Thursday, December 6, 2007


I was never given a formal, first, or final warning indicating that my job at The Warehouse Gallery was in jeopardy.

In March 2007, Mr. Hoone asked me to resign, weeks prior to the University-wide performance review process. Within days of this request, Mr. Hoone left on an unexplained, (in his words) "sudden" Leave of Absence, with instructions that he was not to be contacted. Ms. Patricia Tassini, Assistant Director of Employment Practices and Equal Employment Opportunities at the Human Resources Department of Syracuse University, expressed surprise over Mr. Hoone's request for my resignation, as there was nothing in my personnel file indicating a problem. She implied to me that the proper H.R. procedure had not been followed. Ms. Tassini advised me via phone to continue working as if the conversation with Mr. Hoone never occurred. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Tom Walsh, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement in the Chancellor's Cabinet, contacted me via phone to ensure that I would continue working on the next exhibition I programmed at the gallery, which he understood to be important for the University. This exhibition was Networked Nature, organized by Rhizome at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.

Following this unexpected turn of events, I contacted the members of my hiring committee. One by one, each expressed shock over Mr. Hoone's decision to dismiss me. They all felt my work at the gallery was successful and in lockstep with what I proposed during the hiring process. It appears that Mr. Hoone did not discuss my performance or his decision with Mr. Frank Olive, my Assistant Director, a person I hired and worked closely with, or the eight members of the hiring committee that moved me from Montreal to Syracuse for the inaugural position of Director.

After Mr. Hoone returned from a month-long Leave of Absence in April, I had one meeting with him and Ms. Tassini from Human Resources, during which his request for my resignation was never acknowledged, discussed, or explained. Based on conversations with Ms. Tassini, I was under the impression that at this meeting we would discuss my performance in accordance to Human Resource's review process and a set of goals would be created together. I was led to believe that Mr. Hoone's request for resignation was off the record and without due process. One of the goals given to me by Mr. Hoone was to program the next year of exhibitions, with budgets, within seven weeks. Two weeks after this meeting, I was assigned a new direct supervisor: Mr. Domenic Iacono, Director of SUArt Galleries. In light of my meeting with Mr. Hoone and Ms. Tassini, the list of goals for the 2007-2008 programming year, and the assignment of a new supervisor, I felt secure in my position for the upcoming exhibition year.

Since I was never given a performance review (although I turned in the documents to begin the process), I was left to assess my own performance according to the success of my work's public reception; invitations for the exhibitions to tour internationally; increased attendance for each exhibition (reaching over 4,000 for Come On); and the growing press attention, including consistently positive reviews in the local media and in international contemporary art publications. Attributing to my confidence that I was on the right performance track were the requests that I received to serve on juries for a state arts council and a local art competition; as a recommender for two major national arts grants; as a panelist for final MFA reviews at a highly-respected institution; as an advisory board member for a National Museum's film festival; and as a thesis committee member for a MFA student at Syracuse University; as well as the growing partnerships I had built with various departments at Syracuse University and community businesses and organizations.

With less than a day's notice, Mr. Hoone scheduled a meeting with me for September 7, 2007. At this impromptu meeting, Mr. Hoone stated that he was laying me off. He did not give a clear reason for this, nor was my direct supervisor present. Mr. Hoone expressed concern about the gallery's direction. When I asked what direction he wanted for the gallery, he answered: the same direction it was always going in. This answer was confusing to me. Then I asked what was going to happen with the next exhibition with the Yes Men, scheduled to open two months later. Mr. Hoone told me this exhibition wasn't going to happen. I was responsible for notifying the artists and the many professors in various departments who invested financially and pedagogically in this exhibition, included it in their curricula, and scheduled class visits.

In October I visited the Office of Human Resources at Syracuse University to review my personnel file. The file contained only six documents: four were standard new employee documents (regarding health benefits, etc.), one was a letter from Human Resources confirming my layoff, dated September 25, 2007, and one was an undated and unsigned list of goals for 2007-2008. At that time, Ms. Curlene Autrey, Director of Diversity and Resolution Processes at Human Resources, informed me that if an employee is let go because of a performance or personnel issue, the employee should first receive a performance review indicating the problem, or a letter clearly stating that if s/he fails to meet a set of criteria the result would be termination. I never received any such documents. My personnel file indicated no reason for my layoff, and contained no performance review, no complaints, and no warning. This indicates a lack of performance and personnel-related issues, and an avoidance of proper Human Resources procedures, highly contrasting the explanation widely distributed by S.U. administration including Chancellor Nancy Cantor, that my dismissal was based on "confidential personnel issues."

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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.