Greek Orthodox Stewards of America - May 10, 1999
Professors Chirban and Patsavos Complain
about Advisory Committee on Accreditation
HOLY CROSS GREEK ORTHODOX SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02146
Tel. (617) 731-3500
April 2, 1999
Mr. George Behrakis
Dr. James Skedros
Hellenic College/Holy Cross
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02146
Dear Mr. Behrakis and Dr. Skedros:
As members of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Accreditation, we respectfully submit the following report in order to register significant points of difference with regard to both the process and final work of the Advisory Committee.
We wish to affirm strongly that our only motivation in preparing this report is our sincere love and concern for the School and her students. We have taught and been associated with this institution for more than twenty-five years. As we think back on all the students who have studied at Hellenic College and Holy Cross, we are filled with pride and responsibility. The current crisis imperils the institution's core mission -- to provide students with a quality education certified by an accredited degree.
We feel obliged as a matter of professional responsibility to report fundamental disagreements on particulars as indicated below:
A. The limited role of the Advisory Committee
The Advisory Committee in function and spirit lacked sufficient freedom and independence to conduct its work according to accreditation standards for several reasons: (1) The Committee was belatedly convened in February 1999 because, according to one of the co-chairmen, the report to NEASC and ATS was being prepared by the Archdiocese in New York without the participation of any school bodies; (2) when the Acting Dean of Holy Cross informed the Archdiocese that this methodology might not be acceptable to the accrediting agencies, a pressured schedule of deadlines within a little over one month was set and the work of the Committee proceeded as if 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; (3) Archdiocesan officers and appointees on the Committee by their presence and actions controlled the dynamics and work of the Committee; (4) when objections were raised on certain issues, the response was that the role of Committee members was in any case only advisory; (5) the report was essentially planned, prepared, and edited by the Archdiocese, an administrative matter which is at the root of the original complaint filed with NEASC and ATS.
B. Deliberate withholding of documents
Although members of the Advisory Committee requested access to all pertinent documents, such as the Visitation Team Report and other correspondence with the accrediting agencies, access was denied, judged as unnecessary by the attorney of the Archdiocese. In addition, the faculties were deprived of the privilege of seeing and commenting on the entire report of the Advisory Committee since only a small section of the report on academic freedom and the differentiation between lay and clergy faculty was made available to the faculties for input. The Advisory Committee's final report therefore reflects neither full knowledge of all data, nor a wide basis in the academic community.
C. The Corporate Board
The six-member Corporate Board, appointed by the Archbishop, possesses the real governing authority over the school and serves as the body through which the Archbishop makes critical decisions such as the appointments of the current president and acting deans. However, this arrangement not only deprives the Board of Trustees (also appointed by the Corporate Board, which in turn is appointed by the Archbishop in this structure) of due authority and responsibility, but is open as well to abuse. For example, a Corporate Board member disclosed that upon contacting the current Acting Dean of Holy Cross to arrange an interview to discuss his candidacy, he was informed that the Director of the Office of the Archbishop had already met with the candidate and had been authorized to appoint him Acting Dean. The Corporate Board, being co-opted, had neither a say in nor protested the matter.
Several members of the Advisory Committee recommended that in this effort to review the School structure, at minimum, the Corporate Board should be dissolved in order to broaden the locus of authority to the entire Board of Trustees for better balance in governance and accountability. This recommendation was rejected with statements such as "removing the Corporate Board would not fly" and "New York would never go along with it."
Such methods and manner of administration are not in the best interests of the institution and are not consistent either with accreditation standards, as they impede academic freedom, balance of power, and, in our own case, the Orthodox understanding of governance.
It appears to us that there is a better way to meet the needs of school governance, one which resonates the model of administration operational before the introduction of the Corporate Board. It would place the responsibility of decision making on only the Board of Trustees. Since the School prepares clergy and lay-leaders for the entire Archdiocese, each diocese has a vested interest in the School's operation. It is preferable, therefore, to have one Board of Trustees with an equal number of representatives from each diocese guiding the School rather than to have two boards appointed by the Archbishop making all decisions.
D. The two-tier system of faculty appointments
A differentiation between the appointments of lay and clergy faculty was approved by the Advisory Committee contrary to recommendation of the Mercer Consulting firm which did the preliminary work of the Advisory Committee report. The establishment of a two-tier system of faculty appointments is unprecedented in the institution's sixty-year history and is inimical to the best interests of the institution for the following reasons: (1) it is unfair to faculty members who train for an academic career but also desire ordination; (2) it is essentially discriminatory depriving the clergy of full faculty rights and privileges; (3) it is not conducive to academic freedom and professional development for clergy faculty; (4) it is contrary to the Orthodox understanding of the synergistic roles of clergy and laity, and (5) it provides opportunity for arbitrary interventions into the academic affairs and procedures by the Archdiocese. Members of the Advisory Committee recommended, and the Mercer Consulting firm agreed, that our institutional model should follow that of our sister institution, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, rather than Roman Catholic seminaries with whom we have divergent views in matters of ecclesiology. St. Vladimir's has neither a two-tier system of governance nor of faculty appointments, thereby bringing Orthodox principles to bear on academic policy. The polity of the Orthodox Church is synodical, which recognizes shared authority, not monarchical, with concentration of authority in one person. Consequently, it is the model of collaborative leadership reflected in a synod or council which should prevail in the School's governance.
