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Boston College cancels event with CFA professor accused of sexual harassment

 

A Boston College concert scheduled for Monday night was canceled, allegedly due to the allegations of sexual harassment against Eric Ruske, a Boston University professor who was slated to perform.

Sponsored by the Boston College Music Department, the performance was titled “Trio: Three Performers, Three Works” and was set to include Irina Muresanu on the violin, Roberto Plano playing the piano and Ruske on the horn.

In a statement provided to The Heights, BC’s student newspaper, the school’s music department wrote that this was a wise choice for the BC community.

“The concert originally scheduled for January 29 has been canceled so that we can reconsider the program and its lineup,” the Music Department wrote. “We feel that this decision is in the best interest of the BC community.”

Ruske, a College of Fine Arts professor, was accused of sexually harassing two of his former students, Erin Shyr and Maria Currie, in an April 2016 lawsuit. The complaint also accuses BU of failing to protect the students under federal Title IX guidelines, parameters which dictate how universities must respond to allegations of sexual assault.

Both Ruske and BU spokesperson Colin Riley declined to comment.

The operator of the email address “[email protected],” who requested anonymity, sent an email to Boston College on Jan. 18 outlining the allegations against Ruske and urging the university to “disengage from continued association” with him.

The account operator credited their email as the deciding factor that led BC to cancel the event. In a phone interview with The Daily Free Press, they said they decided to send the email “to build awareness that this guy …  shouldn’t be celebrated, he should be out of education.”

They said that they agreed with BC’s cancellation, and think Boston University should not continue to protect Ruske.

“We are in a cultural shift right now, a necessary cultural shift and he is part of the problem,” they said. “And the university’s defense of him institutionally is part of the problem. Boston University has a reckoning in that regard. Institutions are liable for protecting people like him.”

Shyr, a CFA alum, wrote in a Facebook message she was pleased with BC’s decision to cancel Ruske’s scheduled performance.

“BC’s choice to cancel the event was absolutely correct and stands in stark contrast to BU’s stance on Eric Ruske and the sexual harassment Maria and I experienced,” she wrote. “The action BC took shows how serious the institution is about listening and believing victims.”

Shyr wrote BU handed the former students’ accusations poorly, and that the university should take victims seriously and work with them to make positive institutional and environmental changes concerning sexual harassment and misconduct.

Emily Thunberg, a sophomore in the College of Engineering at Boston University, said she thought BC made the correct ethical judgement.

“I think they made the right decision by cancelling it,” Thunberg said. “It shows that he didn’t act responsibly in the field that he’s being paid to perform in. It’s bad publicity and it’s also morally bad.”

Currie, who left BU to attend the New England Conservatory, wrote in a Facebook message that she agrees with Boston College’s statement, and that cancelling Ruske’s performance was “in the best interest of the BC Community.”

“Ruske has a history of inappropriate conduct with students, and I question BC’s judgement in initially inviting him to perform,” Currie wrote.

Currie wrote that she is appalled BU is allowing Ruske to continue instructing students.

“BC’s action contrasts with BU’s enthusiastic support of Ruske,” Currie wrote. “Despite what BU knows about his conduct, BU still allows Ruske to teach and have many one-on-one interactions with students through his roles as a private lesson instructor and student advisor.”

The concert’s cancellation comes in the wake of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, measures which aim to end the culture of sexual abuse and harassment of women after revelations of inappropriate behavior by powerful men roiled a variety of industries across the country over the past several months.

Eugene Kim, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences at BU, said that while it’s important BC scratched the performance, it’s a bigger issue that Boston University continues to employ Ruske.

“It’s really important that BC cancels that performance, but I think the bigger problem is that BU hasn’t done anything,” Kim said. “It’s interesting that BU still condones someone like that working and representing our academia. That’s the bigger issue that should be dealt with.”

Kim said he hopes BC withdrew the performance because of moral motives, not potential publicity problems.

“Hopefully the idea is that that kind of behavior is not okay in general and not just that they don’t want BC’s name to be associated with that, but that this all around shouldn’t be happening,” Kim said.

Katherine Bart, a freshman in BU’s College of General Studies, said she thinks Ruske’s artistic ability is unrelated to allegations of improper behavior, but that BC made the right decision to cancel the performance.

“I understand why they did that,” Bart said. “I think it’s kind of a hard line because his ability to perform doesn’t really cross over with what he did but I think right now that’s the appropriate response.”

Bart said that by cancelling the performance, BC is sending the message that “they don’t approve and that they will stand up against it, which is a good message to send.”

 

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