Randolph resigns from performing arts college
Students told that complaint and investigation into conduct led to founder stepping down
George Randolph, a fixture of Toronto’s theatre community and founder of the Randolph College for the Performing Arts, formally resigned as president of the school last month amid an investigation into his conduct, the school announced Monday.
Randolph announced his plans to step down as president at a college gala on Oct. 23, explaining he wanted to focus on other interests. His departure was slated for spring of 2018.
Nine days after his announcement, a formal complaint about his conduct was brought to the college’s board of directors, leading to his earlier departure from the school.
“For my part, I accepted responsibility and apologized formally for my failure to meet the standards that are in place to ensure a safe and productive learning environment,” Randolph said in an email.
The board hired an independent investigator to review the complaint.
“What we can share with you is that the investigation concluded that there was evidence of unwelcomed comments and physical gestures towards certain staff and adult students by the former President,” the statement said.
The investigation was sparked by a letter of complaint from a “non-student,” said Stephen Greig, one of the college’s four board members, in an interview with the Star on Sunday.
It’s unclear whether the “non-student” was an alumni, volunteer or staff member, and the exact nature of the allegations “are held in confidence to protect the interest of the complainant as per this person’s request,” the school said in a statement.
The findings were submitted to the board on Dec. 11 by an independent investigator from a human resources consulting agency hired to review the complaint into Randolph, who is heralded in the theatre community as a “pioneer” in performing arts.
Randolph founded the college in 1992. It was popular for bringing his innovative “triple threat” curriculum for training actor-singer-dancers to the city.
The private college, formerly known as the Randolph Academy until its official name change last October, is housed in the old Bathurst Street United Church, near Bathurst and Bloor Sts. It is home to an elite performing arts program that enrols about 135 post-secondary students per year, with 35 instructors on faculty. The college also hosts classes for youth ages 3 to 17 through Randolph Kids, with an average enrolment of 550 and 19 faculty members.
Four former students of the postsecondary program, who spoke to the Star on condition of anonymity because of ongoing relationships with the school, said Randolph had a reputation of making inappropriate remarks and hand gestures like hugs and shoulder touches. “It just made people really uncomfortable,” according to a student.
One of the students said she witnessed Randolph making an inappropriate comment about another’s breasts in front of her.
“I’ve never heard any complaints as far as actual assault or anything like that,” said another student, who said they were among a group of students who voiced concerns about Randolph’s behaviour to at least one faculty member. “To George’s credit, he’s done a lot of really great things for the theatre community and he’s a very charitable person, and there’s a lot that is right about him. But this particular thing is really a blotch on the record and I know that it made a lot of people uncomfortable.”
All four students lauded the school and said they had positive education experiences and felt supported by their teachers.
The board announced the appointment of Lauren Brett Randolph to the new position of executive director on Dec. 8, the day it received Randolph’s resignation letter. She and Randolph were married but are now separated.
In an interview with the Star, Lauren Brett Randolph and board member Greig said no formal complaints were filed by any students, and that they were not aware of concerns brought forth by faculty members who were approached by students.
Lauren and Greig outlined immediate steps that were taken by the school to address the complaint even though Randolph had announced his intention to step down by the time it was received.
“In terms of the integrity of what we hold here, and what we stand for as an organization, I think it was important . . . (regardless) that he had stepped down, we still needed to take the complaint seriously,” Lauren said.
She added that the school has had sexual harassment guidelines going back at least a decade, which were revised in 2016.
“All the policies are going to be reviewed, and again, we hope to clean up any grey areas,” she said.
In 2011, Randolph co-founded Show Choir Canada, the country’s only national show choir competition, with Peter DaCosta, who also sits on the college’s board of directors.
DaCosta said Randolph retired from Show Choir Canada in the fall of 2017. The company announced his retirement at the end of December.
“To date, we have never received any concerns regarding George’s involvement with Show Choir Canada,” DaCosta, who heads Costa Talent Management, said in an email.
Randolph was honoured with the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award in 2016 for his dedication to the arts in Canada. He attracted world-class talent through his Randolph Dance Theatre from 1985 to 1992, and travelled to China twice as the only cultural representative with Premier Kathleen Wynne’s first international economic and trade development mission to develop arts education curriculums in Shanghai.
“Twenty-five years of my professional life has been dedicated to creating performing art studies. I’ll continue to consult with national and international communities on facilities and programming for art education,” Randolph wrote in an email.