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The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.
The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.

Susan Dackerman to Step Down as Director of Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center

Susan Dackerman, director of Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center, is leaving her post under pressure, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Dackerman’s departure comes on the heels of an independent investigation, launched at her request, into her administration, following allegations that at a toxic workplace thrived under her leadership.

“Stanford has completed a careful analysis of the situation of Cantor Arts Center, including an external investigation of specific issues. Stanford and Cantor director Susan Dackerman have mutually agreed that Dackerman will be leaving the museum. Dackerman will be available to assist with the transition,” said the institution in a statement.

Dackerman came to Cantor as director in 2017, following the abrupt departure of Stanford alumna Connie Wolf, who in turn succeeded Tom Seligman, who oversaw the museum for more than two decades. During her tenure, Dackerman focused on her mandate of attracting funding from Silicon Valley. Notably, she beat out 20 other universities to secure a major photography gift from the Capital Group Foundation accompanied by a $2 million endowment.  Additionally, she turned the museum’s courtyard into a sculpture garden and purchased the Deborah Kass work OY/YO, a large bright-yellow (and highly Instagrammable) sculpture comprising the two titular letters that greeted visitors outside the museum.

Accusations of fostering a toxic workplace dogged Dackerman for much of her tenure; turnover under her leadership was high, and employees complained that they were forced to work long hours and felt unappreciated. This past June, Cantor’s director of academic and public programs, Peter Tokofsky, resigned after less than a year in his post after Dackerman told him his contract would not be renewed, even though he was able to show a 35 percent increase in Stanford class visits during his tenure. Tokofsky additionally noted that in the months he was at Cantor, roughly a quarter of staff had departed owing to conflicts with Dackerman. The investigation into Dackerman’s administration was launched just prior to the appearance of an August 17 article in the Stanford Daily which revealed that thirty staffers, a quarter of whom were BIPOC, had quit during Ackerman’s tenure.

The Cantor Arts Center, which is closed until February 5, 2021, owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, has said that interim codirectors will be named shortly.