Greek Orthodox Stewards of America - May 10, 1999
The Response to Professors Chirban and Patsavos
by Mr. Behrakis and Dean Skedros
HOLY CROSS GREEK ORTHODOX SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY
50 Goddard Avenue Brookline, MA 02146 Tel. (617) 731-9500
April 20, 1999
Dr. John Chirban
Professor of Psychology
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02445
Dr. Elias Patsavos
Professor of Canon Law
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox
School of Theology
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02445
Dear Drs. Chirban and Patsavos:
Christ is Risen!
We are in receipt of your letter dated April 2, 1999 which we received on April 13, 1999. We thank you for your concern for the School and for your work associated with the Presidential Advisory Committee on Accreditation.
We recognize and acknowledge your right to disagree with the recommendations made by the Committee on Accreditation. As you well know, all members of the Committee were encouraged and allowed to speak their minds throughout the process of review which led to the final recommendations of the Committee. Further, there were several fundamental philosophical differences among members of the Committee. A rereading of the minutes of the five formal meetings of the Committee as well as the several faxes and e-mails exchanged by committee members will confirm this. Contrary to what you write in your letter, the process of arriving at the final recommendations was open and collegial. We simply draw your attention to the memorandum sent to the members of the Committee by Dr. Skedros dated January 21, 1999, in which Dr. Skedros writes, "Finally, if you have any suggestion on how best to utilize the strengths of the committee please do not hesitate to contact me." It is in this spirit of openness that we carried out our duties as co-chairmen of the Committee and in which we now respond to your letter.
To say that your letter and its contents surprise us would be an understatement. Both of us have read your letter several times and still cannot understand your motivations for writing it. You were both full and respected members of the Advisory Committee on Accreditation and your input was frequently sought not only during the five formal meetings of the Committee but also on numerous other occasions. Although members of the Committee often disagreed with one another on matters of substance, there was the general feeling (as we experienced the dynamics of the Committee) that we were all in this for the good of the Institution. Neither of you gave us the impression that you were dissatisfied with the process of review being undertaken by the Committee. Further, you both continued to participate in the work of the Committee up until the final vote taken on the recommendations of the Committee on March 18, 1999. If you felt that the process of producing the final recommendations of the Committee was so tainted then why did you continue to participate in it? Why did you wait until April 2, 1999 to voice your concerns? Why did you vote for the recommendations on April 18th?
It must be stated from the outset that your letter is replete with inaccuracies, false innuendoes, unsubstantiated claims, and a general spirit of negativity which neither of us experienced as we were knee-deep in the process of responding to the decisions of ATS and NEASC of June 1998. What follows is a detailed response to your letter with all the necessary documentation. Our response is not directed at either of you personally. As co-chairmen of the Committee our goal has always been the good of the Institution and the maintenance of its accredited status. We will present the evidence in an open and verifiable manner. For easier reference, our response will follow the same outline as that of your letter.
A. The limited role of the Advisory Committee
In deference to what you have called the "limited" role of the Advisory Committee, it was the Committee and its members who did the vast majority of the work of reviewing, recommending, and writing the reports to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS). To say otherwise is simply not true. As the documentation clearly shows, the final reports submitted to ATS and NEASC were the results of the work and efforts of the Committee.
(1 and 2) It is true that the work of the Committee was delayed by several months, yet this delay was neither deliberate nor malicious on the part of either the administration or the Archdiocese. As explained in the final reports to ATS and NEASC (which is readily available from the Office of the Dean) the reasons for this delay are set forth. The primary reason was that the Institution had newly installed officers in the offices of the President and the two Deans at the beginning of September of the current academic year. (In July 1998, the Institution did contact the consulting firm of William Mercer Inc., in order for them to begin an initial review of the governance documents of the Institution). After a month of acquainting themselves with the School and accreditation issues, it was not until October that the new administration began significant discussion regarding accreditation. As the Institution awaited the report from Mercer, movement in the direction of responding to ATS and NEASC was well underway. In November, in two separate written communications to the President, Mr. George Behrakis and Dr. James Skedros suggested the creation of a committee to do the work of preparing the report to the accrediting agencies. As both of you well know, Dr. Skedros contacted you in person (along with the other members of the Committee) towards the end of November to ask if you would agree to participate in the Committee on Accreditation. Both of you graciously accepted Dr, Skedros' invitation.
