The Hellenic Chronicle - July 9, 1997

Dismissals at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Theological School
put institution at risk

The following account was prepared by an informed source within the administration of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology detailing the recent internal crises that have plagued the institution. We have confirmed its validity with numerous other sources and believe it to be factually sound.

On Tuesday, July 1, at 3 pm, in the chapel of Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology, the seminary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the V. Rev. Fr.Gabriel Karambis, recently appointed by Archbishop Spyridon as Archiepiscopal Administrator of Hellenic College and Holy Cross, stunned the assembled administration, faculty and students as he announced several precipitous changes in the highest levels of the school's administration.

He read to them from a press release issued by the Archdiocese which announced the Archbishop's appointment of Bishop Isaiah of Denver as the new president of Hellenic College/Holy Cross.The press release also announced the resignation of Rev.Dr. George Dragas as Dean of Holy Cross. Both he and Rev.Dr. Alkiviadis Calivas, president of Hellenic College/Holy Cross since January 1996, were thanked for their service to the institution.Both are to continue as faculty members.

Immediately following the public announcement, Fr. Karambis issued a memorandum naming Rev.Dn.Dr.John Chryssavgis as acting dean of Holy Cross. He did not make public another decision of the Archbishop, the firing of Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis, Associate Professor of Dogmatic Theology. He had communicated this to Fr.Clapsis in a private conversation immediately prior to the meeting.

The announcement follows on the heels of an earlier series of decisions by Archbishop Spyridon which Fr. Karambis communicated orally to Fr.Calivas, the president, exactly one week earlier. Among other things, Fr.Calivas had been ordered by Fr. Karambis to end immediately the continuing process regarding the decisions of the school's disciplinary committee in the case of a sexual assault by a celibate priest against another male student; and to give to Dr. Evie Zachariades-Holmberg, Professor of Classical and Modern Greek at Hellenic College, a full appointment in the School of Theology faculty, despite the theological faculty's refusal to accept her as a full member because of her lack of theological credentials and training.

In addition, Fr. Karambis had in formed both Fr.Calivas and the Rev. Dr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, Professor of New Testament at Holy Cross, that Fr.Stylianopoulos was to contact the Chancellor of the Archdiocese so that he might be assigned to a parish full-time, despite the fact that he serves a parish in New Hampshire part-time and is a tenured professor in the School of Theology.

In a written response sent to Fr. Karambis on Monday, June 30, Fr. Calivas brought to his attention the legal, ethical and accreditation problems which would ensue if these actions were carried out, and expressed particular indignation at the attempt to remove Fr.Stylianopoulos, a tenured and respected member of the faculty for 30 years.

The Archbishop of America is automatically Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Hellenic College, Inc. However, under the corporate bylaws he has no authority to hire and fire on his own; administrative personnel and faculty are to be appointed by the president of the institution and its Board of Trustees.

The president is elected by a majority of the entire six-member Board of Corporate Members, and may be removed only by a two-thirds vote of that entire board. The Board of Corporate Members is comprised of Archbishop Spyridon; Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh; Andrew Athens of Chicago; Michael Cantonis of Tarpon Springs, FL; Telemachus Demoulas of Tewksbury, MA and John Payiavlas of Warren, OH.

The bylaws also require that the Board of Corporate Members receive written notice of any meeting at least two weeks in advance, and prohibit either presence or voting by proxy. There is no indication that any meeting of the Board of Corporate Members has been held recently.

The Board of Corporate Members also appoints the members of the Board of Trustees from a list submitted by the then-current Board of Trustees or its Executive Committee. In May, the Archbishop announced the appointment of a new Board of Trustees for Hellenic College/Holy Cross, naming nine persons more than the corporate bylaws allow.

At the first meeting of the new board, which was also the first meeting of Hellenic College's Board of Trustees with Spyridon, who was installed as Archbishop in September, several people questioned the number of persons appointed and whether a list had ever been submitted.

According to sources within the school, the legal counsel for the institution, Alexander Padis, replied that, as far as he was aware, no list was ever submitted either by the former Executive Committee or by the former full Board of Trustees. In addition, no mention was made that a meeting of the Board of Corporate Members had been held to elect the members of the Board of Trustees.

