UPDATE: The College of Charleston Department of Public Safety has closed its investigation of sexual misconduct charges against Enrique Graf, saying that it has has “determined that there is not sufficient evidence to support an arrest or criminal charges.” Read more here.
Renowned pianist Enrique Graf has resigned from a tenured position at the College of Charleston in the midst of investigations of sexual misconduct, according to documents obtained by the City Paper via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Graf, who was employed as an artist in residence at the college and taught the school’s postgraduate Artist Certificate program for pianists, resigned June 2 after an internal investigation at the school that began in January.
The allegations brought against Graf came from three male students who claimed Graf sexually abused them at various points from the 1980s to 2012. The former students, here referred to as [A], [B], and [C] for the sake of anonymity, made claims including unwanted kisses, coerced oral sex, exposure to pornography, indecent exposure, masturbation, and inappropriate touching. One of the students, [B], withdrew his accusations in 1994.
After [C], a current student, came to the school with accusations in January 2013, CofC hired attorney Christy R. Fargnoli to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations, and in the course of the investigation, the previous case of [A] was brought to light again after initially being reported in 2006. During the spring 2013 semester, Graf’s current students were contacted for interviews. In her report, Fargnoli notes that one student said Graf had “indirectly asked the student if he/she was homosexual” and that the student had seen Graf “rub students’ backs in ways that did not seem appropriate.
“The remainder of the students interviewed stated that they have never seen Mr. Graf act inappropriately in any way whatsoever,” Fargnoli writes. “They stated that they have never heard him make inappropriate comments or ask inappropriate questions. They stated that they never felt uncomfortable around Mr. Graf.” Fargnoli also interviewed Graf’s partner, a downstairs apartment neighbor, and numerous school officials who said they had never seen evidence of misconduct. Eunjoo Yun, director of the Charleston Academy of Music, said she had known Graf for 22 years, and to her knowledge, no student, parent, or faculty member had ever raised concerns about Graf.
In his letter of resignation, Graf said he intends to retire under the provisions of the S.C. Retirement System. Reached by e-mail, Graf says he plans to continue his concert schedule, which currently has him performing at Music Fest Perugia in Perugia, Italy. He calls the allegations against him “absurd, baseless, and untrue.”
“I categorically deny any misconduct and am proud of a long and successful teaching career, 24 years at the College of Charleston plus 36 years at other institutions. I have had hundreds of students, most of whom I consider friends and cherished colleagues. I have never sexually harassed or abused anyone,” Graf said. (To read Graf’s full response, click here.)
The following are the accusations that were brought by the three students, according to documents from the College of Charleston:
College officials received an e-mail in November 2006 from the ex-wife of a former student of Graf’s. “I met Enrique Graff [sic] few years ago. He was my husband’s piano teacher since [A] was 13 until he turned 19. My husband loved him and respected him. Enrique was his hero,” she wrote. “The entire time, though, Enrique sexually and mentally abused him.” According to documents obtained from the College of Charleston, the alleged abuse took place during the 1980s, when neither Graf nor his student were affiliated with the college.
Eventually, [A] told his own story in a sworn affidavit. He said he took classes from Graf at Peabody Preparatory in Baltimore, Md., and that starting at age 14, Graf “began to show an increasing interest in me.” At 15, he says Graf spoke to him openly about homosexuality and smoked marijuana in front of him. At 16, he says Graf kissed him on the lips in a strip mall parking lot. “From that point on, I was so confused and ashamed that I did not know how to interpret Enrique’s actions,” [A] says in the affidavit.
According to [A], Graf sometimes gave him massages and touched his genitals after piano lessons at Graf’s home. Once before an out-of-town piano competition, [A] says, Graf took a bath with him and touched his genitals. Eventually, he says Graf convinced him to perform oral sex on him “out of fear of reprisal.”
[A] says he and Graf smoked marijuana and drank alcohol together. At age 18, he says, Graf introduced him to cocaine, which they used together.