You state that the work of the Committee was only "a little over a month" in duration. In truth, each member of the Committee received a letter dated December 18, 1998 from Fr. Damaskinos V. Ganas, President of Hellenic College and Holy Cross, formally appointing them to the Committee on Accreditation. In that letter information was given regarding the current status of the accreditation issue. More importantly, the mailing of December 18, 1998 included the following items for review by members of the Committee: the decisions of ATS and NEASC dated June 16, and June 19, 1998 respectively; Parts I-III of the Policies and Procedures Manual; and ATS accrediting standards 6.1.5 and 126.96.36.199. As will be noted below, additional documentation was provided to the Committee throughout the review process. The members of the Committee were, in fact, involved in a process of review and deliberation of at least three-months in duration, from December 18, 1998 to March 18, 1999.
Once the extensions were granted by ATS and NEASC and the Mercer report had been received (all around December 15, 1998) the Institution began the hard and serious work of reviewing, clarifying and proposing changes to its governance documents. Your assessment that the work of the Committee was intended simply "to create the impression to NEASC and ATS that the report was the product of the academic community, whereas the actual input of the wider community was minimal" is absolutely incorrect. The Presidential Advisory Committee on Accreditation consisted of fifteen members which represented the broad constituency of the Institution. Six full-time faculty members were on the Committee. Four of these six faculty members are tenured professors of the Institution and are the four most senior faculty members of Hellenic College and Holy Cross. Two additional members of the Committee have taught as adjuncts at Hellenic College and Holy Cross over the past several years. Thus eight of the fifteen members of the Committee were faculty members. In addition, four members of the Committee were members of the Board of Trustees, two members were from the administration (the Director of Admissions and Records, who also teaches as an adjunct instructor, and the Director of the Office of Student Life), the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, and the President of the Student Government Association of Hellenic College/Holy Cross. In addition Mr. John Mavroudis, who represented the Institution in June 1998 before both accrediting agencies, acted as an advisor to the Committee. As stated above and as the documentation of the past three months reveals, the final reports submitted to ATS and NEASC were indeed the product of the "academic community" which comprises Hellenic College and Holy Cross.
Let us give one more example of how the wider community of Hellenic College and Holy Cross were involved in the discussions which led to the production of the final reports. In a memo to the 1998-99 Officers and Class Representatives of the Student Government Association of Hellenic College and Holy Cross dated March 21, 1999, Dr. Skedros requested that the Student Government Association, at its meeting of the same date, comment on the Statement on Academic Freedom recently adopted by the faculties since in its preamble the statement makes reference to the students of Hellenic College and Holy Cross.
On final point is worth noting here. Both of you were present at a conference call with Dr. Nygren of the consulting firm of William M. Mercer, Inc., on February 9, 1999 held in the Office of the Dean. As you will recall, the discussion was frank, open, and non-combative and included other members of the Committee as well as Mr. John Mavroudis and Dr. Anthony Limberakis, a member of the Board of Corporate Members. Both of you spoke your minds openly and were free to ask Dr. Nygren any questions you felt relevant to the issues at hand. The minutes of this conference call, which all members of the Committee received, are included in the final reports to ATS and NEASC.
(3) It would have been useful for you to have stated who you meant by "Archdiocesan officers and appointees" of the Committee who controlled and dominated "the dynamics and work of the committee." If you are referring to us, then certainly as co-chairmen we provided the necessary guidance and made several proposals and recommendations as any co-chairperson would have done. However, it is simply untrue that open discussion and the sharing of ideas were limited. We bring to your attention one point. As the minutes of the March 12, 1999 meeting of the Committee on Accreditation demonstrate, Dr. Skedros "suggested that the Committee ought to recommend doing away with the Board of Corporate Members." If Dr. Skedros was an "appointee" of the Archbishop, or if he was afraid to speak out, why would he say such things? If you mean by "Archdiocesan officers and appointees," His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon, or Fr. George Passias, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, then you will remember that his Eminence was only present at the first meeting on February 2, 1999, and that Fr. Passias attended only two meetings. As the documentation of the Committee and the production of the Institution's final report show, the work of the Committee was open and at no time were its members denied the opportunity to share their opinions.
(4) It is true that the Committee was given an "advisory role." However, the recommendations approved by the Committee on March 18, 1999 were adopted almost word for word by the Board of Trustees and the Board of Corporate Members on march 27, 1999. Although the Committee was given the title of "Advisory," in fact it was the Committee which created and articulated the adopted changes to the governance documents of the Institution. A Comparison of the final recommendations of the Committee with the changes to the governance documents adopted by the two Boards of the Institution will show this to be the case.
