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Cantor Arts Center head is asked to leave

Original post made on Nov 18, 2020

Following an external investigation into workplace problems at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, Susan Dackerman, the director of the museum since September 2017, is stepping down, a Nov. 18 email from Stanford University stated.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 8:33 PM

Comments (13)

24 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:17 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Wow, just wow. I have no idea what happened, but the language above is a lot of obfuscation, a lot of blather!


23 people like this
Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:14 am

TorreyaMan is a registered user.

I am a Stanford grad and have been a Cantor supporter for quite a few years. I am ashamed of this university, which appears to have let this situation stew for three years. Such a huge staff turnover for such a relatively small institution (the Cantor) should have resulted in action much sooner than now.


8 people like this
Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:41 am

JB is a registered user.

Wow! I had no idea that this was going on. We love to visit this small gem of a museum. I just read the Stanford Daily article provided as a link in the article above, and it was very well written and informative. I really hope that Stanford does a better job in the future of hiring people at this museum who show more respect to their employees. Good luck!


22 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:52 pm

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

When one quarter of the staff and two members of the leadership team leave, you know the exodus comes as a result of the person at the top. Too bad Stanford waited this long.


2 people like this
Posted by lets-do-the-numbers
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:33 pm

lets-do-the-numbers is a registered user.

Cantor is a true gem. I hope it remains that way. Quick comments here: it's easy to ascribe high turnover to bad / toxic management. It's also easy to twist that number into a negative story. In truth, we scarcely know the individual stories behind departures. With unemployment stats clocking in at their lowest rates in 50 years just before the pandemic, it's entirely plausible people left simply because they got better salaries elsewhere. Surely it is important not to discount reports of a toxic workplace, but those kind of reports have to be measured against the context in which they are made.


12 people like this
Posted by Dog
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:43 pm

Dog is a registered user.

Who protected her and allowed this toxicity to last for much too long? I am afraid more are responsible and should be shown the door as well.


5 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 20, 2020 at 10:58 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

This is typical of most organizations. First employee leaves and it's either sour grapes or they found a better job.

Second employee leaves and some questions may be asked but manager tells upper management all is good so, because they've got better things to do than get involved in HR issues, they forget it.

Third employee leaves and now real questions start getting asked. Meanwhile, the organization has lost multiple good people that they really, in hindsight, couldn't afford to lose.


11 people like this
Posted by Glad to be out of that hellhole
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 21, 2020 at 2:35 am

Glad to be out of that hellhole is a registered user.

It’s hard not to be baited by comments like the one suggesting that the entire premise of the article and the first hand accounts cited are not real.

As a former employee of the Cantor, I can attest that it has been toxic for many years.

Even prior to Susan Dackerman and James Gaddy, a mass exodus occurred as a result of the toxic management of prior director Connie Wolf, who once literally yelled at a donor in the museum lobby (among countless other sins).

The real story here is not that things were actually that toxic. They were.

It’s why upper management at Stanford and countless other institutions are so resistant to believing and acting on employee feedback that could not only prevent things from escalating to this level, but actually improve organizations.


28 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2020 at 7:13 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Even prior to Susan Dackerman and James Gaddy, a mass exodus occurred as a result of the toxic management of prior director Connie Wolf, who once literally yelled at a donor in the museum lobby (among countless other sins).

^ Since departmental 'toxity' has been a recurrent factor, don't those who do the hiring of directors bear some responsibility for certain oversights?


Like this comment
Posted by dontliveinCA
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2020 at 2:33 pm

dontliveinCA is a registered user.

Well, I hope this gets resolved. I live on the east coast, but when I visit CA (have kids there) I always look forward to a visit to the Cantor and also the Anderson Collection....a few years ago I had a great guided tour of the Anderson.....there were only like 5 of us on the tour (must have been a holiday week or something).....so there was ample opportunity for dialogue between the guide and visitors.....very fond memories of that experience


2 people like this
Posted by Cat
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2020 at 12:22 am

Cat is a registered user.

According to the linked article in the Stanford Daily, the director of communications was also named as a a primary contributor to the toxic environment at Cantor. I hope she doesn’t escape accountability for her role as it sounds like she was an active participant. If true she should also exit so Cantor can truly have a clean start.


1 person likes this
Posted by Beyond It
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 29, 2020 at 9:49 am

Beyond It is a registered user.

Eight years, and two sets of leaders dismissed before their contracts were up? Stanford was well aware of these situations and allowed it to continue. I’m one of those staff, was with Stanford and the Cantor for decades, knew every one of the brave staff who stepped forward. Cantor staff love their work and the museum, they care. That’s why I and many others endured it for so long. In 2020, with a year to contemplate why this happened, I can only conclude Stanford wanted to eliminate long term employees with expensive benefits and hire younger staff and many term employees. They used leadership and HR to do this. This article is basically a press release written by Stanford with the story they want the public to hear.


2 people like this
Posted by Glad to be out of that hellhole
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 29, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Glad to be out of that hellhole is a registered user.

Commenting on "This article is basically a press release written by Stanford with the story they want the public to hear."

I want to say thank you to Palo Alto Online for creating an opportunity for public discourse on this topic.

Toxic management may not always reach the extremes it did at the Cantor, but even in its commonplace forms it damages employee productivity, creativity, and health. And that creates negative societal and economic impacts that go far beyond the individual.

I hope this kind of coverage is a sign that attitudes are changing about the acceptability of bad behavior by management, and that more is yet to come!


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