A letter has been sent to the Attorney General of New York State asking him to look into fiduciary and governance issues at General Theological Seminary (received on Facebook and published with permission from Bro. Josh Thomas):
Eric T. Schneiderman
Attorney General of New York
Albany NY 12224-0341
Mr. Attorney General:
In light of your investigation of the Cooper Union, we request that you also take a look at the deteriorating situation at the General Theological Seminary, 440 West 21st Street, New York NY 10011. This historic institution, founded in 1817, is the oldest and most prestigious seminary of The Episcopal Church, and until recently owned the entire city block known as Chelsea Square, for which the neighborhood is named. In the past few years the trustees have sold
the former Desmond Tutu Center on 10th Avenue, which has become the High Line Hotel, as well as adjacent pieces of seminary property.
Last fall, faced with a protest by eight distinguished members of the faculty who formed a union, and despite racist, misogynistic and homophobic remarks allegedly made by the dean, the administration announced that it had “accepted the resignations” of the faculty and terminated their contracts. See “Seeking Dean’s Ouster, Seminary Professors End Up Jobless,” The New York Times, October 1, 2014.
A timeline of events from the faculty’s point of view is available below. It alleges several violations of City, State and Federal law.
After worldwide publicity and further protests, several students left at midyear, and the board provisionally reinstated the faculty only for the rest of the academic year, while canceling their academic tenure. No new hires have been announced and several top librarians have left. Only one entering student has paid a deposit for admission next fall. The seminary’s accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools is under review; if there’s no faculty, no library, no accreditation and no students, there’s no seminary.
Was this alleged egregious conduct by the administration calculated to force the seminary to close? It appears to have been groomed for failure. The High Line is one of the hottest places in the city right now, and General Seminary sits right on it.
The undersigned alumni, students, donors, former trustees and supporters of The General Theological Seminary ask that your office investigate the actions of the Dean and President, and the Board of Trustees, who may have abandoned their fiduciary responsibilities and taken actions which are likely to result in the closing of this renowned, 198-year-old institution and the sale of its remaining real estate.
(Alumni/Student Residents of the State of New York)
The Rev. Karen Buzzell-Frey
Mooers, New York 12901
The Rev. Harry T. Grace
Buffalo, New York 14207
Ms. Karen M. Hall
New York, NY 10024
Very Rev. Christopher Hofer
Rector, Church of St. Jude
Wantagh, New York 11793
Mr. John H. McCann
Prospective M.A. Student
Licensed Eucharistic Minister, Diocese of New York
New York, New York 10012
(Non-Resident Alumni and Former Trustees)
The Rev Martha Blacklock
Desert City, New Mexico
Ms. Ellen Campbell
Non-Matriculated Student, 2012-2014
Montclair, New Jersey
The Rev. Judith Clausen
The Rev. Canon James Hanisian
Leland, North Carolina
The Rev. Joseph Harte
The Rev. Dr. Patricia E. Henking
M.Div. 1979, S.T.M. 1997
Former Member, Board of Trustees
Merrimack, NH 03054
The Rev. Kimberly Hague Holtman
Newport Beach, California
The Rev. Lisa Keppeler
The Rev. Canon John Lawrence
The Rev. Susan Mills
Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico
The Rev. Dirk Reinken
Freehold, New Jersey
The Rev. Canon Nancy A. Roosevelt
Former Member, Board of Trustees
Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120
The Rev. Jeffrey Ross
Lewes, DE 19958
The Rev. Robert Solon Jr.
Current Doctoral Student
Editor, The Anglican Journal
Vernon, New Jersey
Br. Joshua Thomas, CAS
203 E. Iroquois Drive
Kentland, Indiana 47951
Link to Cooper Union investigation is here.
The Wall Street Journal in March reported,
Part of the investigation entails the school’s management of one of its most valuable assets, the land underneath the Chrysler Building, said people familiar with the probe. The prized piece of real estate was a gift from the family of school founder Peter Cooper in 1902.
“We have worked relentlessly to put the Cooper Union back on firm financial footing after decades of losses and budget woes,” said Justin Harmon, a school spokesman. “The changes have been successful, challenging and exciting — and we, of course, will cooperate with the attorney general.”
The probe includes a look at several decisions by Cooper Union‘s past and present trustees, according to people familiar with the investigation. Among them: a $175 million loan, using the Chrysler building as collateral, to help finance more than $100 million in new Greenwich Village facilities, the people said.
Mr. Schneiderman‘s office is also reviewing the terms of the school’s lease agreement at the Midtown skyscraper with real-estate company Tishman Speyer, a bonus that the board approved for former President George Campbell Jr. and potential inaccuracies about the board’s financial decisions on the school’s official website, the people said. A spokeswoman for Tishman Speyer declined to comment.
posted by Ann Fontaine