An Update from the ULS Board of Trustees: 10/2

Dear ULS Community,

In recent months members of the United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) community and the Urban Theological Institute (UTI), including students, staff and faculty have come forward to share stories of either experiencing racism first hand or witnessing racism within the community and our institutional structures. Their stories, both verbal and written, have been shared in several venues including the ULS Diversity Task Force, the Board of Trustees Committee on Enrollment Services and Student Life, The Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, and within an impartial human resources investigation conducted by CCI Consulting Company on the seminary’s behalf. These shared stories revealed and substantiated a deeply imbedded culture of racism within our predecessor institutions, and in ULS itself.

This historic pattern of systemic racism and intolerance has not only existed within our predecessor institutions for years, but it has also continued up to the present day, even as recent calls for change and justice were ignored. This pattern has not only stretched across the years, but across our community’s relationships, from those among students, to those among students faculty and staff, as well as to the administration and the Board of Trustees.

It must be publicly stated that during the transition period, former employees of ULS made comments or acted in ways that were either perceived as racist, or in fact were racist. Some of these comments and actions were part of the systemic and relational pattern of racism. There is no doubt that these actions and comments caused pain to those who heard them, and those whose lives, education, worship life, and other activities were affected by them, as well as those to whom the comments and actions were relayed. The board also recognized that it had been remiss in not providing the necessary guidance and training even as ULS was in a period of intense transition that created a volatile and sensitive environment.

Further, the board also realized in its deliberation that many board members are not sufficiently aware and sensitive to these patterns of racism and our own role in perpetuating them. Therefore, the entire board will participate in anti-racism and diversity training in order to help us not only see and better understand the patterns, but also be able to work to change them in ourselves and within ULS. It is the board’s hope that the entire ULS community will join us in the work of repentance and forgiveness.

The Board of Trustees is grateful for the courage of all those in our community who refused to be denied the dignity and respect due by our common humanity, and most certainly demanded by our commitment and love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are aware that moving into a more inclusive and diverse future is going to take much more than a sense of regret and an apology. We know that much work needs to be done. Patterns and practices that have been deeply and long embedded will require concerted effort to change. We are also aware that there can be no cheap grace.

As a beginning to the work which lies ahead, the board has established a board level Diversity Committee and work has already begun in consultation with community’s Diversity Task Force to gather information and formulate a Welcome and Equity Statement. This statement will serve as a guide for assuring that we are an open, welcoming, and just community. The Board of Trustees has committed itself to ongoing anti-racism and diversity training beginning at our next campus meeting in January 2019. In addition, the board is striving to increase transparency as business is conducted.

It is our hope that all of the communities who are part of ULS will support us in this effort, pray for those who have been harmed, and those who need to repent, and contemplate their own role in helping us become a community that deeply reflects the love of Jesus Christ.

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Presidential Search

The Board of Trustees established a working group to formulate a plan and timeline to begin the process for the search for the next permanent president of ULS.

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Faculty Permanency

The Board of Trustees also approved a motion from the Academic and Leadership Committee “to support the direction of the Faculty Permanency Task Force (FPTF) and encourage more detail as it relates to the commitment to faculty and institutional flexibility.”

The FPTF, is made up of faculty, Board of Trustees members as well as President Green and Dean Sebastian. As part of their work, they are seeking to develop a plan that will assure that ULS as an institution has more flexibility in its faculty staffing and programs, while assuring that the faculty have continue to understand that their work is valued, our faculty is respected, and that they have a sense a deep, lasting, and stable relationship with the ULS.

The FPTF has explored a number of options to date including traditional tenure, a mixed model of tenure and contracts, and faculty permanency covenants. The FPTF presented the faculty permanency covenant model to Board of Trustees on Sept 25, and the Board voted to explore this model further. However, the board further charged the FPTF with exploring how this model will assure the commitment to faculty and retain flexibility for the institution. To date no final decision has been made. The FPTF is working to have a completed proposal for the January 2019 Board of Trustees meeting.

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The Board of Trustees also extended an invitation to both the LTSG Alumni Council and the LTSP Alumni Board to designate a representative to attend future meetings of the Board of Trustees. The representatives will have voice in future board work. It is our hope that the representatives will also help with communication between the board and all of our alumni. The invitation arises out of the recognition that all of our alumni are vital to the mission of ULS. We are delighted to have their presence and input.

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Students have shared that communication is not as clear as it could be, so the board is supporting Dr. Green and the communication staff to address these concerns, and the board chair is working on setting up an email address for more direct communication on important matters.

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The Board of Trustees also wishes to thank our students for leading us in worship and for their continuing participation on the board. You give us great hope for the future of the church.

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We have lived through an extra ordinarily difficult and painful period with people in many of our constituent communities struggling to makes sense of what has taken place. We, as your board are aware that many people came to ULS because it seemed to be a community of welcome only to discover something far different from what was anticipated. The board anticipates working to ensure that all who come to ULS will know that they are welcome, cared for, and truly part of the body of Christ. As we take on this work, we ask that you keep the board and the whole ULS community in your prayers. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, holding one another accountable while upholding one another we will become the Unifying, Learning and Serving Community we all envision.

In Christ,
Peter D. Boehringer, Chair
Board of Trustees

You can read the 10/2 statement from the Board of Trustees here.

If you have questions or concerns, you can share them with us via the Community Feedback page.