The Dallas Morning News - July 19, 1997

Orthodox school wracked by dispute

Religion News Service

The only Greek Orthodox college complex in the United States - the 182-student Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. - has become the scene of a major struggle pitting ecclesiastical authority against academic tradition. In recent months the campus has seen the firing of four of its 17 professors, including the president, who is also a tenured professor. A lawsuit has also been filed against the school by an administrator who leaked details of the dispute to journalists, and two deans have resigned.

Now, a new president has been appointed. He has vowed to move forward a school that several faculty members and clerics say has long been riven by personality conflicts, infighting and power struggles.

The turmoil began after a committee was established in the spring to investigate allegations of drunkenness at a student party and sexual misconduct by a priest at the party. The committee recommended in April that the priest - a student at the theology school who has since graduated - be expelled and that several students be disciplined.

The students appealed to the Rev. George D. Dragas, dean of the graduate theology school. In mid-June, Father Dragas issued a response disputing most of the committee's findings and overturning its recommendations for discipline.

The result has been firings, demotions, resignations and reassignments. The actions were ordered by Archbishop Spyridon, who was named head of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States last year.

Defenders of the archbishop say new prelates traditionally have made personnel changes at the school. Others see the dismissals as part of the ongoing tension between intellectual independence and obedience to the church hierarchy.

Father Dragas resigned in June, as did Aristotle Michopoulos, dean at Hellenic College. Administrator Valerie A. Karras, who leaked details of the dispute to reporters, was told she could leave the school with full pay before her contract expires August 31.

The offer was made one day before she filed a complaint with the attorney general of Massachusetts alleging that the dismissals and demotions violated the institution's bylaws and threatened its accreditation. She said she will reject the school's offer.

The archbishop has named Bishop Isaiah, head of the church's Denver diocese, as the new president, replacing the Rev. Alkiviadis C. Calivas, a member of the investigating committee.

In a statement released Monday, Bishop Isaiah said he would seek to clear up the dispute to preserve the school's integrity.

[ The Dallas Morning News - July 19, 1997 ]