TGANews - May 21, 2002
The "victimizer" was in fact the victim
Bombshell Letter in Spyridon's favor [*]
September 27, 2001
Rev. Nicholas Triantafilou, President
Mr. George D. Behrakis, Vice-Chairman,
Board of Trustees
Hellenic College-Holy Cross
Greek Orthodox School of Theology
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02445
Dear Father Nick and George,
In view of the tragic events of September 11, I find it particularly difficult to address this letter at this time. Certainly, both the subject and my particular concerns pale before the holocaust of hatred which caused so much pain to the victims and their families, and, indeed all Americans. I therefore beg your pardon for what follows concerning the Self Study prepared for the Joint Visitation Committee of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association of Theological Schools. I was personally handed this text by the Rev. Dr. Thomas FitzGerald.
First and foremost, I categorically object that the text was sent to the visitation committee prior to its being submitted to the members of the Board of Trustees for study and input. This is out of order and not according to (that new infamous word) PROCESS which has become the mantra of several individuals at Hellenic College-Holy Cross. You will recall I addressed my disappointment to the acting dean of the School of Theology, Dr. James Skedros, at the recent retreat of the Executive Committee. We had been repeatedly assured in meetings of the Board that we would see the text prior to its submission. Throughout the document there are countless referrals alleging lack of participation in the decision making process in the School. Administrators are accused of making decisions without the participation of faculty. I ask you, what formal input did the Executive Committee or the entire Board of Trustees have? We cannot expecty to attract and keep the interest of the clergy and laity members of the Board of Trustees if we do not involve them in the "PROCESS". The dedicated individuals who serve on the Board shouldn't be given the impression that they are needed only to raise money. Personally, had I been extended the courtesy of reading the text, I would have submitted comments and suggestions for consideration. It is indeed sad that neither I nor others on the Board of Trustees were not given this opportunity. I want to believe that neither of you had the chance to read this document carefully. Surely you wouldn't have wanted to be associated with it the way it now reads.
I find the text to contain statements alleging facts that are never substantiated. For example "the accomplishments of some faculty members have not been recognized". Whose accomplishments? Whose opinion is this? Should the text contain opinions or facts? Also, "the legacy of irregular hiring, promotion, tenure and compensation procedure has caused division and sometimes bitterness within the faculty community". Again, here is another opinion with no specifics. Again, "In 1998 an effort was made to revise the curriculum in response to ecclesial and Hierarchical requests. This never reached fruition." If this statement is accurate, we are not told why.
Countless times Archbishop Spyridon is held responsible for the present problems at our School. I ask you, was Archbishop Spyridon solely responsible for what is described as "serious difficulties with regard to the School's administration governance and its faculty?" Were his actions alone those that "compromised the administration and the academic integrity of the School?" I think not. Are problems relating to administration, governance and the faculty absent in the history of Hellenic College-Holy Cross prior to 1997 and following 1999? Certainly not. Was it only Archbishop Spyridon who as "chairman of the Board of Trustees, acting in his ecclesial authority" that involved himself in the day-to-day administration? Archbishop Iakovos did, Archbishop Demetrios does. There has always been tension between Archbishops, administrations and faculty concerning issues of authority. The School belongs to the Archdiocese which continues to generously contribute to its budget. Since the School educates the future clergy of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop has both the right and responsibility to be intimately involved with all aspects of School life. In fairness to Archbishop Spyridon, he was not familiar with the ecclesial or educational culture in America and was victimized as a result. There is no mention in the self-study of the history of powerful interventions of archbishops throughout the history of the School in matters of administration, faculty and governance. Archbishop Iakovos intervened repeatedly throughout his tenure. Archbishop Demetrios does today.
The text reads that the "Archbishop unilaterally removed him (Fr. Calivas) as president." The Archbishop "acting in his ecclesial ("individual") authority as Archbishop compromised the administrative and academic integrity of the institution." Again, was it only Archbishop Spyridon who exercised his authority as head of the Church? I think not. There is plenty of documentation suggesting that this was the case under Archbishop Iakovos and currently under Archbishop Demetrios. Additionally, one can argue and document that arbitrary decisions have been taken by faculty and administrators following the departure of Archbishop Spyridon.
The text reads, "In a series of unjust actions Archbishop Spyridon caused the dismissal of the institution's president...... The president was summarily removed at the direction of the chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1997." The text also refers to my departure from the School in the following manner: "Metropolitan Methodios resigned as President of Hellenic College." No mention is made of the fact that I was forced to resign by my ecclesiastical authority, or that there was a systematic campaign on the part of many individuals - including faculty members - to undermine my administration and to poison my reputation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Even though an overwhelming majority of the Board of Trustees as well as clergy and laity throughout the Archdiocese vehemently protested my departure from the School - especially to the three-member Patriarchal Committee of which Archbishop Demetrios was a member - I decided to leave obediently and without fanfare. I did not choose to protest to the Association of Theological Schools or the New England Association of Schools and Colleges because I didn't want to endanger the accreditation of the institution. With some exceptions, the faculty had nothing to say. Did they not consider my forced departure a "compromise of administrative and academic integrity of the institution......"? Indeed, was this decision not "in violation of the existing by-laws, policies and procedures"? In fact, four faculty members gave a letter to the Patriarchal Committee saying that I should never return. The faculty saw nothing wrong with the then ecclesiastical authority getting involved in School matters. They didn't consider that the decision "compromised the academic integrity of the institution." Two sets of standards, I'd say.
