Diversity at Eastman

Eastman Commission for Racial Justice

Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice - Full Report

April 29, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Please accept this progress report on actions and initiatives that have been occurring throughout the fall and spring semesters on behalf of Eastman’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many of the elements below emanate out of the powerful report released in early November by the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice (EACRJ), while others respond directly to issues of bias-related discrimination and harassment. While there remains much to be accomplished to assure that our community is one in which every person is welcome, safe, respected, and appreciated, we are taking definitive actions in support of our commitment to be an antiracist institution.


Culture and Climate Advisory Committee

In the fall semester, I formed an ad hoc “Culture and Climate Advisory Committee,” comprised of the five elected members of the Faculty Advisory Committee (Jonathan Baldo, Renée Jolles, Betsy Marvin, Russell Miller, and Darren Mueller); two staff members (Amanda Sharpe, who also serves on the Genesee Staff Council, and Elaine Tennity, Human Resources and Administrative Operations Director); two students from the student group Beyond Consent (Annie Chen and Emily Stone); Senior Associate Dean Donna Fox; and myself. Over a period of five meetings, some of the issues and initial actions included:

  • Identified potential educational opportunities for the Eastman community;
  • Reviewed the 2019 Campus Climate Survey;
  • Reviewed letters written to the dean and Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice by Eastman faculty, staff, students, and alumni;
  • Considered community concerns regarding bias-related harassment and discrimination;
  • Recommended a report be distributed to the Eastman Community on bias-related harassment, to provide perspective on the number of instances, findings, and outcomes;
  • Recognized need to create a stronger web presence around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and
  • Considered proposal to create a senior level position as Director of Equity and Inclusion at Eastman.


As a result of those conversations the following actions have occurred or are in progress.

Educational Opportunity
Encouraged every member of Eastman’s faculty and staff to attend the Martin Luther King Commemorative Address for the University of Rochester by Ibram X. Kendi, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research on February 24. Full faculty and staff meetings on February 25 and 26 were dedicated to discussing key-takeaways from Mr. Kendi’s address, and toward developing a common understanding around issues of race, racism, and anti-racism.

Bias-related Discrimination and Harassment
There is no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind at the Eastman School of Music. Any allegation of misconduct is treated seriously. When an allegation is made against a faculty or staff member, Eastman adheres strictly to the procedures specified in the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Discriminatory Employment/Service Practices (PADH).

In conversations with the student group Beyond Consent, and in consultation with the ad hoc Climate and Culture Advisory Committee, it was recommended that information about bias-related cases of discrimination or harassment be shared with the Eastman community. While one must always balance confidentiality with transparency, the following information provides the number of PADH complaints that have been made at Eastman in the last four calendar years and the kind of sanctions that were imposed.

  2017 2018 2019 2020
PADH complaints regarding ESM faculty or staff 0 2 4 7


Sanctions for findings of PADH violations were determined by the dean in consultation with advisory groups as outlined in the PADH (section IV). These included: mandatory counseling; warning against continued behavior; temporary suspension of responsibilities; reduction of salary; supervision and ongoing monitoring; title revocation; and non-renewal of contract.

The PADH also includes the possibility of informal resolution of cases. Outcomes from informal resolution of Eastman cases as outlined in the PADH included documentation of the allegation and warning against continued behavior.

The University’s Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) is currently preparing its Annual Report on Discrimination and Harassment and its Annual Report on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response. Those reports will be available in the Reports section of the OEI website.

Director of Equity and Inclusion
As per conversations throughout the fall semester with the Culture and Climate Advisory Committee; conversations with Provost Rob Clark and University of Rochester Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Mercedes Ramirez Fernandez; and as recommended by the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice, I will be creating a position, Director of Equity and Inclusion at Eastman.

The responsibilities for this position are informed by similar positions that exist at the University of Rochester (Simon School of Business, the Warner School of Education, the School of Medicine and Dentistry), and by similar positions at peer institutions (Juilliard, Yale, New England Conservatory, and others). This will be a senior level position who will report directly to the Dean with a connection to the University Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, and the director will be a member of Eastman’s Senior Leadership Team. I will be inviting members of the Eastman community to serve as a search committee for this position, and we will soon launch a national search.


Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice Report and Recommendations

This past summer, twenty members of the Eastman Community (students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community leaders) served on the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice (EACRJ). This group invested many hours into writing a powerful and comprehensive report, which was issued broadly to the Eastman Community in early November.

Many recommendations from that report have been accomplished or are currently in the process of implementation. Below, individual EACRJ recommendations are identified in italics, followed by Eastman action.

1. Widespread distribution of the report and recommendations

a. The Commission’s report was widely disseminated to all students, faculty, staff and alumni. Public announcements about the report with links were sent to the entire University of Rochester community, and news of the report was highlighted through social media and through alumni outreach. Town Halls were held with black alumni, all alumni, students, faculty, and staff.

2. Hire senior administrator/dean, who will become part of senior leadership team, for Diversity, Equity, Access and Belonging” (DEAB)

a. Funding for a position has been identified and a position has been approved. In addition, significant funds have been raised to support equity and inclusion initiatives that will be managed by the director.

