March 28, 2012
RTS professor accused of verbal abuse
A former National Theatre School student claims that she was abused and discriminated against by current Ryerson TheatreSchool professor Perry Schneiderman, who denies these allegations.
Online Eito Jeff Lgequist
Allegations of abuse, discrimi-nation and a toxic learning envi-ronment made by George BrownTheatre School Students couldspark an investigation into theRyerson Theatre School (RTS) andits faculty.Araxi Arslanian, 42, claims cur-rent Ryerson and George Brownfaculty violated her charter rights by forcing her to leave the Nation-al Theatre School (NTS), wherethey were employed, in 1991. Ar-slanian has bipolar disorder andsuers from depression.She claims former RTS chair,now instructor, Perry Schneider-man called her a “poorly social-ized psychopath with deep-seat-ed emotional problems” beforeasking her to leave the programsix weeks before the end of herrst year. Schneiderman allegedlystated that Arslanian was violentand a danger to her fellow stu-dents.Arslanian stayed for the remain-der of the semester where she saidshe was routinely subjected to in-timidation and emotional abusefrom faculty and classmates.“When everyone found out Iwas going to stay the result wasvery violent,” said Arslanian.She claims she was bullied andhumiliated for being overweightand a virgin.“Instructors would psychologi-cally brutalize students by de-manding that we discuss our mostemotionally fragile moments,”she said. “They would viciouslytaunt us so we would ‘emote.’”Schneiderman claims no suchabuses occurred and has sinceconsulted with aorneys as wellas Ryerson faculty aairs. Arsla-nian claims that instructors DianaReis and Sheldon Rosen, who both currently teach at Ryer-son’s Theatre School, alsoparticipated in acts of abuse atNTS.“This is shocking to say theleast,” said Schneiderman. “Ob-viously people get upset whenthey’re asked to leave the pro-gram, but this was 22 years ago.I’m mystied as to why this ishappening now.”He doesn’t recall Arslanian be-having violently, and denies call-ing her a psychopath. Schneider-man notes that students are onlyasked to leave most theatre pro-grams after the faculty reachesan unanimous decision. He alsodenies that instructors use painfulor traumatic experiences as moti-vation in the classroom.“I’m not into psycho drama. Iwork o of imagination. Whenwe do anything that’s going to becharged with emotion, it has tocome from imaginative sources,not from your dog dying yester-day,” said Schneiderman.An online document compiled by a group of George Brown stu-dents tells a dierent story. En-titled, “A Legacy of Trauma,” the12-page report includes anony-mous student grievances rangingfrom unfair grading policies tosexual abuse.“My friend at school came outcrying after an interview with aninstructor. He said that when hewalks by her he gets a whi oflile girl, and it makes him sick, because he hates them, but loveswomen,” said one student.“A rst-year student of my classwas physically abused by an act-ing teacher, in class, in front ofother classmates. I believe the toolused was a long wooden pole,used to prod the student into cre-ative thinking,” said another.RTS students are reluctant tocondemn their instructors.“I’ve never heard of anyonemaking these kinds of allega-tions,” said Kamini Murthy-Kortewig, a second-year produc-tion student.She said the theatre school isso small and tightly knit that anytype of discrimination or abusewould be dicult to hide.“The theatre school is a close,intimate community, but it is alsoa very competitive faculty. It is areality of being in a competitivetheatre program at the universitylevel,” said second-year produc-tion student Kate Glen.Arslanian said the social dy-namics of theatre schools make itimpossible for some people to tin.“The ones who are doing wellor who are chosen to do well standaside and do nothing. They learnto minimize abuse. Other peoplelearn to accept it,” said Arslanian.She says John Isbister, vice-pro-vost faculty aairs and RyersonPresident Sheldon Levy commit-ted to look into the George Brownallegations and investigate poten-tial abuses inside RTS.Levy met with Arslanian andIsbister on Monday but declinedto comment.Arslanian is in her fourth yearat Ryerson’s School of SocialWork, and has recently appearedin episodes of Degrassi: The NextGeneration and Lile Mosque onthe Prairie.
Students deny misconduct
BY Emma PrEstwich
Two engineering students areangry after they were given a no-tice of non-academic misconductthey say is groundless.Komail Kanjee and Akul Goelwere accused of non-academicmisconduct by sta in the engi-neering support oce Feb. 3 af-ter sta discovered one student’sengineering department networkaccount contained password infor-mation from the other’s account.But both students said they didnothing wrong and weren’t toldspecically how their actions vio-late school policy.“No policy says that I’m notsupposed to have someone’s pass-word, it just says that I’m not sup-posed to use it, and I never usedit,” said Kanjee.Kanjee claims the actions of twosta members in the oce con-stituted harassment, as well as aviolation of school policies, theCanada Human Rights Code, andthe Freedom of Information andProtection of Privacy Act. Jason Naughton, lead engineerin the engineering support oce,said he suspended both Goel andKanjee’s departmental network ac-counts on Feb. 2 when he lookedthrough computer logs and be-came suspicious that the two kneweach other’s passwords.The students’ accounts werelocked for the full day, denyingthem access to their lab resourcesuntil Naughton confronted Kanjeewhen the student came into his of-ce the next day.“I asked the student whether heknew another student’s password.At that time, witnessed by twoother support sta, the student in-dicated that he knewhis friends password... I explained to himthat the act of know-ing another student’snetwork password isagainst departmentalpolicy and the university’spolicy,” he said in an email.Kanjee said he and Goel wereworking on an assignment andGoel was logged into the networkon his computer. Kanjee used thesecure shell feature (SSH), whichis similar to a computer commandwindow, to log into his own ac-count through Goel’s.Brian Lesser, head of computingand communications services, saidthe feature lets students send thecomputer commands, such as tolog into another account.“In theory, you can issue a com-mand to be the other user,” he said.Goel saidhe doesn’t know how using theSSH feature violates departmentalpolicy.Naughton said he told Kanjeehis actions violated Policy 61 of thestudent code of non-academic con-duct, which states that a violationof departmental policy is also a vi-olation of the non-academic code.He said he didn’t charge the two, just made note of what happened.While the notice won’t meanpunishment for the students, Kan- jee said he has asked theombudsperson to conducta fairness review of Naugh-ton and another sta mem- ber, Daniel Giannitelli’s ac-tions.Goel said he and Kanjee alsowere forced to read a log of theiractions and sign a document ac-knowledging the violation.“They gave us a notice of non-academic misconduct, which is notright, because they are not tellingus what we have violated, and sec-ondly, they’re just asking us to signit, there’s no appeals,” said Goel.Kanjee said he has spoken withstudent conduct ocer Mickey Ci-rak, who said he will request theelectrical engineering departmentto issue a new notice acknowledg-ing that the sta made a mistake.
Engineering student KomailKanjee
They would viciously taunt us so we would‘emote.’
— Araxi ArslanianFormer NTS student
Schneiderman denies allegations of violating Araxi Arslanian’s charter rights.
PHOTO: MOHaMEd OMar
PHOTO: MarISSa dEdErEr