(5) It is perhaps this statement of yours which is the most offensive both personally and professionally. The final reports sent to NEASC and ATS on April 1, 1999 and April 6, 1999, respectively, were not, as you state, "essentially planned, prepared, and edited by the Archdiocese." What is your evidence for this assertion? Are you aware of the hours that numerous people, especially Dr. Skedros, put into preparing this report? Are you aware that His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon, saw for the first time the final reports after they had been submitted to NEASC and ATS? Are you aware that the report was the work of several individuals? It was Dr. Skedros who "essentially planned, prepared, and edited" the final report.
Let us be more specific. In the production of the report, assistance and contributions were received from the following individuals: Mr. John Mavroudis assisted the President in the preparation of the two-page executive summary signed by the latter and also typed the final versions of the newly adopted changes to the Bylaws and Policies and Procedures Manual (Appendices X and XI of the report). His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon, wrote a letter to Mr. George Behrakis (included in the report) pledging his personal support of the changes to the governance documents and his commitment to adhering to the policies and procedures of the Institution. Dr. Aristotle Michopoulos, Acting Dean of Hellenic College, prepared Appendix III and assisted in editing the ten-page full report. Mr. Leon Zaimes, CFO of the Institution, prepared Appendix VII. The faculties of Hellenic College and Holy Cross prepared and approved the Statement on Academic Freedom (Appendix V). Fr. Gerasimos Makris, Director of the Office of Student Life, and Dr. John Klentos, Director of Admissions and Records, contributed to the preparation of Appendix VIII. The ten-page full report that details the School's response to the accrediting agencies was written by Dr. Skedros.
As both of your know, Dr. Skedros sent out several memos to the members of the Advisory Committee announcing upcoming meetings, distributing necessary documents, and providing a general continuity to the work of the Committee. In particular, Dr. Skedros' memos acted as the "road map" for the work of the Committee. At no time was the administration or the Archdiocese in contact with Dr. Skedros instructing him on how to run the Committee.
Finally, to say that the report was planned and written by the Archdiocese is most disingenuous. As a member of the working group on bylaws, Dr. Chirban you are well aware of the numerous conversations between members of this particular working group that took place outside of the official meetings as well as the several faxes and e-mails that were exchanged among working group members. If you have forgotten about them, these communiques are readily available for your review in the Office of the Dean. In particular, in a memo to the members of the working group on bylaws dated March 11, 1999, Mr. George Saflol, chair of the working group, wrote the following: "I have reviewed the proposals submitted by the Subcommittee members and would like to suggest that we use Dr. Emmanuel Paraschos' proposal as a framework for this Friday's discussion. In my opinion, Manny's suggestions provide some excellent compromises." This does not sound as though the Archdiocese was directing the work of the Committee.
B. Deliberate withholding of documents
In addition to the documents noted above which were distributed to the members of the Committee on December 18, 1999, the following documents were also shared with each member of the Committee: ATS Accreditation Standards, Introduction, Section 6 (entire section) and Section 8 (entire section); NEASC Standards of Accreditation, Preamble, Standards 3, 5 and 11 (in their entirety); the report of the consulting firm William M. Mercer, Inc., accompanying letter, minutes of a conference call with Dr. Nygren of Mercer, Inc.; an article by Fr. Stanley Harakas, Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Theology, Emeritus, on the history of Hellenic College/Holy Cross. Further, Dr. Chirban personally requested and received from Dr. Skedros the complete Standards of Accreditation of both ATS and NEASC.
It is simply not true that "members of the Advisory Committee requested access to all pertinent documents...and other correspondence with the accrediting agencies." The only document which members of the Advisory Committee asked to see and were denied access to was the Report to ATS and NEASC of the Focused Visit to Hellenic College/Holy Cross of May 18 and 19, 1998, dated May 26, 1998. Dr. Skedros, in his report to a special meeting of the officers of the Institution held on January 21, 1999, recommended that this report be made available to the members of the Committee. The majority of those in attendance at this meeting felt that the report should not be made available to the Committee since the task of the Committee was to respond to the June 1998 decisions of ATS and NEASC and not to focus on the events of the past. The minutes of this meeting which document this discussion are included in the reports to ATS and NEASC. Finally, as you may recall, an extensive discussion took place at the first meeting of the Committee on February 2, 1999 regarding the availability of this report. After much discussion, the leadership of the Institution reaffirmed its decision not to make public the report of the Focused Visit.
