Negotiations over the return to work of 8 General Theological Seminary faculty appear to be at an impasse, according to a statement released by the faculty.
Negotiations over the return to work of 8 General Theological Seminary faculty appear to be at an impasse, according to a statement released by the faculty. Claims put forward by the seminary’s Board of Trustees on 25 Oct 2014 that the eight’s return was imminent were untrue, the professors said.
On 24 Oct 2014 the trustees released a statement saying:
In a spirit of reconciliation and healing for the entire Seminary community, The General Theological Seminary (GTS) Board of Trustees announced this week an offer to presently reinstate eight faculty members. At that time the Board also affirmed its call to the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle as President and Dean of GTS.
It further stated:
This week’s invitation would return faculty members to salaries and health benefits for the remainder of the academic year as they work to resolve all outstanding issues with the Board of Trustees. The faculty members would agree to not only return to the classroom, but also to participate in all campus activities such as common meals and community worship and abide by the terms of the Seminary Constitution, Bylaws and policies, and will work together with both the Board, President and Dean Dunkle and an outside mediator appointed to facilitate permanent reconciliation. A process of integrating the returning faculty back into classroom activity is under development so that there is as little disruption of class work as possible.
However in a statement released on 27 Oct, the professors did not accurately summarize the state of hte negotiations. The “central issue” in the labor dispute, they said was the “abusive environment at GTS.” In light of the trustees affirmation of Dean Dunkle, the professors stated they were concerned as to “whether anything would be different upon our return other than our reduced academic roles and our new status as ‘provisional.’.”
The professor’s request that an independent ombudsman to hear complaints from the faculty had been rejected, they said, but had been rejected by the trustees, who offered to create a four member committee drawn from the trustees to hear grievances. This, the professors said, was not acceptable as it would not be impartial.
The dispute was driven by personalities, they said.
The other point the Board seems to miss is that, despite deciding that there were not sufficient grounds to terminate Dean Dunkle, the complaints we made about him remain, and continue to create a toxic work environment. A four-person committee chaired by an outspoken critic is not going to rectify that problem.
The professors stated: “There can be no reconciliation as long as students and faculty lack the confidence that their work, their contributions – even their presence – are valued” by Dean Dunkle.