The General Theological Seminary, in New York City, has fired eight of its 10 full-time faculty members after they walked off the job on Friday to highlight their complaints about a president they accused of creating a hostile workplace, according to The New York Times and the blogs Episcopal Café and Anglican Ink.
The faculty members sent a letter to the institution’s Board of Trustees on September 17 detailing their complaints about the Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle, who is dean and president of the Episcopal seminary. The professors said they had alerted the board several times over the past year about their concerns that Dean Dunkle was abrasive and overcontrolling. But the board’s chairman, Bishop Mark S. Sisk, said that the trustees had felt blindsided by the severity of the complaints in the September 17 letter.
In subsequent communications between the professors and the board, Bishop Sisk said, the board had come to feel that the faculty members were making untenable demands as preconditions for a meeting. The board ultimately decided that the professors’ letters amounted to resignation, and on Monday wrote a public letter saying the resignations had been accepted.
The faculty members, who have started a website and a Facebook group, insist that they did not resign and that their letters never stated that they would. They are now taking legal action to keep their jobs, arguing that it is illegal to fire striking workers who have made legitimate complaints.
The seminary’s roughly 140 students, meanwhile, find classes disrupted a month into their term. Dean Dunkle said in a note to the students on Tuesday that about half of the classes were in session and that the seminary was seeking qualified instructors and making other plans for covering the other classes.