Dan Welcher Leaves Butler School Over Sexual Misconduct Charges

Article cites multiple instances of inappropriate behavior

In the wake of an online article detailing repeated instances of inappropriate sexual comments and physical contact, longtime composition professor Dan Welcher is leaving the University of Texas' Butler School of Music.

On Thursday, Sept. 26, VAN, an online magazine devoted to classical music, posted a feature titled "Music's Perpetually Open Secret" in which writer Sammy Sussman reports the experiences of several former students with Welcher, a major figure in the local classical scene and recipient of honors ranging from induction in the Austin Arts Hall of Fame to an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Music. The allegations involve Welcher making jokes and comments of a sexually explicit nature, inquiring about intimate personal relationships, and initiating unwanted physical contact. Most of these reports come from students who attended the Butler School in the past decade, but Sussman also cites a 2002 story in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which two students – one named, one anonymous – relate similar instances of inappropriate behavior on Welcher's part. That story resulted in an investigation by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, but while it corroborated some of the allegations by a former student, ultimately it "did not establish that sexual harassment occurred."

Within hours of the posting of the VAN feature, emails were sent by Yevgeniy Sharlat, associate professor of the composition, to his students, and Butler School Director Mary Ellen Poole to all of the school's students, as well as faculty and staff, alerting them to the article and assuring the recipients that "sexual misconduct will not be tolerated at the Butler School of Music." (Poole) Sunday night, Welcher sent an email to Poole, the Butler School faculty, and College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster stating that he was "profoundly sorry to have brought shame and embarrassment on the Butler School" and acknowledging the "discomfort I have apparently caused some students," adding that there was nothing he could say to undo that "except 'I'm sorry.'" He is in the final year of a phased retirement and isn't teaching this fall, but was scheduled to teach and conduct in the spring. (Welcher is founder and director of the New Music Ensemble.) He offered, however, to "step aside" from those planned duties and "stay off campus for the remainder of the academic year," after which he will be fully retired.

In a story filed Monday night, The Daily Texan reported that Poole had spent two hours that afternoon in a meeting about the allegations, then sent an email to the school stating, "Dan Welcher will not be returning to the Butler School except to clean out his office.” Other instructors would take over Welcher's teaching responsibilities and work with the students slated to study with him. Furthermore, she wrote, Dean Dempster was asking the university's Office for Inclusion and Equity to investigate the allegations detailed in the VAN article.

The Butler School has also canceled a concert featuring Welcher's music in February, and the University of California Redlands has rescinded an invitation to him to be a guest composer at an upcoming symposium.

In the interest of full disclosure, this writer has been both an admirer of Welcher's music and a friend for many years.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Butler School of Music, Dan Welcher, Mary Ellen Poole, Doug Dempster, Yevgeniy Sharlat

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