The new members of the Board of Trustees also raised questions regarding the announcement made to them that day of the appointment by Archbishop Spyridon of Fr. Karamhis as archiepiscopal administrator of Hellenic College/Holy Cross. They were told that Fr. Karambis would have authority over Fr.Calivas, president of the institution. Several trustees pointed out that there was no authority for such an appointment under the corporate bylaws.

The school has now been embroiled in serious legal problems with respect to the removal of Frs. Clapsis and Stylianopoulos. Fr.Stylianopoulos, as a tenured faculty member, cannot be removed except for the most grave reasons. Fr.Clapsis, although untenured, is protected by the Policies and Procedures Manual of the institution, which specifies that formal removal of a faculty member requires a process beginning with a written statement from the dean setting forth the reasons for such termination, with time for a response by the faculty member and his or her appeal to the Presidential Executive Caucus. The Presidential Caucus then reviews the matter and recommends final action to the President, whose decision is final. The Board of Trustees and its Chairman are not involved in the process.

In an article published in the Greek-language newspaper "The National Herald" on Thursday, June 26, journalist Theodore Kalmoukos tied the dismissal of Fr.Stylianopoulos to the New Testament professor's persistence in pursuing the disciplinary committee matter mentioned above, in which an archimandrite (monastic priest), at a drunken party held in the dormitory apartment of another archimandrite, made repeated physical sexual advances on a male student, despite the other student's protestations and rebuffs. The victim punched the archimandrite in the face after the archimandrite's third attempt to molest him.

Initially, the students present at the party attempted to conceal the events, but the disciplinary committee was able from various testimony to piece together the facts of the incident. Moreover, the victim willingly signed a sworn written statement for a special episcopal committee composed of Bishops Maximos of Pittsburgh and Philotheos of Meloa.

The disciplinary committee recommended immediate expulsion for the priest who had committed the sexual assault, removal from the dormitory residence for the priest who had hosted the party, probation for a third priest who had become physically ill from his drunkenness, and letters of reprimand for several other students at the party.

The disciplined students appealed to the dean of Holy Cross, Dr. Dragas. Kalmoukos revealed that Fr.Dragas delayed his response for two months, allowing the sexual assailant to graduate and return to Greece to pursue doctoral studies, then issued a report exonerating him as well as the other students implicated in the affair. In his report, the dean accused the disciplinary committee of distorting and coercing testimony, and in general impugned the integrity of the committee's work. Fr. Clapsis is the chairman of that committee, and it is known that Fr. Karambis was attempting to contact Rev.Dr. George Papademetriou, Director of the school's library and a third member of the disciplinary committee. The fourth faculty member is Dr. Nicholas Constas.

When Fr.Dragas' report became known and word had spread of the Archbishop's request that the matter be dropped and that Fr.Stylianopoulos not continue as a faculty member, Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh sent a strongly worded letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in which he asserted Fr. Stylianopoulos' importance to Holy Cross both as a faculty member and as a moral figure, and in which he confirmed the validity of the findings of the disciplinary committee and thus, by implication, rendered the dean's findings totally false.

Fr. Stylianopoulos has objected strenuously to the president, the archbishop and the Board of Trustees to attempts by a couple of individuals to subvert or circumvent the procedural processes of the institution in several areas, especially in matters of appointment and promotions. Fr.Stylianopoulos is the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Promotions and Tenure. This semester, acting on uniformly negative evaluations from peers outside the institution, the committee refused to recommend promotions for two members of the faculty. Several persons have approached the archbishop and others in an attempt to thwart the process and the committee's decisions.

Various members of the faculty and administration have informally approached the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits both the undergraduate and graduate schools, and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, which accredits Holy Cross. In addition, inquiries have been made to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Office of Attorney General Scott Harshbarger regarding issues of academic freedom and process and possible violations of corporate bylaws by a non-profit institution incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

[ The Hellenic Chronicle - Vol. LXXXIV, No.2 - July 9, 1997, p. 1+12 ]
[ Voithia | - July 7, 1997 ]

The article above was "reproduced" by Voithia two days before it was first published in The Hellenic Times. It was posted by Voithia preceded by the following introductory note: "The Hellenic Chronicle, the largest-circulation Greek-American newspaper in the country, on Wednesday July 7, 1997 published this front-page story containing nearly every detail from Dr. Karras' work. The following headline and preface was published with the story."