Although the case was brought up in 2006, it came up again in 2013 as the college expanded its investigation. Graf denied all of [A]’s claims. He said he never did drugs or knowingly drank with a student, although he “conceded that it is possible that he smoked marijuana with former students after they were no longer his students,” according to Fargnoli. On March 19, 2013, Graf’s attorney, Allan Holmes, sent a letter to [A] questioning the veracity of his claims. “Mr. [A], it is my suspicion that you have engaged in homosexual activities before and after your marriage, but that you did not disclose any homosexual encounters to your wife prior to your marriage,” Holmes wrote. “Is my suspicion correct?” CofC did not provide evidence of a response from [A].
In September 1994, [B], an 18-year-old freshman piano student, wrote a letter to a school official detailing several complaints against Graf. He wrote that Graf arranged for him to live in an apartment beneath his own home, and that immediately upon his arrival, Graf knocked on his window after 11 p.m. and invited him over. “It is customary for students to be polite and deferential to professors, and I believed it would be impolite for me to object or leave,” [B] wrote. On multiple occasions in Graf’s home, he says, Graf showed him pornography videos and magazines, masturbated in front of him, showed him sex toys, and encouraged him to use binoculars to spy on neighbors having sex.
[B] wrote that he wanted Graf to be fired and given a poor reference. He said he wanted a written promise that his scholarship, which had been awarded by Graf, would continue to be in effect. He also asked to be provided with counseling sessions, payment for legal costs, and an on-campus job of at least 10 hours per week.
As evidence, [B] presented a taped interview he had conducted with another student who stated, “He’s done the same thing to everybody.” When asked, “You mean masturbate?” the second student said, “Yes.” [B] also made a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights claiming that the college had discriminated against him on the basis of sex.
William A. Lindstrom, then dean of undergraduate studies, conducted interviews and found that Graf’s conduct constituted sexual harassment under the college’s guidelines. “There is some evidence that is incontrovertible,” Lindstrom wrote. According to Lindstrom, Graf admitted to providing Playboy magazines to students, showing pornographic videos to a student, and talking with an 18-year-old student about “sexual matters” within days of the student’s arrival in Charleston.
Lindstrom recommended that the college begin termination proceedings. Graf’s lawyer, Holmes, responded by writing a letter to an administrator that called the claims “baseless and defamatory” and stated that the student had a history of “erratic,” “belligerent,” and “deceptive” behavior. He said the student had been lax in his piano practice habits and that Graf had threatened to take away his scholarship if he didn’t practice. As evidence, he furnished a letter from one of the student’s previous piano teachers expressing concern about his practice habits.
The student later withdrew his complaints with both the university and the Department of Education and said he had never been subjected to sexual harassment or sexual advances. Provost Conrad Festa wrote a letter to Graf that informed him that the matter had ended but included several warnings for Graf to “scrupulously avoid any conduct which might give rise to a perception of misconduct.” Festa wrote to Graf, “Henceforth, you are not to participate in any one-on-one discussion with any student regarding any matter of an explicitly sexual nature.” Festa also told Graf it would be “inappropriate” for him to provide copies of Playboy to his students.
In December 2012, a day before CofC students left for winter break, Associate Dean Michael Haga received an e-mail from a student requesting a meeting. He set up the meeting, and the student told him that his roommate, [C], had been abused by a teacher since arriving at the college. Haga reported this to the dean, as required by school policy, and the student later told Fargnoli that he had started to notice a change in [C] during the fall 2012 semester. “Mr. [C] was fun and happy-go-lucky,” Fargnoli wrote. “However, he had become more quiet and reserved. Mr. [C] had trouble sleeping, appeared depressed, and stated he was hearing voices.”
In a sworn affidavit given in January 2013, [C], then a candidate in Graf’s Artist Certificate program, said that Graf had seemed “very friendly” as soon as he had arrived for his freshman year at the college. “He would invite me over to his house late in the evening to chat,” [C] said, until one night halfway through his freshman year when Graf invited him over to the house and asked if he wanted a massage. This led to Graf stripping down to his underwear, insisting that [C] take his clothes off, and beginning the massage, according to the affidavit. “He rubbed his genitals all over my face and I felt as though I was paralyzed, I was shaking and the emotions were incomprehensible. I felt violated, disgusted, and betrayed. I left after he was done with the massage,” he writes.