3. Require in-person, Eastman-specific and ongoing anti-racism workshops for ALL faculty, staff and students

a. The first educational experience for all faculty and staff was centered around a campus-wide lecture by Ibram X. Kendi, followed by focused discussions in subsequent faculty and staff meetings. Additional opportunities will be coordinated by the Director of Equity and Inclusion.
b. In addition, I required members of the Senior Leadership Team to expand their educational preparation beyond the level expected for faculty and staff. They attended two webinars in the Fall Semester. The first was presented by Ibram X. Kendi titled “How to be an Antiracist”. The other session was sponsored by the College Music Society and presented by Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel, titled “#MeToo and Music Education: A Psychological Perspective.”

4. Ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably when entering the Eastman campus and using Eastman facilities. Eastman must put a stop to the racial profiling that Black students, faculty, staff and community members all currently experience at the School. Measures include, but are not limited to, requesting key cards or sign ins from everyone upon entry, installing a turnstile, and providing and/or requiring more training for Public Safety Officers.

a. Prior to the release of the Commission’s Report and Recommendations, Eastman had already revised its policy regarding entry into Lowry Hall; requiring every person to show their identification card to a Public Safety Officer every time they entered the building. While it has been made clear to Public Safety Officers and supervisors that this ID check must happen consistently, this system has not proved effective.

Therefore, Eastman is currently working through the process of installing an ID card reader at the Public Safety Office desk, ensuring that every person will be required to scan their ID card before proceeding beyond the desk. It is our goal for this new card reader to be installed prior to the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester.

5. Commission works by composers of African descent with a cross-department commissioning project and add multiple composers of African descent to the Centenary commissioning project.

a. As part of Eastman’s upcoming Centennial celebration, several black composers have been commissioned to write new works for Eastman ensembles including Anthony Barfield, Billy Childs, John Clayton, and Wynton Marsalis.
b. An annual commissioning commitment of at least one new composition annually by a BIPOC composer, will be part of the funding set aside for the new Director of Equity and Inclusion to administer.
c. A national grant application has been submitted for a cross-department commission for a composition by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Anthony Davis to compose a narrated work based upon the writings of Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo.

6. Renew agreement between Gateways and Eastman, which is set to expire in June 2021.

a. The agreement renewal is in process.

7. Provide pedagogical training and support for all Eastman instructors in syllabus and curriculum design that helps them address issues of equity and more sensitively engage students, especially students of African descent.

a. A website was created by the Musicology Department titled Anti-Racism in the Classroom that provides resources under two general categories: General Anti- Racist Pedagogy and Teaching Resources, Teaching Music from an Anti-racist Perspective

8. Strongly encourage every department and program at Eastman to reevaluate their curricular frameworks with an eye toward equity and diversity, including more courses and course content incorporating the contributions of musicians, thinkers and other key groups and individuals of African descent.

a. The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee has considered the most effective ways to conduct a comprehensive review of the curriculum, while recognizing that many departments have already embarked this past year (and in recent years) in diversifying course offerings. Topics of repertoire, new programs/certificates, and community engagement have been considered. As the committee has worked to determine how best to tackle this important topic, the intensive work of exploring the curriculum and diversifying the curriculum will be ongoing.

9. Increase the number of musicians of African descent as guests.

a. The Eastman Departmental Diversity Initiative (EDDI) has funded more than 25 guests over the past four years. This year, Eastman hosted Anthony Green (composer); Philip Ewell (theorist); and Lara Downes (pianist, arts advocate).
b. Associate Professor of Jazz, Robert Sneider, has hosted more than thirty jazz artists as part of Eastman’s Jazz Masterclass Series, included the following BIPOC artists: Carl Allen (Drums), Ann Hampton Callaway (voice), Gerald Clayton (piano), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Clarence Hines (trombone), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), Michael Rodriguez (trumpet), Kendrick Scott (drums), and Kenny Washington (drums).


Recommendations from the Commission’s Report and Recommendations that are currently in progress include:

1. Formation of a DEI Advisory Committee

a. Individuals for inclusion on a DEI Advisory Committee have been identified. The next step is to create a clear charter for the committee and to invite individuals to serve on this committee.

2. Recognize the Haudenosaunee people at the start of every public event at the Eastman School of Music.

a. Eastman’s Diversity Committee has been charged with developing a land acknowledgement statement that would be included on recital programs, school publications, and the school website.

3. Identify at least one prominent location on campus to create a permanent tribute to well-known Black alumni. Currently, there is only one depiction of a Black person on the entire campus. (Note: The statement “only one depiction of a Black person” is not entirely accurate, however, the sentiment that there exist few opportunities for black students to view visible role models at Eastman is certainly on point.)

a. Eastman’s Diversity Committee has been asked to consider the best way to implement this recommendation. A potential space has been identified for this purpose, but there is a continuing discussion about alternative ways to achieve a broader visibility to assure that our alumni are recognized throughout the school rather than in one single location.
b. Eastman has made a commitment to install a sculpture of William Warfield, created by local Rochester artist Shawn Dunwoody, in the Eastman Place Park in front of Miller Center.
c. Eastman has made a commitment to install a large banner celebrating Garth Fagan Dance on the Chestnut Street side of Miller Center, in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary.


