General Seminary alums write NY Attorney General

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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
The Capitol
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.

http://www.safeseminary.org/how-we-got-here.html

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.

Sincerely yours,

(Alumni/Student Residents of the State of New York)

The Rev. Karen Buzzell-Frey
M.Div., 1990
(street address)
Mooers, New York 12901

The Rev. Harry T. Grace
M.Div., 1970
(street address)
Buffalo, New York 14207

Ms. Karen M. Hall
(street address)
New York, NY 10024

Very Rev. Christopher Hofer
M.Div., 2002
Rector, Church of St. Jude
(street address)
Wantagh, New York 11793

Mr. John H. McCann
Prospective M.A. Student
Licensed Eucharistic Minister, Diocese of New York
(street address)
New York, New York 10012

(Non-Resident Alumni and Former Trustees)

The Rev Martha Blacklock
M.Div., 1976
Desert City, New Mexico

Ms. Ellen Campbell
Non-Matriculated Student, 2012-2014
Montclair, New Jersey

The Rev. Judith Clausen
M.Div., 1980
Denver, Colorado

The Rev. Canon James Hanisian
M.Div., 1972
Leland, North Carolina

The Rev. Joseph Harte
M.Div., 1970
Phoenix, Arizona

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
M.Div., 1998
Newport Beach, California

The Rev. Lisa Keppeler
M.Div., 1989
Coopersburg, Pennsylvania

The Rev. Canon John Lawrence
M.Div., 1970
Venice, Florida

The Rev. Susan Mills
M.Div., 1976
Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico

The Rev. Dirk Reinken
M.Div., 1998
Freehold, New Jersey

The Rev. Canon Nancy A. Roosevelt
M.Div., 1985
Former Member, Board of Trustees
Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120

The Rev. Jeffrey Ross
M.Div., 1998
Lewes, DE 19958

The Rev. Robert Solon Jr.
M.Div., 2006
Current Doctoral Student
Editor, The Anglican Journal
Vernon, New Jersey

Br. Joshua Thomas, CAS
Diploma, 1974
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

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Janis Johnson
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Janis Johnson

It is times such as these when I wish that www.FactCheck.com included the Church and its seminaries.

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S. Elizabeth Searle
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S. Elizabeth Searle

Perhaps the AG's entry into this situation would produce issuance of written reports documenting the claimed thorough ecclesiastical, administrative and (independent) legal reviews on which +Dan and the BofT are relying. Surely a release of such reports would help clarify matters.

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John Chilton
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John Chilton

If the attorney general takes up the case he'd have to look at the several decades financial death spiral at GTS. That is not of the current dean's making. Take him out of the mix and it changes nothing about the downward trajectory. You may not like him, but at least he wasn't hiding from the reality that dramatic action was necessary. That, we know, did not earn him friends.

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Bob McCloskey
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Bob McCloskey

Three points.
1. Bishop Daniel's letter is rightfully critiqued. His appointment as Board Chair was/is curious given the state of affairs he needs to be dealing with in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
2. As an alum '67 I rather cringed at the 'prestigious' claims for my alma mater. I think a better description would have stated that it is the only seminary of TEC under the direction and ultimate control of the General Convention.
3. Yes, Ellen Barrett's description is spot on. Moribund and waiting a proper burial, preferably without the current Dean as officiant.

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