Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rebekah Scotland and Kenneth White

Dear Chancellor Cantor:

We write with sincere concern for our alma mater. The circumstances surrounding the removal of Astria Suparak from directorship of the Warehouse Gallery raise grave questions against the ability of Syracuse University to offer a welcome environment to "interactive and collaborative" learning, which you call our "great strength." As students, we were thrilled by the interdisciplinary opportunities opened by your Creative Campus initiatives. We watched Syracuse University blossom under your guidance, and we followed your lead. Through the monthly Spark Video Program, Thursday Screeners media forum and visiting artist series, Diversity in the Arts exhibitions, the Sparkettes Video Collective for women, and the Westcott Community Center Video Program, among others, we strove to answer the Syracuse community's hunger for cultural enrichment. You showed us that direct, on-the-ground participation can affect positive difference on the local, national, and international levels. We recognized the importance of this mission and service, we devoted ourselves to it, and for our efforts we were honored as Syracuse University Scholars. We were, and remain, deeply passionate about the cultural excellence of Syracuse University, and as such we feel obligated to speak.

Suparak's termination is antithetical to the institution we devoted ourselves to, and that honored us. We have both independently written letters to you registering our grievance with CMAC Director Jeffrey Hoone's actions against Suparak and the arts community of Syracuse University. We write again now, together, to re-state our alarm, in hope that the events of the last month may be rectified, and to offer our assistance in preservation of the generative communication we fully know is found at Syracuse University.

The success and positive contribution of COME ON is without doubt. Throughout her tenure as Warehouse Gallery Director, Suparak has advanced the Syracuse arts community to previously unattained levels of relevance and admiration, and her value to this community is well documented. Suparak is an asset necessary to the realization of Scholarship in Action.

No justification for Suparak's removal has been provided by Hoone beyond "personnel changes" and "management restructuring." In July 2007, he aggressively ridiculed Suparak's curatorial judgment and demanded justification of COME ON: Desire Under the Female Gaze, its artists and works, calling the exhibition "weak and seriously flawed." Hoone forbid use of "feminist" in the exhibition title. In July, Hoone's first option of discussion with Suparak was "canceling or postponing the exhibition." Then, in his 22 August 2007 letter to SU Director of Communications and Media Relations Matthew Snyder, Hoone completely contradicts his statements of July and defends Suparak through regurgitation of Suparak's own defense demanded by himself. Two weeks after Hoone's written 'defense' of Suparak, he fired her.

Hoone's July 2007 correspondence with Suparak presents more than just difference in aesthetics. He reveals a hostile work environment loathe to non-heterosexual male perspectives. Hoone is not only ignorant of feminist history and aesthetics specifically, he is unwelcome to the generative communication on which Syracuse University is founded. We find Hoone's actions totally unacceptable.

Furthermore, Hoone chose to reveal that you convened four male university administrators (Tom Walsh, Eric Spina, Barry Wells, and Kevin Quinn) to "discuss the issue" of the exhibition's timing. No women, nor members of the greater Syracuse arts community, participated in this review of female sexuality whose ruling was censorship of Suparak's exhibition: approved advertisements were pulled from ReadySet new student welcome materials and Hoone's harassment of Suparak continued to her unexplained termination. We are left to imagine that Hoone's letter of 22 August, implicating you and your administration in the censorship of Suparak, was an attempt at a strategic defense in preparation for his imminent termination of Suparak. Chancellor Cantor, do you still "trust his [Hoone's] leadership?"

The evidence of this situation leaves us with many questions.

Why did Hoone voice his concerns about COME ON so late in the exhibition's planning? Why did he completely contradict his criticism two days before the exhibition's opening, then fire Suparak two weeks later? Why did Hoone cancel the Yes Men exhibition (Suparak states that she "asked him specifically" about this action)? What are the 'restructuring' plans for the Warehouse Gallery that Hoone claims are the reason for Suparak's dismissal? Why were no members of hiring committee that nominated Suparak consulted on her termination? Why were no members of the Syracuse University arts community consulted on her termination?

We ask you to please re-instate Suparak to directorship of the Warehouse Gallery. We believe there is opportunity for Syracuse University and the Syracuse arts community to benefit from the attention this issue continues to garner. Please exemplify the great character we devoted ourselves to, love so much, and know to reside in Syracuse University.

Thank you for your time and attention. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Rebekah Scotland
B.F.A. 2006
University Scholar

Kenneth White
B.F.A. 2005
University Scholar

Vice President and Provost Eric Spina
VPA Dean Carole Brozowski

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Syracuse has lost one its greatest assets. Astria Suparak, Inaugural Director of The Warehouse Gallery of Syracuse University, was removed from her position as of Sept. 30th, 2007, despite widespread support from community members, students, faculty, and the international art community. This decision was made unilaterally by Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC).

At the time of Suparak's dismissal, Hoone also canceled her forthcoming exhibitions, including "Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men," due to open in November 2007.