The exterior of a School of Visual Arts building on 21st Street in Manhattan (photo by Beyond My Ken, via Wikipedia)

Two instructors in the film and animation department at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) were removed this semester, the New York Times reports, following students’ complaints of inappropriate behavior.

The employment of Roy Frumkes, an actor, writer, director, and longtime professor at the school, was terminated after student complaints led to an investigation that concluded he had violated the terms of SVA’s sexual misconduct policy. Frumkes is appealing the decision.

Roy Frumkes in a 2009 interview (screenshot via YouTube)

Roy Frumkes in a 2009 interview (screenshot via YouTube)

In a complaint cited by Times reporter Colin Moynihan, student Dominique Machain said that when Frumkes was her narrative writing professor in 2016 (she was a freshman at the time), he graphically described a sexual encounter at his apartment with another student to her. He then added that, if she wanted a recommendation, she should visit him at home. “I almost felt paralyzed,” Machain told the Times. She and another student, Sofia Zarul Azham, went to file complaints with the school’s Title IX office earlier this year after realizing they had had similar experiences with Frumkes.

“SVA responds to sexual misconduct complaints swiftly, investigates them thoroughly and resolves them in accordance with local, state and federal laws,” says a statement sent to Hyperallergic by an SVA spokesperson. “Complaints that are currently under internal investigation cannot be commented on per the privacy requirements provided by Title IX to the parties involved.”

At least one former student, Courtney Wilder, said she had complained about Frumkes’s behavior nearly 20 years ago, but that nothing ever came of it. “It really shook my confidence as a young woman,” she told the Times, “what people see as your value and who you can trust.”

The other instructor, actor and acting teacher Robert Haufrecht, was suspended in March after unspecified concerns were raised by students, and his contract will not be renewed. On student in Haufrecht’s acting class, Ashley Priessnitz, complained after he began showing her unwanted attention and calling on her to practice suggestive scenes in class.

“The College is firmly committed to the rights of all members of its community — students, faculty and staff — who must interact through mutual respect and trust to ensure that the campus remains a center of learning,” SVA’s statement continued. “Any student, faculty or staff member who violates College policy by subjecting another to discrimination or harassment of any kind (including sexual discrimination and harassment) will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, including immediate expulsion from the College or termination of employment.”

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

5 replies on “School of Visual Arts Removes Two Professors Accused of Improper Behavior”

  1. As a white dude, I am so glad to have left academia. I loved teaching and got great reviews, but f*ck me if I am going to have my life ruined by “accusations” alone. I almost quit teaching during the Columbia Mattress Girl thing, which I knew to be a fraud, but stayed on teaching at a couple other schools. I can afford to do other work now, so count me out. Not worth it. Bye bye.

    1. Art schools don’t make sense anymore, there are better ways to become an artist. Just read, look, discuss and work.

      1. I guess it depends on what you study. Haufrecht was teaching Sensory acting techniques which are decades old and doing things like pretending to take a shower are core curriculum exercises in “feeling nude” and so forth. For example, if you are acting out a real shower bath and never touch your genitals, it doesn’t at all appear to be a real shower, nor are you putting yourself in the place of someone taking a shower. This woman accuser could be a mere millennial conditioned to think anything that makes her uncomfortable is a real moral violation. Good luck becoming a professional actor if feeling vulnerable isn’t your thing. Try something else.

  2. What a sick world. These students and their families pay good money to send their daughters and sons to a school to be educated not sexually invaded. If true, then good riddance to these two.

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