Greek Orthodox Stewards of America - May 31, 1999


Letter From New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.
Accepting Report of Hellenic College/Holy Cross
Greek Orthodox School of Theology

May 11, 1999

The Very Rev. Damaskinos V. Ganas
Hellenic College
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02146

Dear President Ganas:

I write to inform you that at its meeting on April 22, 1999, the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education considered the report submitted by Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and took the following action:

  • that the report submitted by Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology be accepted;
  • that no further consideration be given to asking the institution to show cause why it should not be placed on probation;
  • that the scheduling of the next comprehensive evaluation for Fall 2001, be confirmed;
  • that the self study developed in preparation for the comprehensive evaluation give emphasis to the institution's success in
  • implementing and otherwise realizing the promise of changes in the governance structure of the institution and related policies;
  • undertaking broad-based and participatory evaluation and planning directed toward the greater attainment of institutional purposes.

The Commission gives the following reasons for its action. The Commission commends Hellenic College/Holy Cross for taking seriously and working hard to respond to our concerns related to the need for greater clarity and observation of lines of authority within the institution; the need to assure the appropriate participation of the faculty in matters that relate to its areas of responsibility and expertise; and the need to give authentic meaning to that participation by providing the faculty reasonable security. We note with favor that the various constituencies within the institutional community engaged in a comprehensive review of its by-laws and policies and procedures related to the issues of governance and faculty participation. Significant progress was made in all areas of concern. In a short period of time, under circumstances not the most conducive for the exploration of critical issues, Hellenic College/Holy Cross has sought to delineate and modify the powers of its boards; to clarify ecclesiastical authority in the life of the institution; to assure faculty rights and responsibilities for participation in institutional governance; and to reaffirm academic freedom through a broad policy statement. These major changes taken together represent a considerable achievement and we find that as structure and policy they fulfill the relevant Standards for Accreditation.

While we look with favor on these improvements, we also recognize that the fulfillment of their promise in terms of facilitating the successful accomplishment of institutional purposes is neither automatic nor inevitable. In this regard we are very much aware that there is less than perfect consensus within the institution as to the adequacy of the remedies adopted to address the Commission's concerns. We appreciate, however, that the institution needs the opportunity to implement these changes fully, incorporating them into its daily activities, and to earn the confidence of the community in their efficacy. The period prior to the comprehensive evaluation will afford time to do so. Through the self-study prepared in advance of this evaluation, the Commission expects the College to thoroughly and candidly assess the effectiveness of the new structures and policies. A primary purpose of the evaluation will be to validate the results of that assessment to the end of determining the institution's fulfillment of the relevant Standards in practice.

Of particular importance to the Commission in its review of the institution in 2001 will be the matter of the exercise of ecclesiastical authority particularly as it affects clergy-faculty. We recognize that this is an acutely sensitive area, but on which is also the heart of the matter. In emphasizing it here, the Commission wishes to make clear, as it has previously declared, that it makes no judgment whatsoever as to the substance of any previous exercise of that authority. We also wish to reiterate that we believe that there are special challenges facing an institution in service of a church which also serves a public educational function. The line between the two is not necessarily straight nor is there a perfect consensus among reasonable people as to its appropriate positioning. Nonetheless, now having thoughtfully clarified in its governance documents the role of ecclesiastical authority within the institution, Hellenic College/Holy Cross needs to demonstrate that the exercise of that authority in practice strikes an appropriate balance. In this regard, the Commission takes note that the institution's Policies and Procedures Manual has been modified to declare:

The Archbishop of America exercises his canonical authority vis-a-vis the clergy faculty with discretion, having the utmost regard for the mission of Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology.

We also note that the institution's corporate by-laws have been amended, so that as Chairman of the Board of Corporate Members and the Board of Trustees, the Archbishop of America "acts and votes as an individual member and not as the Archbishop of America."

Moreover, the report submitted by the institution, while acknowledging the "ecclesiastic origins and purposes of the School," also "affirms that in the day-to-day operation of the School, the Institution functions on its own in accordance with its adopted governance documents and does not receive interference from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America." Through the institutional self-study and visit in 2001, the Commission looks forward to being assured that practice at the institution accurately reflects these mandates and perspectives.

In its action on the institution's fifth-year interim report, taken in Spring, 1997, the Commission asked Hellenic College/Holy Cross in its 2001 self-study report to give particular emphasis to its success in implementing its 1996/97 strategic plan. It would appear that one casualty of the difficulties subsequently experienced at the institution was this strategic plan. The Commission continues to believe that it is important for the institution to undertake planning and evaluation in keeping with the relevant accreditation Standard which states in part:

The institution undertakes both short- and long-term planning, including candid and realistic analyses of internal and external opportunities and constraints. It responds to financial and other contingencies, establishes feasible priorities, and develops a realistic course of action to achieve identified objectives. Institutional decision-making, particularly the allocation of resources, is consistent with planning priorities. The institution systematically collects and uses data necessary to support its planning efforts and to enhance institutional effectiveness.

The institution evaluates the achievement of its mission and purposes, giving primary focus to the realization of its educational objectives. Its evaluative procedures are appropriate and effective for addressing its unique circumstances. To the extent possible, evaluation enables the institution to demonstrate through verifiable means its attainment of purposes and objectives both inside and outside the classroom.

The institution systematically applies information obtained through its evaluation activities to inform institutional planning, thereby enhancing institutional effectiveness especially as it relates to student achievement. (Planning and Evaluation, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5)

The importance which we attach to such planning efforts is derived from our belief that as a small special-purpose institution, Hellenic College/Holy Cross needs to be extremely thoughtful about its future in an organized, purposeful fashion if it is to continue to be successful in achieving and enhancing the fulfillment of its purposes. It is also the Commission's perspective that seriously undertaking planning and evaluation activities will provide an opportunity for the institution to move away from the difficulties of the past through cooperative activity within the community, undertaken with mutual respect and comity, aimed at fashioning commonly accepted institutional goals and developing the means for their attainment. Through the 2001 comprehensive evaluation, the Commission looks forward to reviewing the success of such institutional planning and evaluation activities.

The Commission expressed appreciation for the report submitted by the institution, which was commendably comprehensive, well-written, and suitably documented. It also welcomed the opportunity to meet with you, Acting Dean James Skedros, and Mr. John Mavroudis.

You are encouraged to share this letter with all of the College's constituencies. It is Commission policy to inform the chairperson of the institution's governing board of action on its accreditation status. In a few days we will be sending a copy of this letter to His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon. The institution is free to release information about the evaluation and the Commission's action to others, in accordance with Commission policy.

In keeping with Commission policy, Valerie Karras and John Collis, the original complainants, as well as Dr. John Chirban, Dr. Elias Patsavos, Dr. Manny Paraschos, and Father John Chryssavgis, who submitted information to the Commission and which was provided to you, will be informed of this action.

If you have any questions about the Commission's action, please contact Charles M. Cook, Director of the Commission.

Walter F. Eggers


cc: His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon
Dr. Daniel O. Aleshire

[ Greek Orthodox Stewards of America
  May 31, 1999 ]