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The Boston Globe - July 10, 1997

Four at Hellenic College are fired

Sources say president, 3 professors Wouldn't cover up harassment case


By Diego Ribadeneira


The president and three professors at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology have been fired for what sources say was their refusal to cover up sexual misconduct by a Greek Orthodox priest earlier this year.

In a move that has thrown the Brookline school into upheaval and sparked furor in the nation's Greek community, college president Alkiviadis Calivas, the Rev. Emmanuel Clapsis, the Rev. Theodore Stylianopoulos and the Rev. George Papademetriou have all been dismissed.

Clapsis, Stylianopoulos and Papademetriou, all seasoned professors highly respected among their colleagues, served on a college disciplinary Committee that recommended expelling the priest, who was accused of sexual harassment, from the theology school.

The priest, who was a student at the time of the incident, graduated from the college in May and has moved to Greece. He was accused by a fellow student of making unsolicited sexual advances during a party at the school in February.

The disciplinary committee's recommendation that the priest be expelled was overruled by the dean of theology at the school, who said there was insufficient evidence to warrant expulsion.

On June 20, the disciplinary committee rejected the dean's ruling and reaffirmed its decision to recommend expulsion.

A few days later, a source who supports the fired professors said, an official from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America asked Calivas to end the disciplinary committee's proceedings on the case. Calivas refused.

The firings were announced on July 1.

Sources say Archbishop Spyridon, the Greek Orthodox Church's national leader, viewed expulsion of the priest as likely to cause unwanted publicity for the school.

A spokesman for Spyridon, the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, denied any direct link between the firings and the sexual misconduct incident.

Karloutsos said he did not know the exact reasons for the dismissals. Spyridon, he said, reached his decision after consulting with members of the board of trustees and school faculty. "The archbishop wanted to bring order and peace back to the school," Karloutsos said, after months of "internal strife" and "personality conflicts."

A news conference with Greek Orthodox church officials has been scheduled tomorrow at Hellenic College, Karloutsos said, to "dispel all the myths."

Calivas, who has been allowed to remain at the school as a professor, said, "These dismissals are totally irregular and outside the policies and procedures we have established." Some faculty members said privately that faculty members were not consulted about the firings.

Neither Clapsis nor Stylianopoulos said they were given specific reasons for their dismissal. Both were told their contract with the school was being terminated and they would be assigned to a Greek Orthodox parish.

"But it is' no coincidence that three professors who served on the disciplinary committee have been terminated," Clapsis said. "All I have tried to do is defend my dignity, my integrity and what I believe to be true."

Stylianopoulos, an internationally renowned New Testament scholar, is a tenured professor who has taught at the Brookline school for 30 years. Clapsis, who teaches about dogmatic theology, has been at the school for a decade and has served as dean of the college.

Papademetriou declined to comment.

The incident that has sparked so much controversy occurred during a party in a student's room in Hellenic College. During the party, the priest made "improper gestures of a sexual nature," said Clapsis, quoting some of the students who were there.

When the other student asked the priest to leave him alone, he persisted. Finally, the student allegedly punched the priest in the face. Based on testimony from eyewitnesses and the victim, the disciplinary committee, which was made up of four faculty members and two students, concluded that the priest had sexually harassed the student.

"I do want to make a clear distinction that we are not suffering from any homophobia," Clapsis said. "The disciplinary committee was trying to protect the dignity of the assaulted person. It is simply a matter of justice. I have no regret over what I did as a committee member. What we presented is the truth."

The disciplinary committee's recommendations to expel were appealed by the accused priest to the Rev. George Dragas, the dean of the theology school. On June 13, after two months of review, Dragas overruled the disciplinary committee. Besides citing a lack of evidence, Dragas, according to sources who have read the report, said the disciplinary committee had distorted testimony. Dragas resigned as dean of the theology school on July 1 after being accused by some faculty members of trying to cover up the sexual misconduct incident.

Reached by phone yesterday, Dragas denied that his resignation was connected to the incident or its aftermath. "I just want to give the new archbishop a chance to do what he wants," he said.

On Tuesday, a number of officials at Hellenic College angered by the firings filed a complaint against Spyridon with the state attorney general's office alleging that Spyridon had violated his responsibilities as chairman of the board of trustees of the school.

The state attorney general has jurisdiction over nonprofit organizations and institutions, such as Hellenic College.

By failing to follow written policy, Spyridon, the complaint charges, has exposed the school to civil litigation and a potential threat to its accreditation as an institution of higher learning.

"I feel that my family and myself are emotionally on a cross," Stylianopoulos said.

"But of even greater concern is the health of these two institutions," he said, referring to Hellenic College and the theology school.

[ The Boston Globe - July 10, 1997 - pp. B1 and B6 ]