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MFA Students In The Traditional Art School The New York Academy of Art; Face Traditional Sexism, Bullying and Racism

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To whom it may concern,

This is a public letter and petition requesting an objective third party investigation into New York Academy of Art (NYAA) regarding how they've handled my complaints of racism, racial profiling, sexual harassment and bullying within the institution. My official complaints were handled in-house, and the lack of any action taken raises questions. I have been provided with many complaints from students who also had problems with professor Wade Schuman. No institution in their right mind would rat themselves out, hence their spin on what actually occurred the institute has attempted to cover up everything and anything they possibly can recalling my case. This is why a third party investigation would be absolutely necessary and crucial to finding out the true facts on what happened with me, many other students, faculty, and staffed models. Many students are ashamed of what occurred and are not sharing their bullying and sexual harassment stories. 

Mr. Schuman is the head chair of the masters program at NYAA; therefore whenever there is a serious issue with his highly offensive, sexist and racist behavior, students are scared to report him. Mostly due to the fact they are afraid that "he will ruin their futures as artist".  Their reluctance is not without reason, but that is why something at the NYAA has to change. The Academy fosters a culture in which people are afraid of retribution if they speak up about potential wrongs committed. This culture needs to be exposed, but it's not going to happen from within. They need to be investigated by an outside entity.

Mr. Schuman creates a weird/creepy dynamic in which impressing him and remaining one of his favorites becomes a priority. Those who are willing to submit to his inappropriate comments and subtle character assassinations become his "pets", while those who are strong enough to resist become pariahs. I remember him making assumptions about my character based simply on where I came from, what type of art I liked, and what he thought my work was about. Once he formed an opinion about someone, it was carved in stone. Once formulated, his opinion was immovable.

Just a few of Mr.Schumans comments towards me:

Wade: “I don't know are you going to mug me” First convo had in Peter Drakes office.

In which I responded: “do I look like I would mug you? And even if I did…?” and then he laughed and asked me where I was from in NY. Ever since this moment I never had a critique with him. Even though I was told by alumni and even current students that I had to be “Close with Wade to get scholarships and residences at the school”

Wade: “Are you going to behave?!” in his usual condescending tone first thing he asked me the day I walked into his Painting 3 class.

As we sat in class quietly while everyone sat in a circle to brainstorm what would be our long modeling pose for painting. Wade decided to single me out and ask me: "Maybe we should bring in some Santeria people to do a chicken sacrifice for the long pose for painting?"

Wade would taunt all day in class. He once even disrespectfully forcefully snatched my phone out of my hands and put it in the back room saying that I cannot touch my own phone until the end of class Wade: “No phones or texting in class you can look in the student hand book that says so” It is curious how the student hand book only works to his favor. I know that the art world is filled with critics and I am open to constructive criticism. I am not open to being personally and professionally attacked by any critic in a derogatory fashion mostly due to their lack of respect for other cultures or sexes. He continued to say many other marginalizing comments about Santeria and the work I was creating that was ethnographic and autobiographical of what I saw as a child growing up in New York City and Dominican Republic.

After saying that, “Maybe I want a chicken sacrifice to paint for the long pose” suddenly in that same class, there was a stuffed chicken prop in our long pose to be painted. He then instructed and told me in front of the class Wade: "You better paint the chicken for the long pose in painting because you are “CHICKEN ENTHUSED!” What does that even mean I questioned him? He laughed.

In another instance during an art critique in my artist studio he suddenly told me Wade: “All I am saying is DO NOT do a chicken sacrifice as a performance piece in your studio.” I’m assuming because of all of my work focusing on what is my actual cultural background, which he had no reason to respect apparently.

