The University of North Carolina School of the Arts faces a lawsuit by several former students — most of whom attended in the 80s — over charges of sexual abuse. They accuse faculty and administrative staff of failing to address abuse that took place over a period of two decades.
For currently enrolled students, reaction to the news varied. Viola major Ella Paschal says upon hearing the allegations, she was filled with disbelief.
"I thought it was really crazy — just the whole lawsuit and everything — I thought it was just a crazy investigation, and I didn't expect to hear all of this stuff here," she says. "Knowing what happened to people and them having to go through it is really sad. And I hope they get the justice they deserve."
Undergraduate organ student Josh Sobel says that while he was taken aback that Larry Alan Smith, former dean of UNCSA School of Music, was among those named in the new lawsuit, the rest is nothing new.
"I can't say that I'm entirely surprised especially given the time period," he says. "This has been a fairly widespread issue among a whole bunch of arts conservatories, not just this one."
Violinist Ruth Kelley is in her second year of UNCSA's undergraduate program. She says it was shocking to read the Winston-Salem Journal article about the allegations and lack of response from administrators, but she hopes it can lead to something positive.
"It's a necessary discussion that still needs to be had," says Kelley. "We build such emotionally intricate relationships with our teachers just because a lot goes into being an artist and it's more than just removed training. It's a full-body experience, so, I think it's important to be having conversations about how to maintain one's health — while studying art, while practicing art — and making sure that relationships are mentally and physically healthy between peers and between faculty members."
The plaintiffs' case is being led by Gloria Allred, who represented several victims of R. Kelly, the R&B singer recently convicted on sex trafficking charges.