To Whom it May Concern,
There has been, in the past, much confusion about the college community’s frustrations with President Jack Ohle. As a student, I knew something was wrong, and I tried hard to inform myself. I spoke with faculty and staff, followed public conversations, and read whatever documents were made public, but was foiled again and again by an air of fear, secrecy and scandal.
As an alumni, invested in the future success of the institution that gave me so much, I have continued to be concerned. Now, as the conversation regarding President Ohle’s leadership is brought into the light by GustieLeaks, my encounters and concerns from my student days make more sense.
Here are a few stories from the years of 2008-2011. On one occasion, I wrote to the President, demanding answers. Why did Provost Mary Morton leave her position? Was she, as many suspected, forced out by the President? The response I got was friendly and conciliatory, but contained not a single answer.
I spoke with a trusted staff member, who shared that she saw the best leaders at Gustavus being forced out by Ohle’s “bully moves.” She felt that her choices were to speak up and face the same fate, or to remain silent about these abuses of power and try to continue doing good in the community.
This was around the time that it was announced that Chaplain Brian Johnson would be leaving the College. This event, and other events surrounding Christ Chapel have been of particular concern to me.
Chaplain Johnson’s departure was sudden and unexplained. Most who knew him knew that something was wrong with this picture, but again the air of secrecy prevented clear answers as to the reason of his departure. I have no way to know for certain, but I presume that it had to do with President Ohle.
The following restructuring of the chapel staff without, as the faculty letter of concern makes clear, consultation with Chaplain Rachel Larson or other stakeholders, seems to confirm this suspicion—rather than being a sanctuary of spiritual growth, Christ Chapel is being used as a power tool by the Ohle administration.
I recognize that my stories contain mostly hearsay and rumor, and thus might be easy to dismiss. My argument is this: the fact that the Gustavus community has only been able to participate in this conversation via hearsay and rumor is a symptom of the illness.
Where there is smoke, there is probably fire; in this case the smoke of fear and secrecy has smothered the Gustavus culture of shared governance and open and honest dialogue. At the very least, I want to see clearly. I applaud GustieLeaks for bringing in a wind of transparency.
Bethany Ringdal, ‘11