FAX: (617) 232 7819
EMAIL ADDRESS: GDragas@aol.com
TO: His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon of America
FROM: Fr. George Dion Dragas, Dean
DATE: 20 November 1996
SUBJECT: Hellenic College/Holy Cross
As per your request I would like to submit the following points for your consideration regarding the present situation at the school and possible strategic planning for the future.
The school at present is at a very low point with regard to its morale, direction, and execution of its mission. It does not provide adequate training for the priesthood in the Archdiocese, nor a theological education which is commensurate with our Church's high expectations and tradition. Graduates are not fully exposed to the Greek Orthodox ethos and they are deficient in their knowledge of Modern Greek and Liturgical Rubrics. This assessment is not just mine, but also that of the many clergy (i.e., alumni) that I have been meeting in my journeys throughout the Archdiocese during this first year of my service as Dean of the school.
The reason for this unfortunate situation does not lie with the students, most of whom are among the best I have met in my entire academic career, but rather with the present faculty which has pursued, and is determined to pursue, programs which are obviously inadequate, if not unprofessional. Unfortunately, most, if not all, faculty are a product of this school and lack in wider academic experience. Indeed, I am doubtful as to whether most of them could hold their present positions in other similar institutions, either in this country or abroad.
The general inadequacy of the present faculty members is demonstrated by the almost total absence of publications of text books relating to their expertise. With the exception of Father Harakas, who retired recently, no other professor has produced any major work in his field. As a result, students are assigned readings from non-Orthodox literature; Roman Catholic or Protestant. Time and again students complain to me that they are lacking in appropriate Orthodox material to conduct their studies and that the lectures they receive are far below their expectations. Any attempt on their behalf to discuss such matters with their teachers is met with scolding and reprisal to the extent that they give up hope in desperation.
I know what needs to be done to get this faculty at least starting to move in the right direction. Nevertheless, I am unable to make any contribution towards this end because of the present leadership. It seems clear to me that the present leadership, which includes the current President, who has served as Dean for many years, and his closest collaborator, the Professor of New Testament, are concerned more with preserving their own positions than meeting the needs of the students. Their position of authority has been used to select people based on loyalty to them rather than professional competence. They rule by threat and intimidation of students and fellow faculty members who are addressed by these individuals in a manner which is totally unfitting to an academic and certainly to a clergyman. This abusive attitude justifies itself through the present policies and procedures manual of the school which gives chief executive academic and administrative authority to one and only man, the President, who acts at his own whim ignoring everyone else, including key administrators such as the Deans, Professors, etc.
The problem with the present administration appears even more acutely when one considers the quality of the many (indeed, too many) non-faculty personnel (secretaries and controlling officers) who represent a waste of the precious financial resources of the school. The current President, upon his assuming office, appointed, against the wishes of the Deans and in spite of the grave financial condition of the institution, six non-faculty personnel. These people constitute a useless burden to all except those that they serve.
I discovered that the Secretary of the Department of Engineering in Northeastern University located in Boston (a Greek lady who had worked at St. Basil's academy) manages, along with only one assistant, all that pertains to the secretariat and to the financial controller's office. Her budget is larger than ours as are the number of students and professors. And yet, her salary is less than that of our President's secretary who only types for him. Our Controller employs five assistants and the school employs several more secretaries and administrative personnel.
At the same time, our President did not honor the contracts of certain others who have served the institution with distinction, defying all academic rules and conventions. The faculty of theology has been arbitrarily reduced and those ill-treated feel constrained to resort to legal means for defending their rights. I have personally prevented them from resorting to such means by persuading them that Your Eminence will restore them to their legitimate positions.
My final concern with the present leadership has to do with their inability to cope with the financial problems facing the school. The President of an academic institution is primarily entrusted with the task of raising funds and attracting patrons and donors who can support the institution financially. Instead of doing this, however, the current President expends his time in micromanaging everybody else in the school, interfering with their activities in a negative way, and refusing to delegate tasks to those who should be responsible for them. He has assumed the role of President, Dean, Chaplain, Academic Leader, Financial Officer, and general overseer of faculty and students. It is clear to everyone that he pursues his own objectives and personal goals promoting an agenda which is incompatible with the mission of the school and our Church. The longer he stays in office, the more exacerbated this unfortunate situation will become. Many people, faculty and students, live in fear and exhibit a spirit of hopelessness. Never in my long academic career have I met with a situation like this.
In light of the above, I recommend that short term changes be made soon which will indicate that problems are acknowledged and being addressed. These changes should terminate the monopoly of power and decision making that seems to be at the disposition of one man, and prevent the further deterioration of the general situation. Particular responsibilities should be removed from the President and be allocated to other personnel as follows:
- A Chaplain should be appointed, preferably from among the student priests resident in the campus who will enlist them all for the execution of the services. I find it totally unacceptable that the resident Greek priests, who are naturally more competent in liturgizing in Greek, and as such be an excellent example to seminarians, should be intimidated and put aside in the way they have been.
- The authority of the Dean of the School of Theology should be restored. He should deal with all academic matters (faculty members and students) without any interference from the President. Given the academic connection between the Graduate School of Theology and the College, the Dean of Theology, and not the President, should have the oversight of the College faculty and the College Dean.
- The Finance Officer of the Archdiocese should be involved in assessing the current financial situation and developing a plan for restoring financial integrity to the institution. The latest report of our Controller concerning the financial situation of the school, which you may have already seen, stands in direct contradiction to earlier reports and to the actual reality. I cannot help thinking that this is yet another instance of the tactics of the past; we report only what is convenient for us and what is likely to earn for us the approval of our superiors.
- A Superintendent (e.g., Bishop) should be appointed who will visit the school and arbitrate on disputed issues providing solutions to problems which cannot be resolved by the present administration. Alternatively, a Task Force which reports directly to Your Eminence could be substituted for the Superintendent. There are urgent issues that either the Superintendent or the Task Force will need to address immediately in order to restore confidence in the school. Ideally, of course, the best Superintendent would be the Archbishop who would personally listen to the grievances of the members of the school and would have the authority to address problems and concerns immediately.
The allocation of responsibilities detailed above are only a short term provision for alleviating the pressure brought on by the problems I have discussed. I am fully convinced that a much more radical approach should be adopted by the end of the year. There is no way that the school can fulfill its mission under this current structure. The persons who have been responsible for its present condition need to be removed. New people, with new mandates need to come in. It may be expedient to elicit the advise and support of accredited theologians from Greece. This would enhance the relations between our school and the Orthodox faculties of Athens and Thessaloniki which have reached an all time low. I would be happy to consider such relatively long term provisions and come back to you with new recommendations.
In the meantime I offer my present, short-term recommendations in a general way, but I would be ready to expound on them by providing more concrete and specific details. I am sure that you feel strongly about the course which this institution will take and will put your stamp upon the way in which the priests of the Archdiocese will be educated and trained. Although the present situation has produced difficulties, it also presents an opportunity for Your Eminence to provide a new starting point for the Church in America.
With deepest respect and unconditional loyalty and love,
The Very Rev. Dr. George Dion. Dragas
Dean of Holy Cross School of Theology