Later, he says, Graf took him to a music festival in Perugia, Italy, and invited him to go to Paris with him afterward, where Graf booked only one room with a single bed. He says Graf put porn on the television one night, and another night he woke up to find Graf performing oral sex on him. “When he saw that I woke up he asked me to perform oral sex on him,” he writes. “I did it. The next day I was mute. I could hardly look at or speak to him, and he was constantly questioning me throughout the day as to why I was being so quiet and strange. It was insulting and degrading for him to ask what he knew the answer to.”
Graf denied all of these allegations. He told Fargnoli that he and his student had shared a room in Paris, but that there had been two beds in the room. Asked why the student would make false allegations, Graf “speculated that it could be that Mr. [C] is upset with Mr. Graf and is trying to get revenge against him” because Graf had told [C]’s ex-girlfriend that he had broken up with her so he could see other girls. Graf also speculated that the student might have made the allegations for money, but Fagnoli writes that she saw no evidence to support that claim.
“At no time during my conversations with Mr. [C] has he mentioned money or any other ulterior motive for making these allegations,” Fagnoli says. “He has indicated only that he wants Mr. Graf’s behavior towards him to stop.”
On Jan. 10, 2013, College of Charleston legal counsel Kathryn Bender contacted a general counsel at Carnegie Mellon University, where Graf held a part-time instructional staff position, to discuss “potential harassment” by Graf. In a February e-mail to CofC employees, Graf indicated that lawyers at Carnegie Mellon had begun their own investigation into his past. A Carnegie Mellon spokesperson gave no comment on whether an investigation was conducted but said that Graf has no current affiliation with the university.
The internal investigation began at CofC on Jan. 11, and Graf was forbidden from teaching classes and making one-on-one contact with students. As the investigation stretched on through the spring semester, word spread about the accusations being brought against Graf. On Feb. 21, one of Graf’s students wrote CofC President George Benson to ask about the circumstances that had led the university to bring in a substitute teacher. “We are lost and unable to do any planning regarding our studies and careers without him,” the student wrote.
On March 18, the legal department filed an incident report with the school’s Department of Public Safety, beginning a criminal investigation with the assistance of the State Law Enforcement Division. The investigation is ongoing, and no criminal charges have been brought against Graf.
On March 27, Provost George W. Hynd sent Graf a notice of proposed dismissal. “I find that your behavior has included immorality, dishonesty, conduct unbecoming a faculty member, and willful and repeated violations of College rules, regulations, and policies,” Hynd wrote. “You have grossly abused the power relationship that always exists between a faculty member and students.”
Graf’s attorney, Holmes, filed an appeal of the dismissal proposal to the Faculty Hearing Committee. On May 1, Holmes wrote to President Benson threatening a lawsuit because the Faculty Hearing Committee had not allowed Graf to have “a constitutionally mandated hearing.” Holmes called the process a “lynching” of Graf’s reputation. Benson wrote a letter to the Faculty Hearing Committee telling it to grant Graf a hearing regarding his proposed dismissal.
Holmes provided a list of witnesses who were anticipated to testify in Graf’s defense at the hearing. The list included the ex-girlfriend of [C], who would testify about [C]’s “personality, relationships, mood swings, hearing of voices, and other evidence of psychosis and drug use.” The list also included numerous past and current students and colleagues, including one CofC graduate who was going to “testify that Mr. [C] told him he was going to blackmail Mr. Graf.”
But on June 1, Graf withdrew his grievance, canceling the hearing. On June 2, Graf announced his resignation. On June 3, Lt. Col. Robert Reese, the director of public safety at CofC, told Graf via letter that he was banned indefinitely from the campus and all college-related events.
“Based on information available through public records and other information provided to me regarding your past conduct, I have reason to believe that you present a danger to the College of Charleston campus community,” Reese wrote.