It is alleged that Fr. Calivas was forced to resign because he refused to comply with Archbishop's Spyridon directives concerning "an incident at the School". The fact of the matter is that the Archbishop wanted to make changes in the School long before any "incident." The self-study document goes on to describe in gory details that this incident was "a case of sexual harassment against a male seminarian." I ask you, is it necessary to describe the incident in such an official document? The Archdiocese and the School have already been ridiculed by such descriptions in the Greek Press, the Boston Globe and the New York Times. Do we have to do it again in this document? We are told that "under scrupulously enforced due process the disciplinary committee reviewed the case and determined those involved warranted disciplinary action." The Committee should never have been convened. As a Priest of the Church, the president should have used more wisdom and discretion. Situations such as these were nothing new. During my presidency, there were four such cases which were potentially explosive and harmful to the reputation of the institution. In fact, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, a member of the disciplinary committee, was personally aware of at least two of those cases which he brought to my attention. They were handled "scrupulously", but with discretion. The good of the School and the Church at large were placed above "scrupulously enforced due process procedure." What does the President of the Seminary do in such cases? Does he cover up such incidents? Absolutely not. He handles them without exposing the institution to ridicule. Archbishop Spyridon directed the President to handle the incident so as not to cause scandal to the institution. He expected the President to comply by his directives because many of the individuals involved were Priests, and, therefore, subject to the discipline of the Church. As mentioned previously, the Archbishop had a different view of ecclesiastical polity. He expected "blind loyalty and obedience", something unheard of in the western version of Orthodoxy. He was guided by a verse in the Book of Hebrews, "Obey your elders and be subject to them for they are keeping watch over your souls as for men who have to give account" (Heb. 13,17). Archbishop Spyridon felt he was "acting honorably" (verse 18). He wanted to avoid exposing the Seminary to a scandal. Every administration is expected to and should abide by "due process", "scrupulously so", in fact. However, above the letter of the Law there is the concept of Grace. Orthodoxy suspends the Law by "Economia" to serve the greater good. One can only conjecture as to how the history of the School and the Archdiocese would have been different had we not been so preoccupied with "scrupulously enforced due process," and had the "scandal" never ensued. Concerning the Archbishop's desire to change the administration of the School and some of the faculty members, one could argue that the majority of clergy and laity throughout the Archdiocese agreed with Archbishop Spyridon's decisions, but not the way he enforced them.
I read in the text that "promotion and tenure have been granted in an irregular manner in the recent past. The accomplishment of some faculty members were not properly recognized." As I said previously, these statements of innuendo and others of similar like are found throughout the document with no substantiation or documentation. No wonder the same self-study refers to "bitterness within the faculty community" and "an atmosphere of polarization, mistrust and intimidation among administrators, faculty, staff and students." It is well known how the tenure was granted during the Presidency of Dr. Thomas Lelon. The last two faculty members to receive tenure were Dr. John Chirban and Dr. Evie Holmberg, during my presidency. The administration followed due process and submitted the recommendation of the Promotion and Tenure Committee to the Board of Trustees which granted tenure to the two faculty members. Dr. Holmberg has been subjected to intimidation and harassment by her colleagues which she has documented and presented to various administrations and members of the Board of Trustees without resolution. Who are the faculty who have not been properly recognized? During the last few years, I served on the Board of Trustees which approved the promotion of several professors. Who hasn't been appropriately recognized? Is it the faculty member whose application for promotion has been denied twice by his colleagues who comprise the Faculty Promotions and Tenure Committee? Is it the individual whose case was brought to the Board of Trustees for resolution and subsequently denied? Is it the same person whose dossier was submitted by Dr. Skedros missing pertinent information in order to unduly influence the Board of Trustees? Indeed, there is "bitterness within the faculty community". It seems that whenever unpopular decisions are made those who disagree allege there were victims of "politics".
The self-study document reports that there is "bitterness within the faculty community" and that there are "internal tensions and conflicts". How can there not be? During the tenure of Archbishop Spyridon, a member of the School of Theology Faculty was assigned the responsibility of heading the office of Inter-Church Affairs at the Archdiocese. This salaried position necessitated the said individual to absent himself from the campus. His outraged colleagues questioned how a full-time member of the faculty can have a second responsibility. They questioned how he could possibly fulfill all his responsibilities at the School while at the same time travel back and forth to New York. Recently, an associate professor of Hellenic College was named director of the Archdiocesan Office of Greek Education. This necessitates his traveling and spending time in New York to exercise the responsibilities of his salaried position. He has cut back his obligations to the School. Those who protested the previous appointment have nothing to say about this one. Two sets of standards perhaps? And then we dare to write that there is "bitterness among the faculty".
At all cost, the authors of the self-study should have avoided the temptation of using this opportunity to justify decisions they took over the recent past. All they succeeded in doing is to reopen "Pandora's Box" and resurrect old tensions and controversies. The text does not reflect the expectations of the Holy Eparchial Synod, the Board of Trustees, the graduates, and the constituency of the Archdiocese. The most important treasure we have at Hellenic College-Holy Cross is our students who, in my estimation at least, are not holistically prepared for service to our Archdiocese. While our world-renown scholars ("legends in their own mind" to quote Metropolitan Isaiah) involve themselves in "controversy, bitterness, internal tensions and conflicts", the poor students are left to fend for themselves.
It is unfortunate that this document was prepared during your tenures as President of the School and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Both of you have dedicated your lives to the School and worked much too hard to be identified with such a text. My concerns and suggestions surely would make interesting reading to the Joint Committee.
I can write a book. Someday I may.
With love in the Lord,
Metropolitan of Aneon
Diocese of Boston
*) Article's title translated from Greek
[ TGANews - www.tganews.com/2001/news/grabroad/20020522spyr.html - May 21, 2002 ]