Mr. Schuman stated in the elevator of the NYAA Wade: “You’re late to class because it must be a Spanish thing?” and I was so taken back by that statement I said "excuse me?!" And he repeated Wade: “No wait, you must be late to class because it must be a high thing?!” His words not only offend my ethnicity but also mock my artwork-he assumed I was high because of my NYC Snocial Project work that I came into the school with because we never had any sort of friendly conversations. I responded sternly that “No I was not late to class because of it being a 'Spanish or high thing'— I was late to class because I was up all night painting like a real artist and like a crazy person" (being that this is how he treated me). Wade: “The latter part of that statement is correct!” So I am apparently not only late because I'm high and Spanish but also he confirmed that he agreed that he thought I was "crazy". I responded “excuse me, what did you say?!” and he repeated even more sternly Wade: “The latter part of that statement is correct!” He was predator he picked on those he knew would not stand up for themselves, he picked on the girls that were the most introverted. 

I finally painted the fake chicken in class only to be asked Wade: "What is this a chicken sacrifice?!!!!" To me this taunting/mocking did not create a supportive creative environment. Judging a life he never lived instead of trying to understand another point of view. It is amazing how white supremacy narratives people with narrow-minded assertions. HOW CAN ANYONE IN THE RIGHT MIND THINK THAT ANY OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED IS AN ACCEPTABLE WAY TO CONDUCT IN AN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION?!

After a friend was disrespected and taunted by Mr. Schuman, I begged my friend whom wrote the letters to complain and write him up at H.R. She didn't do so because she was afraid that it would affect her scholarship and her chances in receiving the third year fellowship studio. When she finally had the courage to speak up--she reported to the administrative office they asked her not to report him to H.R. in writing. They then continued to tell me that they could not fire Mr. Schuman based off of only one case of racism and bullying. Apparently racism is not enough and neither is sexual harassment.

Instead, of taking proper action they claim to have put it in his teaching record. Yet, this does nothing to protect other students from misogynistic and racist comments happening in what is supposed to be a learning environment. An environment where artist are supposed to be encouraged to explore, grow and learn the necessary skills to create their work. This kind of inequality is horrible and should be fought until it's gone, but I cannot carry the entire weight of it alone and this is why I wrote this petition in hopes that public that is too scared to speak can have an opportunity to tell their stories and eventually investigate the NYAA. 

At times I experienced and witnessed a physical form of bullying as well. He would get inappropriately close and put his arm around you and look down at you with a sneering grin with an eyebrow raised in condescension. He would use his physical presence to intimidate, to make you feel like a child who had done wrong. He would often raise his loud, bellowing voice at you, making sure that everyone around you knew that you were being chided, to establish his dominance. He would, in my opinion, use physical intimidation with the female students. An arm around the shoulder, a nefarious looking smile, a wink, and a nudge. It was all very subtle but intimidating and inappropriate nonetheless. His comments toward the female students were often sexist. He loved using stereotypes, especially gender specific stereotypes in his interactions with students and in critiques. I am also aware of various female staff members/models who he treated very poorly, in a sexist manner.

Last week Thursday was my performance protest for 'Take Home a Nude' called #takehomeachicken #chickenenthused. I did it to create awareness of institutionalized racism and sexual harassment. It makes me sad that the only take away from media is on the questioning about an actual chicken being killed (chickens get killed everyday!) or my mental state. This is both predictable and expected and also a part of the bigger problem here! I am a Latina female of modest means who needs help in protecting my civil rights and other students that have faced racism, sexual harassment, and bullying. I need your help and support in getting my word out. Thank you for your time! I am standing up now and in support of this cause and all the other students who have been negatively affected by Wade Schuman. He should not be allowed to continue to negatively impact the lives of students.  Sign this petition in hopes of bringing awareness to racism, sexual harassment and bullying at NYAA. Please sign this petition to have a third party investigate how they handled my case and many other students. Students please share your stories below in support or email me privately if you are too ashamed to speak publicly.

Jehdy Ann Vargas

Here is the art book I created documenting my experience at the New York Academy of Art:

#firewadeschuman #takehomeachicken #chickenenthused #nudetakeover #chickentakeover #racismiscoolsaidnooneverrrrrr #stopthesilence #nothingisresolvedbysilence 

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