You also falsely state that the entire faculties of Hellenic College and Holy Cross "were deprived of the privilege of seeing and commenting" on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, suggesting that these recommendations were deliberately withheld from the faculties. If you closely examine the materials distributed to both faculties at their monthly faculty meetings on March 16, 1999, the entire proposed changes to the Policies and Procedures Manual which the Advisory Committee was to vote on two days later, were distributed to each faculty member. For reasons of time constraint, Drs. Skedros and Michopoulos, the respective Acting Deans of the two faculties, focused the discussion at their respective monthly faculty meetings of March 16, 1999 on what they felt were the two most critical issues facing the faculty: the Statement on Academic Freedom and the clarification of the role of clergy-faculty at the Institution. Further, a special joint meeting of all full-time faculty members of Hellenic College and Holy Cross was held on March 23, 1999 to discuss openly the recommendations of the Committee regarding the statement on clergy-faculty and the Statement on Academic Freedom.
C. The Corporate Board
The several statements which you make in this part of your letter are also inaccurate and based on hearsay. First, as you are well aware, the current two-tier structure of governance of Hellenic College, Inc. was instituted in October of 1992, prior to the installments of Archbishop Spyridon as Chairman of the Institution, the Rev. Damaskinos V. Ganas as President, and Mr. George Behrakis as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, you fail to mention this fact anywhere in your letter. Second, you are correct in noting that several members did suggest the dissolution of the Corporate Board. Dr. Skedros was one of them. However, there were an equal number of members of the Committee who felt that this was not the right time to recommend such a fundamental change to the governance structure of the Institution. Third, if you examine closely the changes to the Bylaws which the Committee recommended and which the two governing Boards of the Institution adopted, you will clearly see that the authority of the Board of Corporate Members has been weakened in comparison to the authority given it by the Bylaws of October 1992. In particular, the Corporate Board can only appoint the president from candidates proposed by an eight-member committee, comprised of a member of the faculty of each School, two members of each Board and two appointees of the Archbishop. With regards to the appointment of the Deans, this is now the responsibility of the Board of Trustees. Candidates for the deanship are recommended by an eight member committee comprised of the President, two faculty members of the respective Schools, two Board members, and three appointees of the Archbishop. Further, the Corporate Board now has the primary responsibility for the long-term mission and purpose of the Institution while the general Institutional governance is in the hands of the Board of Trustees. Finally, the Corporate Board no longer has the sole authority to sell the properties of Hellenic College, Inc., nor can it dissolve a School or close the Institution without the consent of two-thirds of the members of the Board of Trustees. A careful reading of the new Bylaws will demonstrate all of this.
With regards to the appointment of Dr. Skedros as Acting Dean of Holy Cross, your knowledge of the facts is again lacking. Dr. Skedros was hired by the Institution on June 11, 1998 to teach Church History. Dr. Skedros had been in negotiations with the Institution since January of 1998, was interviewed by Fr. John Chryssavgis, the then Acting Dean of Holy Cross in March 1998, and was issued a contract by his eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah, then president of Hellenic College/Holy Cross in June of 1998. Fr. Ganas invited Dr. Skedros to be Acting Dean for the 1998-99 academic year on or around August 21, 1998.
The last paragraph of this section is constructive and useful. These are recommendations which the School should consider as it continues to reevaluate its governance structure.
D. The two-tier system of faculty appointments
Hellenic College and Holy Cross have been the beneficiaries of several prestigious and internationally recognized scholars as members of its faculties. Many of these faculty members were and are ordained, and Holy Cross has always acknowledged the value of the clergy scholar. There is certainly no disagreement here.
There was, as you point out, however, disagreement among members of the Committee as to what, if any, distinctions should be made between clergy and lay faculty. This is admittedly one of the more difficult aspects of the Committee's recommendations. Yet, it must also be noted that a majority of the members of the Committee felt that such a distinction was necessary in light of the events of July 1997 and the June 1998 decisions of the accrediting agencies.
However, it must be noted that there is no distinction between clergy and lay faculty with regards to appointments and promotions. The only distinction which the newly adopted Policies and Procedures Manual makes is that clergy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America are under the "ecclesiastical authority of the Archbishop of America." The statement on clergy-faculty does affirm the value of the sustained presence of clergy-faculty at the Institution since they provide for "the continuity of the Institution's curriculum, the fulfillment of its mission, and role-models for students."
