Toxic Workplace Allegations Lead to Resignation of Cantor Arts Center Director

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Susan Dackerman, the director at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, has resigned.  (Photo: Rebecca Zamora)

The director of Stanford’s Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University—better known as the Cantor Arts Center—has resigned following reports revealing a toxic work culture at the renowned university museum.

Susan Dackerman’s resignation, effective immediately, comes at the end of an inquiry into the Renaissance art scholar’s conduct during her roughly three-year tenure as director of the Cantor.

The deputy director also left the museum.

The external investigation revealed reports of staff being overworked and underappreciated.

According to a Stanford Daily article published in August, more than 30 staffers left under Dackerman’s leadership, many of them people of color.


At the same time, the world-class art institution continued to display an impressive public front, as with its 2019 acquisition of a major photography collection including works by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Gordon Parks and Helen Levitt, among others.

“But behind that facade hides what many Cantor employees have called a toxic work culture, demoralizing museum leadership and a University administration that seems loath to substantively address repeated concerns,” wrote Elena Shao in the Stanford Daily. “All circumstances that have been pushing employees out at an alarming rate.”

In a letter to community members Thursday, Stanford’s interim senior associate vice president for the arts, Matthew Tiews, said the university is currently putting together a transition team.

"In this interim period, the university will be addressing internal concerns and structural considerations so that the museum is best positioned for success going forward," Tiews said. “Stanford remains deeply committed to the success of the Cantor and of the arts at Stanford.”