Cleveland Institute of Music Students Submit Petition Calling for Resignation of Board Chair & President / CEO

By David Salazar

A number of students at the Cleveland Institute of Music have submitted a petition to the Board of Trustees calling for the “the resignation of Dr. Susan Rothmann as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and Paul Hogle as President and CEO.”

The petition is structured around three points. In the first section, the students allege that “President Hogle and Dr. Rothmann do not maintain transparency or honesty with the community.” They note that the organization did not inform the student body of the layoffs in July 2023 and they had to find out via a “combative web page, titled CIM Fact-Check.”

“Each department affected by this change faced significant setbacks in operations and efficiency, in addition to being overworked with further responsibilities that they were not trained in nor compensated for,” the petition reads, adding that Rache Rose, who was CIM’s Summer Programs Manager “was directly affected by this decision. At the time of her termination, the Cleveland International Piano Institute, for which she was responsible, was already underway. With the loss of a program coordinator, adequate supervision was temporarily absent, endangering nearly 40 minors between the ages of 10 and 17 years old.”

The students then relate a peaceful protest concerning the Orchestra program that led to the director Carlos Kalmar being put on a “leave of absence.” Students noted that the main communication platform was disabled by the institution for students, faculty, and staff.

There are also comments on the vagueness of the administration’s “Moonshot vision” which, per the petition, aims to “reduce the cost of tuition and size of the student body.”

Per an op-ed published by Hogle in 2022, “The strategic plan we approved in 2017 calls for us to raise the bar even higher while scaling down by almost 50 percent within the decade.” The students claim that the plan is “deceiving to donors and misleading to prospective students. Ultimately, the ‘moonshot vision’ fails to recognize the already prevalent excellence and success of current students and instead continues to be a justification for administrative decisions that hinder our ability to thrive and grow.”

They also state that Hogle’s claims that the relationship between the Cleveland Institute and The Cleveland Orchestra are close are unsubstantial.

In the second part of the petition, students state that “President Hogle and Dr. Rothmann have diminished the prestige and reputation of the institution,” noting that the institute’s organizational turmoil has made headlines in a number of outlets (including OperaWire). Moreover, members of the Cleveland Orchestra have reportedly expressed their “discontent” with leadership. They note that leadership has actively sought out relationships with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Finally, it notes that students are “seriously contemplating the difficult decision of whether or not to transfer out of CIM. Unfortunately, it has become a commonly held sentiment that students are no longer getting as high quality of an education as other high-level institutions, such as Juilliard, Curtis, and Rice.”

In the final section of the petition, students note that “President Hogle and Dr. Rothmann address the community in a manner that is threatening, oppressive, and patronizing.” The students make mention of Rothmann accusing faculty members of “acting maliciously” and in an open letter to the institution’s community, she targeted dissenters stating that a “public campaign designed to damage CIM is being waged by a small group of people who oppose the evolution of the institute. Reasons for this vary, but center on a desire to impose their agenda, one that serves their personal goals, onto the organization. We are disappointed in the actions of the few faculty senate members who comprise this small group.”

The students also reference a listening session on Sept. 26, 2023 where Hogle spent 90 minutes “ignoring questions and deferring blame to faculty, staff, and students, as opposed to genuinely trying to understand student perspectives.

“President Hogle’s lack of accountability and unwillingness to apologize demonstrate his disregard for student concerns, despite his famous claim that his ‘door is always open,'” the petition continues.

Finally, the students make mention of comments made by Michael Sachs, who after resigning from the institution took to social media to call out the administration.

“This incident was not the first baseless attack by members of CIM’s administration on my character, reputation, and integrity,” Sachs wrote. “Because I will not tolerate such further attacks, I made the decision to resign from all positions that I held with the Cleveland Institute of Music, effective immediately.” Sachs had been with the institute for 35 years.

Hogle previously held the position of executive vice president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra between 2010 and 2016. Per the Detroit Free Press, he is the first non-professional musician to lead the Cleveland Institute of Music. In that same article, Hogle is lauded for his work in helping the ensemble increase its annual fund-raising and budget balancing as well as for initiating new programs.

Nonetheless, his tenure at the helm of Cleveland Institute of Music has been nothing but chaotic, particularly over the last year as the organization was slow to react to accusations of sexual harassment against Carlos Kalmar. Hogle’s handling of the matter drew criticism with recognized journalist Anne Midgette refusing to accept an honorary doctorate from the institution, stating, “I am not convinced, based on my many conversations, that CIM has acted in the best interests of its students and faculty, and I am therefore uncomfortable appearing to support the leadership of the institution at this particular time. I believe that I was chosen for this recognition not least for my work in addressing #MeToo in the classical music world; and I am thus especially unwilling to have my name linked to a situation in which many women I spoke to feeling unheard…”

Rothmann has been the Chair of the Board of Trustees since 2020. She has been fully supportive of Hogle’s tenure and strategy, noting in the open letter that “he board remains united in its enthusiastic support for President Hogle and Provost Harrison and is also thankful to the vast majority of our faculty and staff who have exhibited incredible dedication in helping us achieve this critical new milestone.”

As of this writing, the petition has topped 200 signatures.

OperaWire reached out to the Cleveland Institute of Music administration for comment. We will update the story with any new information.