E. Major decisions continue to be made in New York
with minimal input by the school administration and faculties.
The Archdiocese continues to make all major decisions as evidenced by the lack of process in the appointment of the academic deans as well as the termination of administrative and faculty personnel. A recommendation by the Acting Dean of Holy Cross was made that was responsive to the ecclesial role of the school so that the process of appointment of the President begin in a committee composed of two members of the faculty, two members of the Board of Trustees and two members appointed by the Archbishop. This was changed by the Archdiocese to two members of the faculty, two members of the Board of Trustees, two members of the Corporate Board, and two members appointed by the Archbishop. Such a configuration makes six of the eight committee members directly dependent on and accountable to the Archbishop. Only two members of the faculty, however, have a direct, day-to-day familiarity with the School and its needs. The Archdiocesan Chancellor himself has described the administrative manner of the Archbishop as "European, unilateral and authoritarian" (See New York Times article, 2/21/99). The Archbishop advocates that the institution is an "ecclesiastical school with an academic flavor." Members of the academic community who express different views are subject to termination.
F. Dismissals, intimidation, and fear in the Institution
On the day before the Advisory Committee's first meeting, an Advisory Committee member was summarily terminated from his post at the request of the Archbishop. The reason he was told was "because the Archbishop does not want you in this position." He was also told that his professorship was well would end with the current academic year. In another instance, the Director of Admissions and Records, who is also teaching as an adjunct instructor in both Schools, was informed, without explanation, that his contract would not be renewed. Both of these individuals were perceived as not heeding the directive of the Archbishop and school president: "Faculty are to mind their own business; we'll take care of the rest."
An autocratic and intimidating spirit was also exemplified by the Archbishop's presence and actions in the first meeting of the Advisory Committee when he appointed the secretary of the Advisory Board after another candidate was also nominated. Such actions are consistent with the pattern of behavior described by faculty who have left the Schools and already communicated their experiences to the NEASC and ATS visiting team. These and other signals convey that, if you want to be here, you must submit, an unwritten but powerful policy which, on the other hand, spreads fear and confusion among both faculty and students, and, on the other hand, contradicts academic standards, classic Greek values, and Orthodox principles.
We know for a fact that although other members of the Advisory Committee share our concerns, fear of retribution kept them from signing their names to this report.
G. The spirit of arbitrary governance impacts on promotion and tenure process
A new Presidential Committee on Promotions and Tenure was belatedly established (early March 1999) to proceed with immediate promotion petitions. The appointed chairman stated that the former committee was "too tough" and that "the president conveyed that this committee should support the people who were denied promotion in the past" who are now appealing without additional supporting documentation. This committee did not establish and discuss its assessment procedures nor did it follow the schedule and standards in the Policies and Procedures Manual required to evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure. Additionally, no candidate was permitted to apply for tenure because the Archbishop opposes the granting of tenure.
We regret to state that the Hellenic College and Holy Cross report to NEASC and ATS is not the genuine product of the academic community, does not engage the most substantive issues of concern, and has evolved in a climate of incomplete information, intimidation and fear of retaliation. The chief interest appears to be not the academic quality of the institution but the formal appeasement of the accrediting agencies, while preserving excessive ecclesiastical authority and control over every essential aspect of Hellenic College and Holy Cross.
In conclusion, we wish to underscore the essential importance of the ATS and NEASC evaluations of our School. We perceive these evaluations as the only way out of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Our Greek immigrant fathers and forefathers, as well as the founders of this venerable institution, sacrificed much for us to build and strengthen our beloved School. Their dream was to provide a quality education for our clergy and laity second to none. It is a dishonor to their memory if our institution is structured and administered in a substandard way.
Our parishes have the right to expect that the clergy and lay leaders who graduate from Hellenic College and Holy Cross will be well-educated and able to think critically and act morally and virtuously. It would be a betrayal of their trust if our institutions were to lose their accreditation. Among other consequences, students would no longer be accepted to pursue post-graduate studies in other colleges and universities, the federal government would no longer provide much-needed financial aid, and students would have to repay their student loans while studying and fulfilling the demands of seminarian life. Prompted by these concerns for both the students who will be the future leaders in our community and the parishes they will be called to lead, we submit the above in the hope that the institutional documents (Bylaws and Policies and Procedures) establish the needed foundation to assure academic freedom, balance of power, and ultimately integrity for the individuals associated with the Institution and the Institution Itself.
Faculty Members serving on the Advisory Board:
John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D.
Professor of Psychology
Lewis J. Patsavos, Dr. Theol.
Professor of Canon Law
cc: Dr. Charles M. Cook
Dr. Daniel O. Aleshire
[ Greek Orthodox Stewards of America
July 22, 1999 ]