As has been widely reported, on September 26 the dean of General Theological Seminary, The Very Rev. Kurt H Dunkle, summarily fired eight members of the faculty in what one blogger has called “the Michaelmas Massacre." This followed a voluntary work stoppage by the faculty members, who complained that “the working environment that the Dean and President has created has become unsustainable.” The professors requested that the Board of Trustees meet with them to discuss their grievances. Instead, the board issued a statement which said that they had “voted with great regret to accept the resignations” of the eight teachers. In response, one faculty member emailed that “we have not resigned. Our letters did not say that we would resign. We requested meetings with the board.”
What is really going on?
This incident caps a long-standing dispute between the faculty and the dean. The professors alluded to “a number of very serious incidents and patterns of behavior which have over time caused faculty, students and staff to feel intimidated, profoundly disrespected, excluded, devalued and helpless.” Specific complaints against the dean include anti-gay and racist comments, and sexual harassment. Before their dismissal, the faculty despaired that “despite many attempts at dialogue in the past year the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that we have reached an impasse.”
The seminary has in recent years gone through massive restructuring and sale of property to help write down some $40 million in debt. The eight terminated faculty charges that Dunkle “is unable to articulate sensitively and theologically” his program for dealing with the issues facing the seminary.
GTS is left now with approximately 70 students and only two full-time faculty.
Dean Dunkle wrote in an email to students of GTS following the board’s action that “prayer is the most powerful response any of us can make at this point. Please pray.” David J Dunn, writing for the Huffington Post, urges readers to flood the email of Dean Dunkle and the trustees with their concerns.
We should do both.