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(PC: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Cleveland Institute of Music Students Protest Title IX Investigation Result

Students are protesting Carlos Kalmar being cleared of accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination after a Title IX investigation


In May 2023, the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) initiated a Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 inquiry into its principal conductor Carlos Kalmar following allegations of his “inappropriate behavior.”

Title IX is a federal civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal funding. 

CIM students were asked to come forward willingly if they had witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by Kalmar, who has served as the institute’s principal conductor and director of orchestral studies since 2021. 

Additionally, around 30 students, faculty, and staff were interviewed as part of the investigation that was led by former U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon.

Initially coordinated at CIM by Vivian Scott, the investigation was later taken up by acting Title IX Coordinator Dean Southern, who also serves as CIM’s dean and vice president of academic and student affairs.

While acknowledging the seriousness of students’ complaints, Southern explained in a letter released by CIM in August 2023, that “the specific allegations against Carlos Kalmar did not violate the Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Sex Non-Discrimination Policy Under Title IX.

“The conduct was not on the basis of sex, nor was it so severe or pervasive as to create an objectively offensive environment such that it denies anyone equal access to educational opportunities at CIM based on gender,” Southern continued. “Therefore, the Institute was obligated to dismiss the Formal Complaint of Sexual Harassment in this matter.”

As a result, Kalmar was cleared of the allegations against him; decisions to appeal the outcome were allowed five business days. 


Now, CIM’s student government has stated that students have lost trust in Kalmar, and has planned a sit-in protest for an orchestra rehearsal, during which students will sit silently, without their instruments, while supporters will be seated in the audience.

According to Ideastream, the student government has also circulated an open letter to administrators, asking for signatures from anyone who agrees with one or more of the following statements:

  • I want CIM to foster an environment that supports all of its students.
  • I do not feel comfortable working with Mr. Kalmar.
  • I stand in solidarity with those who came forward during the Title IX investigation.
  • Though the investigation concluded, I have some doubts regarding Mr. Kalmar’s innocence.
  • I find it hard to move forward knowing what happened.
  • I am disappointed with upper administration’s disregard for the concerns of the CIM community.
  • I want Mr. Kalmar to step down as the music director of CIM.


Kalmar has denied the allegations against him. As reported by Cleveland.com, his attorney, James Wooley, stated that Kalmar “has never been accused of wrongdoing in his impeccable 40-plus-year career,” and that “Title IX matters are confidential under federal law…He has done nothing wrong. We have nothing more to say about the matter.”

Uruguayan-born and trained in Vienna, Kalmar was the music director of the Oregon Symphony for 18 years. 

Since 2000, he has served as principal conductor for Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, whose CEO and president Paul Winberg told the Chicago Tribune in August that Kalmar being cleared “further [reinforced decisions] this spring to move forward with Carlos Kalmar [as] Artistic Director and Principal Conductor through the 2024 season.”


On April 27, 2023, Scott sent an email to students stating that “It was with great horror that I read one of Carlos Kalmar’s course evaluations. This is not the first time that I have heard his name — detailing inappropriate behavior of varying degrees. If you have experienced (or observed) behavior on Mr. Kalmar’s behalf that can be considered sexual harassment, please contact me if you are willing to provide details.”

According to Friedman Menashe Nemecek & Long LLC in the Case Western Reserve Observer, “Scott’s statements are concerning, as she has already given credibility to the Complaint at issue, alleging that this is not the first allegation of inappropriate conduct.” 

After the investigation was announced in April, Scott departed CIM for undisclosed reasons. In July, CIM reduced its administrative staff by 15%. 

“We are not going to go into detail about any personnel issues, but as with any situation like this one, CIM will conduct a thorough and fair investigation,” stated CIM spokesperson Kathleen Drohan in May. “We have retained an outside, independent party to conduct this investigation. To protect the process and privacy of all involved, we do not plan to comment any further.”

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