The National Herald - November 10, 2006

Reality vs. killing the messenger

W e were happy to publish Dr. Candace Hetzner's response last week to Theodore Kalmoukos' recent story concerning tension between faculty and administration at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.

Dr. Hetzner hits the nail on the head when she cites the "internecine squabbling of our clergy and hierarchy" as part of the problem, but she gives us a little too much credit when she writes that HC/HC "has been steadily hobbled by Mr. Kalmoukos' reporting."

While no newspaper or journalist is perfect, the fact remains that this particular correspondent has been steadily chronicling the life of the Church in America on the pages of both our publications for almost three decades now, so objectively speaking, he knows something about issues affecting the Church here. Moreover, as a graduate of HC/HC, he also knows more than just a little bit about the school's administrative history.

Dr. Hetzner also suggests that the National Herald help lead efforts to support the school. But this is exactly what we are doing by covering the school and offering suggestions on how to improve it.

This newspaper is not responsible for the school's problems. Moreover, ganging up on our correspondents and asking us to remain silent about injustice and incompetence, when they smack the community in the face, is not the answer; neither would it be helpful to the school.

Mr. Kalmoukos' story in our October 21 edition, which obviously ruffled a few feathers, was not simply about an individual professor's "failure to comply with campus parking regulations." It was about HC/HC Chief Administrator James Karloutsos' conduct, and how he treats faculty and staff. To some measure, the story was also about the same administrator's arguments concerning fulltime and part-time teaching requirements.

It should be noted, however, that this conflict was not an isolated event. John Chirban, the professor who was justifiably outraged by the towing of his car from a small Christian school, where he has been teaching for many years, shared his anger and dismay with the entire faculty and staff, so no one should pretend this is a trivial matter.

At the same time, there are several larger issues to consider.

What is particularly interesting about Dr. Hetzner's response was the swiftness with which it came to us, not to mention the speed with which it was subsequently distributed to students, faculty and even the school's board of trustees.

This clearly signifies that those who feel threatened by Mr. Kalmoukos' story have orchestrated a response in order to downplay a problem which is much larger than they care to admit - or wish to be exposed.

Their actions also indicate active attempts to intimidate the school's students, the future of this community. And that, by far, is the most disconcerting aspect to a story which continues to unfold.

We don't object to constructive criticism - we welcome it, in fact - but we do object to empty platitudes and pontification.

In her commentary, Dr. Hetzner, herself a member of the HC/HC Board of Trustees, asks a legitimate question: "As a convert to Greek Orthodoxy, I ask myself almost daily why Roman Catholics can support 238 institutions of higher learning, and the Greek Orthodox can not support even one?"

The answer to this question is multi-dimensional and requires careful consideration, but Dr. Hetzner and the people who tried so hard to distribute her arguments among the HC/HC community fail to genuinely address this question:

"Last year, it was my privilege to work with the faculty of Hellenic College to revise the core curriculum to provide a solid liberal arts education in the context of Hellenism and Christian Orthodoxy - (students) can also study such things as economics, political science, philosophy, history, literature and foreign languages - Hellenic College enables students to be the recipients of their great tradition without majoring in Classics or religion, though both are available in the curriculum," she writes.

That might sound well and good to some, but there is a lot more to it than that. While it is important for HC/HC students to have an opportunity to learn foreign languages, for example, the school's limited resources should focus on making sure students at least learn their Greek; and to suggest that Orthodox Christian students can receive "their great tradition" without learning Greek or studying Classics and religion is absurd.

Furthermore, it's not enough for subjects to be "available in the curriculum." Certain subjects must be required and others, at the very least, should be strongly encouraged.

But recent attempts to de-Hellenize the curriculum at Hellenic College (yet another story Mr. Kalmoukos' broke some months ago) prove that the reverse is taking place, and Dr. Hetzner even admits she has played a role in the de-Hellenizing effort.

Those who seek to undermine Hellenism's dynamic present - and it's ongoing vitality within Orthodox Christianity - by confining it to the past are only fooling themselves, not to mention adversely impacting impressionable young minds. "You have turned from the way, and by your instruction have caused many to stumble (Malachi 2.8)."

Finally, this newspaper is simply doing its job by exposing flaws in the system, and by pointing out that there are individuals who should be held accountable:

The Archbishop, who is chairman of HC/HC's board of trustees; members of the board; Mr. Karloutsos, an elementary school administrator who is now running our community's only institution of higher learning; HC/HC President Rev. Nicholas Triantafilou; and all those associated with them, whose primary interest seems to be keeping things "in the club."

We offer these comments as points for open and honest discussion. It is part of our effort to help address more substantive questions concerning the school and its future, which is crucial to the future of this community.

So there's no need to kill the messenger. Just try improving the school, instead. Admit that your de-Hellenizing formulas aren't working, and try exploring other healthier strategies. Our community depends on the school to supply its future priests.

[ Orthodox Truth |  -  November 10, 2006 ]