E. Major decisions continue to be made in New York with minimal input by the school administration and faculties.
Prior to the changes of March 1999, the Bylaws and Policies and Procedures contained no process for the appointment of the academic deans. In fact, there was no indication as to who actually appointed the deans. The new changes now clearly delineate an open process for the appointment of the deans, identifies who actually makes the appointments, establishes the length of tenure of the deans, and enumerates the specific duties of the deans. All of these changes are articulated in the newly adopted Bylaws and Policies and Procedures.
F. Dismissals, intimidation, and fear in the institution.
Since your comments in the first paragraph of this section deal with administrative matters and involve events entirely unrelated to the work of the Committee, and out of respect for those individuals of whom you are speaking, we will not offer a detailed response. Those familiar with the situations which you attempt to describe know the full details of which you only present a small portion. It is important to note, though, that the "professorship" which you are referring to is at the level of adjunct instructor, which means that the individual teaches at the Institution on a semester by semester basis.
With regards to Dr. Skedros' appointment as secretary of the Advisory Committee, this occurred at the first meeting of the Committee on February 2, 1999. However, it is misleading to state that the Archbishop, who was present at this meeting, appointed Dr. Skedros to this position. On the contrary, a vote was taken and Dr. Skedros was elected as secretary.
Again, you present your interpretation of the current climate of the Institution. However, there are others with differing interpretations. With regards to the work of the Advisory Committee on Accreditation, we categorically disagree with your assessment that intimidation was utilized by the administration in carrying out the work of the Committee. We believe that the documentation produced by the Institution over the past ten months (most of which is found in the reports to ATS and NEASC), and in particular, the documentation associated with the Committee on Accreditation, supports our view.
G. The spirit of arbitrary governance impacts on promotion and tenure process
Since the work of the committee on Promotions and Tenure of Hellenic College and Holy Cross did not, nor does it, concern the work of the Advisory committee on Accreditation, we feel there is no need to answer this point. However, if you are interested in the School's position regarding this, you may simply consult the reports to ATS and NEASC available in the Office of the Dean regarding this committee. It is worth reminding you that the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Accreditation to increase the allowable number of tenured members of each faculty of the Institution from twenty (20) percent of full-time faculty members to fifty (50) percent was unanimously adopted by the two governing Boards.
In no uncertain terms, we reject your conclusions regarding the reports issued to ATS and NEASC. The basis for our position has been clearly noted above and is made explicit in the final reports to ATS and NEASC. We certainly share your love and concern for the Institution and for the hard work and accomplishments of the Greek Orthodox Community of America. We also shares your concerns regarding the accredited status of the Institution. If you had read the final reports to ATS and NEASC, you would have noticed that at the special meeting of the officers of the Institution on January 21, 1999, seven significant benefits (three of which you mention in your letter) for the maintenance of the Institution's accreditation were highlighted. It has always been the desire of the Institution to retain its accreditation with the two accrediting agencies.
We too have similar immigrant histories and we too are products of our Greek immigrant forebears. Has there ever been anyone in the past, or is there currently anyone in the present, associated with Hellenic College and Holy Cross who has not desired to offer the best possible education for the future clergy and lay leaders of the Greek Orthodox Community of America? All four of us share this same desire and recognize the fundamental role that Hellenic College and Holy Cross have played and must continue to play in the life of the Greek Orthodox Church of America.
Unfortunately, your letter has betrayed the hard work and integrity of those individuals who were part of the Advisory Committee on Accreditation and who share the desire of us all for the best educational Institution possible. Your letter has attempted to discredit the positive work of the committee whose only goal was to maintain the accredited status of both Hellenic College and Holy Cross. However, we are confident that the accrediting agencies will recognize the positive contributions of the Committee as demonstrated by the reports submitted to them by the Institution. We are further hopeful that the accrediting agencies will continue to acknowledge the productive role which our Institution has had and continues to have in the life and mission of the Greek Orthodox community of America, the educational and academic communities of the greater Boston area, and the many individuals which the Institution has educated during its brief sixty-year existence, both Americans as well as individuals from Africa, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. It is our belief that, regardless of your attempt to the contrary, the accrediting agencies will recognize the value and integrity of the Institution's final reports.
Vice-Chairman, Board of Trustees
Hellenic College/Holy Cross
James C. Skedros
Acting Dean, Holy Cross
cc: Dr. Daniel O. Aleshire
Dr. Charles Cook
V. Rev. Damaskinos V. Ganas
[ Greek Orthodox Stewards of America
May 10, 1999 ]