There are many questions the ULS community has related to recent events. In an effort to be open and improve communication, the board and the acting president have tried to address many of these questions and concerns in the following Q&A.
Board of Trustees
Q: Did Bishop Dunlop vote to remove former President Latini and then receive the appointment as acting president?
A: Bishop Dunlop did participate in the discussion and vote regarding former President Latini’s tenure at the seminary. Bishop Dunlop did not seek out this calling, and it had no bearing on his decision surrounding former President Latini’s service.
Q: Is Bishop Dunlop still a member of the board of trustees? If so, would that be a conflict of interest in his role as acting president?
A: Bishop Dunlop serves as an ex officio, non-voting participant of the board of trustees. He has been replaced on the board by Bishop Richard H. Graham, representing Region 8, until his time as acting president is completed. The Region 8 bishops have asked Bishop Dunlop to return to serve on the board of trustees when his time as acting president has concluded.
Q: How many board members are there currently, and what steps are being taken to replace those who have resigned?
A: With the additions of Bishop Richard Graham representing the Region 8 bishops and the Rev. Constance Mentzer representing the Lower Susquehanna Synod last week there are 14 board members. The ULS bylaws call for board members to be replaced as soon as possible and for the board to have a minimum of 14 members.
Q: What is the current composition of the board of trustees?
A: There are eight men, six women (including a member of the LGBTQIA community), two persons of color, and a member of the Episcopal Church. We are striving to strengthen diversity as board members are added. The board of trustees is not affiliated with either campus. Board members are selected from Regions 7 and 8 of the ELCA, and 20 percent are elected by the Church Council of the ELCA.
Q: There is still mistrust among some at ULS toward the remaining board members. What is being done to rebuild the trust between the board and the ULS community?
A: Bishop Dunlop will be writing a weekly letter to the ULS community discussing ULS’s efforts to identify a new president, answer questions about recent changes, and address how the board of trustees plans to include members the ULS community into the decision-making process moving forward. At the same time, Bishop Dunlop is happy to engage any and all of the members of the community to help build trust.
Additionally, the board of trustees will include board development on its agenda for its next regular meeting in May, discussing and learning about topics potentially including how better to stay in touch with constituencies, board governance, diversity training and others.
Q: What steps is the board taking to identity an interim president?
A: Conversations around the process for identifying an interim president have begun among Bishop Dunlop, and board members Dr. Tommie L. Robinson, Jr. and Bishop Claire Burkat. Many candidates, including volunteers, have emerged.
Q: At the original campus meeting to discuss the turmoil over former President Latini’s background and the failure of the board to disclose it, Bishop Dunlop urged members of the ULS community to adopt a spirit of generosity, citing the eighth commandment’s directive that people of God view their neighbors in a favorable light. How is that not an attempt to silence criticism?
A: Bishop Dunlop’s commentary on the eighth commandment was to encourage the community to think about how we spoke about former President Latini and one another during this conflicted time. The eighth commandment does not tell us to silence dissent or calls for justice; it dictates we speak well of our neighbor and present them in the best possible light. In this time of heightened conflict, it can guide us toward civil discourse and away from finger pointing and recrimination.
Q: The tumultuous events surrounding former President Latini’s tenure have diverted much time and attention away from the central mission of ULS, teaching, learning and preparation of seminary students to enter the ministry. What steps is the board and ULS administration taking to refocus ULS on these core objectives?
A: The Bishop and the board of trustees are committed to creating an atmosphere where students can thrive both academically and spiritually. This, of necessity, means the ULS administration and board will increase their efforts to hear all ULS voices and will consider them in decision making. They have vowed to take a even stronger leadership role while making the necessary changes to secure the long-term interests of the ULS community. To help the community heal, the Board has approved the Administration’s requests for the funding of pastoral and behavioral health services and the hiring of a specialist in communal trauma to assist with healing, justice and reconciliation.
Q: During the debate over former President Latini, students of color voiced unease and concern about incidents of racism at ULS. How has Bishop Dunlop responded?
A: In a session with the board, African American students said they had been subjected to instances of racism on the campuses of ULS and felt that their concerns had been largely ignored by past administrations. Diversity is one of the highest priorities for the acting president and board. Bishop Dunlop and board member Dr. Tommie L. Robinson, Jr. have met with African-American students to examine the issue of racism. These conversations are ongoing. The Bishop and the board take these concerns seriously and are committed to creating an inclusive learning atmosphere on campus for all students.
Q: What is the role of the outside communications firm?
A: La Torre Communications was hired to provide additional support and counsel and to enhance communications during this period of transition.
Q: What is the ULS policy on media inquiries?
A: All institutional media inquiries should be forwarded to the communications office, which at ULS is led by Barry Hill, Chief Communications Officer.
As of March 29, 2018: The board and acting president understand there are more questions and concerns to address. They are working to answer them and will update this Q&A periodically.
If you have questions or concerns that remain unanswered you can always submit those on the ULS Community Concerns page.