hellenic times - May 28-June 10, 1999

HC/HC Accreditation Intact - Critics Rebuffed


By Evan C. Lambrou


BEDFORD, Mass. - It's official. Hellenic College/Holy Cross (HC/HC) Greek Orthodox School of Theology has retained its accreditation.

In spite of what apparent attempts by three of the school's own professors to derail the school at the last minute, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) informed the Very Rev. Fr. Damaskinos Ganas, president of HC/HC, on May 13 that the school will not be placed on probation:

"… the Commission on Institutions of Higher Learning… took the following action… (and decided) that no further consideration be given to asking the institution to show cause why it should not be placed on probation," NEASC Chairman Walter Eggers states.

Drs. John Chirban, professor of Psychology, and Lewis Patsavos, professor of Canon Law, and Rev. Dn. John Chryssavgis, the former acting dean, all wrote letters concerning the school's official report to NEASC, which was submitted at the end of March. They claimed that the report did not genuinely reflect the school's state of internal affairs.

In a letter dated April 2, Drs. Chirban and Patsavos vehemently criticize the Archbishop and urge the school to return to its mode of operation before the Archbishop made the changes:

"An autocratic and intimidating spirit was also exemplified by the Archbishop's presence… an unwritten power policy which… spreads fear and intimidation among both faculty and students," they write.

Their letter was officially sent to George Behrakis, chairman of the committee which produced the school's report to NEASC, and Dr. James Skedros, acting dean, but it was also forwarded to Dr. Charles Cook, director of NEASC's Commission on Higher Learning. Drs. Chirban and Patsavos forwarded their letter shortly after Mr. Behrakis' committee submitted its report to NEASC.

In a letter dated April 21, just one day before NEASC held its hearing on HC/HC, Father Chryssavgis told Dr. Cook that he is writing because his conscience would not permit him to do otherwise:

"I come before you broken and ashamed… information was withheld from me… whatever course His Eminence wishes to pursue… the accrediting agencies should be presented with the truth, the whole truth," he writes.

By deciding against placing the school on probation, however, NEASC has clearly dismissed the concerns of three faculty members regarding the report and its formulation: "… (the report submitted by the institution) was commendably comprehensive, well written and suitably documented," Dr. Eggers states.

Critics point out that NEASC will revisit HC/HC in 2001 and suggest that the school has merely postponed judgement for now, but the fact remains that NEASC evaluates all the institutions within its system every ten years, and HC/HC's evaluation was scheduled for 2001, anyway.

NEASC's decision has also essentially rebuffed attempts by some other individuals to bring the school's accreditation into question since His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, made some personnel changes at HC/HC in July 1997 (three clergy professors were removed or reassigned, and one lay professor's contract was not renewed).

In reaction to the Archbishop's decision, certain members of the Greek Orthodox community itself basically invited NEASC and ATS to investigate the school in a deliberate effort to bring its academic credentials under scrutiny: Drs. John Collis, executive director of the movement known as GOAL (Greek Orthodox American Leaders) and Valerie Karras, the former lay professor and feminist theologian.

The actions of Drs. Collis and Karras, who have maintained publicly and emphatically that the school can not function in the appropriate academic fashion without the teachers who were removed, added to the controversy.

At no point in its May 13 letter to Father Ganas, however, does NEASC even mention the removal of Fathers Alkiviadis Calivas, Emmanuel Clapsis and Theodore Stylianopoulos or Dr. Karras.

According to John Mavroudis, general counsel for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who also handled the legal aspects of the school's accreditation matter, NEASC's decision confirmed that the school is nothing like the chaotic mess its critics have claimed.

"NEASC rendered a decision which clearly and unequivocally supports the school's accreditation," Mr. Mavroudis said.

Drs. Chirban and Patsavos and Father Chryssavgis also forwarded copies of their letters to Dr. Daniel Aleshire of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), which will also review the school's accreditation on June 3.

The two agencies are independent of one another, Mr. Mavroudis explained, but they have cooperated in their yearlong review of the school, which began in May of 1998.

"There's no guarantee that ATS will follow suit," Mr. Mavroudis said, "but the fact that NEASC has rendered a favorable decision certainly doesn't hurt."

The Archbishop said he was "very pleased" with NEASC's decision, adding that the school needs to revamp its administrative policies and procedures.

[ hellenic times - May 28-June 10, 1999 - p. 3 ]