‘Overwhelmed and Blindsided’

GTS News has posted a November 20 letter from the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk to the executive committee of Alumni/ae of The General Theological Seminary:

Please know that the Executive Committee (EC) and Board of Trustees hear you. We are painfully aware that this has not always been evident by our prior response, or lack thereof, to you as a group. For that we apologize. As a way of explanation, though not excuse, we were overwhelmed and blindsided by the faculty letters to us dated September 17th and September 25th and by the public campaign which immediately followed.

Prior to receipt of the letters, the EC knew there were some serious “communication issues” between the faculty and Dean through a phone call made by two faculty members to a board member who is not on the EC. The essence of that conversation was conveyed to me. In turn, I raised the issue with both the Dean and Prof. Good. I asked them to address this issue between the two of them directly. I received no indication from either party that this conversation was not going to happen. In addition, one faculty member expressed unhappiness with the Dean to an EC member in a private conversation, but it was not shared with the EC or Board until after September 20th, as it was believed to be a private communication. Nothing approaching the gravity of the situation was shared prior to the letter of September 17th.

The Board had no mechanism in place to respond to an internal crisis of the proportion that rapidly unfolded on social media and with our alums, students, faculty, staff, and many interested parties. When I received your emails, it was along with 300 other emails or more, for which I was ill-equipped to deal. As I said to you earlier in the month, I am deeply sorry for this failure to communicate and promise to do all in my power to see that this breach of communication, and therefore trust, does not occur again.

The Board’s mandate to the Dean was a simple one — close the $3 million per year operating budget shortfall while at the same time putting in place a shared vision and mission that is both sustainable and viable. Simple, yet very complex to execute. For General to remain viable and vibrant, major changes must be made that involve hard decisions and programmatic change. That was and is the Board’s mandate to Dean Dunkle.

Read the rest.

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