following a three-year search. He left the Oregon Symphony after 18 years as its music director to take the post. He has been artistic director of Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival since 2000.

Last month, following the dismissal of charges, festival CEO Paul Winberg told the Chicago Tribune that the outcome “reinforces our decision this spring to move forward with Carlos Kalmar as our Artistic Director and Principal Conductor through the 2024 season.”

Corrected: September 11, 2023 at 3:28 PM EDT
Dean Southern is acting Title IX director at CIM. A prior version of the story did not include his first name and title.
Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.