Professor Ellen Mease suspended from “Arcadia” production after alleged slapping incident during rehearsal


Ariel J. Richards

“Arcadia” opened in Roberts Theatre on Oct. 8 under the direction of Sandy Moffett after Ellen Mease was suspended from the production. Photo by Ariel Richards.

Allison Moore

2021 Iowa College Media Association award winner, Second Place – Best Print/Online News Reporting

Associate Professor Ellen Mease, theatre and dance, was suspended from her role as director of “Arcadia” after a student said Mease slapped them in the face during a rehearsal. Multiple students present in Roberts Theatre confirmed that the incident happened during rehearsal on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Mease allegedly slapped the student without permission while rehearsing a stage slap, according to multiple sources close to the incident.

One key source later asked to retract their identity and account from this story, though our reporting corroborated the allegations. 

Mease, who has senior faculty status, has worked at the College for over 40 years. She has not responded to multiple requests for comment about the incident from the S&B. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Karie Miller, theatre and dance, entered Roberts Theatre after a student notified her of the incident. Miller spoke with the cast and then left the theater, a source confirmed. That evening’s rehearsal continued under Mease’s direction. When asked in an email from the S&B for more information about her involvement that night, Miller responded that all questions should be directed to the dean’s office.

At rehearsal on Thursday, Sept. 16, President Anne Harris and Dean Elaine Marzluff met with the cast and announced that Mease would no longer be directing “Arcadia,” and Professor Emeritus Sandy Moffett, theatre and dance, would take over. 

I can confirm that the College has suspended Professor Mease from the production. — Dean Elaine Marzluff

In an email sent on Sept. 16 in response to inquiries from the S&B, Marzluff wrote, “I can confirm that the College has suspended Professor Mease from the production.” She declined to comment further citing “FERPA and other issues.” The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of all students. 

In an email sent on Sept. 20 to the S&B, Grinnell College’s Title IX Coordinator Bailey Asberry also cited FERPA, Title VII and Title IX policies as prohibiting her from commenting on the incident in order to protect the privacy of all students and members of the institution, including faculty. 

Marzluff and Asberry have declined to confirm whether Mease will be allowed to remain at the College as a member of the faculty or as a director on future productions.

On Thursday, Sept. 30, the Friends of Theatre & Dance sent an email to their email list announcing an open discussion on “intimacy, transparency, physical contact, and mutual respect.” The discussion, which would be facilitated by Miller “in light of recent events and ongoing investigations,” was scheduled to occur at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1. At 3:44 p.m. Friday, another email sent to the same email list announced the conversation was canceled by request of the dean’s office.

In an email to the S&B, Marzluff wrote, “The meeting was postponed and will be rescheduled in the near future.”

“Arcadia” held performances in Roberts Theatre this past weekend, Oct. 8-10.

Additional reporting contributed by Nadia Langley.

Due to circumstances surrounding the reporting of this story, the S&B has elected to include an editors’ note.