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Phillips Exeter puts musical ensemble director on leave following allegations

Union Leader Correspondent

December 13. 2017 1:20PM
Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter says it has no record of sexual misconduct complaints against Symphonia director Eric Hewitt stemming from his role at the school. (File Photo)

EXETER — Phillips Exeter Academy has placed the director of one of its musical ensembles on leave and barred him from campus amid accusations of inappropriate conduct.

In a letter to parents Tuesday night, Phillips Exeter Principal Lisa MacFarlane announced the actions against Eric Hewitt, director of Phillips Exeter's Symphonia. Hewitt is also a faculty member of the Boston Conservatory at the Berklee College of Music, where the allegations arose.

According to MacFarlane, Hewitt will remain on leave "until there is a satisfactory resolution to his case."

"His name has been made public by another school, and we wanted you to be aware as well. We are also sharing this information with your child," she said.

The Boston Globe reported that Hewitt was first placed on leave at the Boston Conservatory, where he was an associate professor, during the newspaper's investigation into the alleged "sexual mistreatment" of women.

The paper reported that during multiple interviews, four former Boston Conservatory students "described unwanted sexual advances by Hewitt — allegations that include bullying, lewd phone calls and text messages, propositions, and, in one incident, sexual assault."

MacFarlane said Phillips Exeter has received no reports of inappropriate behavior concerning Hewitt, who has never lived on campus or held advisory or dormitory responsibilities.

"Exeter has no higher priority than providing a safe environment for our students," her letter to parents said. "Any conduct that results in the potential harm of our students will not be tolerated.

Exeter has extensive policies and procedures that govern our hiring process, and clear guidelines for the conduct of all faculty and staff to ensure that prompt action is taken in the event of inappropriate conduct."

The announcement comes amid criticism of Phillips Exeter's handling of past sexual misconduct allegations involving faculty and students.

Hewitt's suspension follows a Globe report last month detailing incidents of sexual misconduct between students and faculty at Berklee College of Music since 2008.

According to the Globe, Berklee's president revealed at a forum last month that 11 faculty members at the school had been let go over the past 13 years for sexual misconduct.

MacFarlane is asking Phillips Exeter parents and students to make her aware of any concerning behavior on the part of Hewitt.

The head of Phillips Exeter's music department will be discussing with students how the school will handle Symphonia in Hewitt's absence, MacFarlane said.

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