Rescinding Letters of Recommendation

I came across an article in Inside Hire Ed that tells of a teacher who was suspended for revoking a letter of recommendation she had written for a student. The young man in question had displayed a swastika in his school. The article deals with the ethics of rescinding a recommendation from the perspective of its impact on the student. This seems wrongheaded to me. What they need to be thinking about is the impact that recommendation would have on the teacher.  Continue reading “Rescinding Letters of Recommendation”

Funding My Theology Habit

It is never a good idea to announce online where you work. People get fired for saying stupid things about their places of employment. So I will not tell you the name of the university. But if you were to guess, “Vanderbilt,” you would be right.

I am staff, not faculty. I do not teach at Vanderbilt the university. I am an educational consultant for a department that offers services to support academically gifted students. What that means is that I help put the classes together. There is a large technology component to my job too, which happened somewhat by accident. Continue reading “Funding My Theology Habit”

What the Hell is Going on at NNU?

Thomas J. Oord was recently fired by Northwest Nazarene University. For full disclosure, before I was Orthodox, I spent time as a Nazarene. I have met Oord once or twice at conferences, and he seemed like a pretty nice guy. What I do know is the man had name recognition in the academy. That’s a pretty big deal when you consider the packed playing field. Not many theologians from Nazarene institutions garner the kind of respect he has. Continue reading “What the Hell is Going on at NNU?”

Rev. Tillotson’s Ridiculous Defense of GTS

Rev. Ellen Tillotson weighed in yesterday on the mess going on at General Theological Seminary in New York. Her article and the faculty’s response need to be read, but the short version is that the eight protesting professors were not fired. They resigned. Rev. Tillotson makes her case by talking about some of the things the faculty wrote to the Board of Trustees (of which she is a member).

In it [their letter], they said, twice, that they were unable and unwilling to work with Dean and President Kurt Dunkle and that unless certain changes were made, they would be “no longer able to serve in our positions at General” [sic]…

They stated again, at the end of the letter, that “If Dean Dunkle continues in his present position, we will be unable to continue in ours.”…

In [a] second letter, the eight members also stated that “the damage has been done,” “no working relationship is possible,” “we can no longer work with President Dunkle.”

Tillotson also challenges the narrative that the faculty had only one demand: to bring their grievances to the board. In fact, she says, the faculty laid out a series of conditions for the board to meet in order to have a discussion.

I feel like Rev. Tillotson has insulted my intelligence. I am in a bit of a leadership position. If someone presented similar complaints to me, I would see it as the start of a conversation. If the complaints came from several staff at once, in the form of a letter, I would interpret it as the opening gambit in a negotiating process (hence the conditions for meeting). I suppose if I were drunk or recovering from some kind of brain injury, I might ask, “So…are you resigning?” Basically, it is hard not to read Rev. Tillotson’s account and infer either that she and the entire board of GTS are lying, or they are extremely incompetent.

I am not an Episcopalian. I don’t have anything personally at stake in this issue except for the fact that one of my friends (whom I have known since 2004) is among those who have been fired. He has a wife with two kids, student loans, and a PhD in a market where jobs are few and far between. It is hard for me to see him, or anyone in his position, seeing a work stoppage as anything but a last resort. I am outraged for Josh, but I am also outraged by the obvious injustice (and possible illegality?) of firing protesting workers, particularly when it is a religious institution doing the firing. Is this how the Episcopalians respond to collective bargaining? They fire the people on strike and then lie about it?

Rev. Tillotson seems to be saying that what is going on at GTS is sad, but it is not her fault or the fault of the Board of Trustees. They are not responsible.

No matter what else you might think about this situation, that is just bad leadership.

Unfolding Events at GTS

A few days ago, eight faculty members at the General Theological Seminary in New York went on strike until their one demand was met. What was that demand? A meeting.

As of this morning, they have all been fired.

Here’s why you should care about this:

It is a spiteful act. Take a moment to read the original announcement. The protesting faculty took pains to be as diplomatic as possible, leaving readers uncertain as to what their specific complaints were. The word “heavy-handed” does not even begin to describe the administration’s response to their tact.

It is deceitful. The dean and president (who is also a reverend) announced to the student body that the protesting faculty had resigned. They did not.

It is unreasonable. The dean and president has basically fired people for wanting to talk to his superiors. In what universe is this an appropriate course of action?

It is stupid. Some of the faculty’s concerns seem to be about the president’s heavy-handed leadership style and his tendency to perceive discussion as dissent. He has not helped his case.

It sets a dangerous precedent. The erosion of the tenure system has already undermined academic integrity. If this act is allowed to stand, then a precedent has been set. Faculty protest against administration leads to termination. If you or anyone you love has any relationship whatsoever to higher education, then this is something to worry about.

I learned about this from a friend of mine at GTS. He is going through this right now. His wife also works at the seminary. They have two children. Here is how you can help them and the other people whose lives have been sent into a tailspin by this news.

1. Pray: Pray for my friend, his family, and his colleagues at GTS.

2. Share: Share this blog post. Share any of the links above. Draw attention to this issue.

3. Flood: The email address of the Dean and President is: [email protected] If I can acquire the contact info of anyone on the Board of Trustees, I will update this post.

Seriously, this is insane. They only wanted to talk.

If you have thoughts or credible information about these ongoing developments, please share.

Enough With the Essays! – A Brief Manifesto for Concept Maps

By Keerati, via
By Keerati, via

People tend to teach the way they have been taught. So when I wanted to “encourage” my students to read, I would have them submit a brief essay on an assigned text. That was dumb!

The vast majority of student essays are acts of violence against logic and style. I love my students, but most of them are terrible writers. Even back when I would teach divinity students at Vanderbilt, I regularly received essays that showed few signs they had been written by grownups with college degrees. (I blame the “Three Point Paragraph.“) Maybe I’m just overly picky and judgmental. … Okay, I probably am overly picky and judgmental, but that only makes these automasochistic assignments all the more psychotic. Continue reading “Enough With the Essays! – A Brief Manifesto for Concept Maps”

A Letter to My Daughter for her Civics Project

IMG_2384For those of you who are worried about the government brainwashing our children with Obama’s “socialist propaganda,” I present my daughter. My problem with Obama is that I do not think he is socialist enough, yet Kyla comes often comes home from school parroting political opinions that make me throw up in my mouth a little.

Last night, she told me that she was going to do a civics project where she had to write a letter to her senator about a topic she cared about. She chose gun control, or as she put it, “I want to write against people who are trying to take away our right to own guns.”


Continue reading “A Letter to My Daughter for her Civics Project”