Outrageous Firing of 8 Seminary Faculty (updated)

Eight of the ten full-time faculty teaching at General Theological Seminary, an Episcopal Seminary in Manhattan, have been fired after detailing the highly objectionable behavior of their newly installed Dean/President Kurt Dunkle in a letter to the school’s Board of Trustees. Here are some of their complaints against Dunkle:

“On numerous occasions, he has told the faculty and others not to discuss matters with one another and prohibited us from assembling without him. He often speaks unprofessionally to individual faculty members about their colleagues…. He once described Asian transit passengers in the San Francisco Bay area as ‘slanty-eyed.’ In a large community meeting last spring, hecompared the technical side of theological education to ‘looking up women’s skirts.’ Before several faculty members and students, he spoke, as an obvious act of intimidation, of how ‘black  people can do such interesting things with their hair,’ a comment about which students complained. On several occasions he has stated that General Seminary should not be ‘the gay seminary.’ And he frequently stresses that the institution should emphasize ‘normal people.’… The Dean has also made inappropriate comments in private conversations with faculty and staff.For example, he once commented that he ‘loved vaginas’ to a female faculty member during a meeting.When told that the comment was inappropriate and unwelcome, he claimed that the discomfort was her problem. When people have complained about such improper comments and have asked him to desist, Dean Dunkle has more than once responded with intimidating and threatening remarks pertaining to individuals’ job security. Indeed, threats to job security are a consistent and frequent part of Dean Dunkle’s communication with us. This kind of blatantly retaliatory behavior has no place in any workplace….”

The faculty requested a meeting with the Board in the same letter, saying they could no longer work with Dunkle. The Board’s response was to hire an attorney to see if the Dunkle had engaged in any actionable behavior, but did not meet with the faculty. The faculty wrote again, threatening a work stoppage if the Board continued to resist meeting with them. The Board’s response? To “accept the resignations” of the faculty, though none had been tendered. Negotiations continue, and the Board has finally agreed to meet with the eight faculty at the upcoming October Board meeting.

This saga, including copies of the correspondence between the faculty and the Board, is chronicled at its own web site. There is also an article about it at The New York Times.

UPDATE (11/8/14): Seven of the eight dismissed faculty members will be returning to their classrooms, according to an article in the NYT.

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