Additional Actions and Initiatives

In addition to implementing recommendations from the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice, Eastman departments organized and hosted important conferences and symposia this year in support of diversity. Examples include:

  • The Theory department hosted the symposium “Closing the Gender Gap II: Open-Access Analysis of Compositions by Women” with guest presenter Mark Gotham (Universitätat des Saarlandes)
  • The Musicology department hosted Kyra D. Gaunt (University of Albany), who presented “Music as Violence Against Black Girls on YouTube (or Twerking at the Intersection)”
  • The Institute for Music Leadership partnered with the University of Michigan Excel Lab to host the three-art online series “Disruption.Action.Change.” featuring guests Antonion C. Cuyler, Ashleigh Gordon, Margaret Lioi, Garrett McQueen, and Joel Thompson.
  • Assistant Professor of Italian Elena Bellina co-organized the Zoom conference, “Captivity and Social Justice in Modern Italian Culture,” with Matteo Brera (York University).

    Eastman ensembles made a concerted effort to program a broad range of repertoire with special emphasis on music of BIPOC and women composers. Composers included JaRon Brown, Chaya Czernowin, Natalie Dietterich, Devonte Hynes, Daniel Kidane, Jessie Montgomery, Angélica Negrón, Hilda Paredes, Florence Price, Zandia Robles, William Grant Still, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Olly Wilson, and many others.

    Many individuals and groups in our community made tremendous personal commitments and took actions to contribute positively to enhancing an inclusive culture and community. Some of these activities include:

  • Travon Walker ’21, established Representation Matters, a project to introduce middle and high school students to classical music, specifically the music created by Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Through crowdfunding, he raised more than $8,000 to support this project.
  • Professor George Taylor made a creative video with many of his former and current students titled “We Shall.”
  • The Black Students Union has worked to educate our entire community and improve the lives of Black students at Eastman. Among their activities, they:
    • Utilized social media to post information about Black composers during Black History Month and about Black female composers during Women’s History Month;
    • Hosted an open discussion on gun violence;
    • Organized a panel on intersectional feminism;
    • Organized a five-part benefit concert series, SOAR: Students Organized against Racism, that raised funds for Eastman Pathways, the ROCmusic Collaborative, Gateways Music Festival, Black Lives Matter, and the NAACP.
  • HESED, a student-led group, presented a virtual recital series on Instagram and Facebook pages to raise awareness of the growth of hate crimes against the Asian- American Pacific Islander community.

It is very likely that the initiatives listed above are not comprehensive, but they give a good idea of the energy that individuals and groups have been investing into creating a diverse and equitable community at Eastman.

As Dean, I am absolutely committed to fostering a community that is rich with cultural, social, and intellectual diversity–a community where we actively work to be anti-racist. Together we need to assure that every person is unquestionably welcome, safe, respected, and appreciated. As we move forward in the years ahead, I want to make certain that equity and inclusion are not simply the areas where we apply our creativity and artistry, but rather, these dimensions of social justice are woven deeply into the very fabric of who we are as artists and scholars, as citizens of Rochester and of the world.

Sincerely yours,

Jamal J. Rossi
Joan and Martin Messinger Dean
Eastman School of Music

Eastman School of Music | University of Rochester | 26 Gibbs Street | Rochester, NY 14604

Previous Messages

Action Commission for Racial Justice Members

Lee Koonce, ‘96E (MM), President & Artistic Director of Gateways Music Festival in association with Eastman School of Music; Senior Advisor to the Dean (co-chair)

Jean Pedersen, Associate Professor of History, Eastman; Associate Professor of History, AS&E (co-chair) 

Isrea Butler, ‘04E; ’06E (MM), Chair, Music Department, North Carolina Central University

Lourdes Cossich, ‘13E; ‘15E (MM), Westtown School

Christina Crispin, ‘04E (MM), Associate Director of Admissions

Anaar Desai-Stephens, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology

Brianna Garcon, Junior, Horn

Armand Hall, Executive & Artistic Director of ROCmusic Collaborative

Dalanie Harris, Senior, Double Bass

Clay Jenkins, Professor of Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media

Tim Long, ‘92E (MM), Associate Professor of Opera; Music Director, Eastman Opera Theatre

Brad Lubman, Associate Professor of Conducting & Ensembles; Director, Eastman Musica Nova

Trevor Nelson, Ph.D. student, Musicology

Dallas Oestara, Composition and Humanities Department Assistant, (commission support)

Rachel Roberts, ‘03E, Associate Professor of Music Leadership; Graduate Degree Program Director, Institute for Music Leadership

Herb Smith, ‘91E, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; Instructor, Eastman Community Music School

George Taylor, Professor of Viola

Travon Walker, Senior, Baritone

Thomas Warfield, Senior Lecturer, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Department for Performing Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology

André Washington, ‘10E, Associate, Global Finance Group, Sidley Austin LLP