The Gustavian Weekly

Letter to the Editor

By Chad Fothergill | January 18, 2013 | Letters to the Editor

Please accept my thanks and appreciation for the online emendation made to Tram Bui’s article concerning the chaplain search process in the 7 December 2012 issue of The Gustavian Weekly, namely that the phrasing of my “abrupt departure” was made in reference to President Ohle’s unilateral reconfiguration of the full-time faculty position that I had held since September 2009 rather than a singular action taken of my own accord. I also applaud Ms. Bui for the thoughtful and courteous message sent to me that very morning, a model gesture of dialogue, diplomacy, and sincerity that the President himself would do well to emulate.

I also write in response to the staff editorial published in the same issue. Though the perspectives presented here are certainly sensible and noble, I sense that the time for “pragmatism” has come and gone (that is, if such a time even existed in the first place). Unfortunately, the tensions that plague the campus are rather commonplace throughout higher education as an increasing number of news reports, peer-reviewed articles, and monographs make clear. What really allows Gustavus to stand apart is the egregious nature of the President’s brazen disregard for the ethos of the “core values” displayed on campus banners and espoused in “College of the Church” literature, an implicit antagonism toward the inquisitive nature of a liberal arts education, and a troubling inability to measure or comprehend long-term consequences of his largely cosmetic and superficial handiwork.

I point, of course, to the example of my own experience as one suddenly released from serving and teaching in the Church presumably because I would not appear as reflective of the College’s heritage to visiting foreign dignitaries as others would. Moreover, the conflicting administrative rationales proffered to colleagues and myself were nothing more than unimaginative strings of psychobabble and evasive reasoning—some were outright lies. If this indeed is the President’s measure of “the highest level of integrity and quality” (excerpted from his comments in another article from the 7 December Weekly issue), then perhaps the questionable decorum of “GustieLeaks” stands as a proportional response to the severe administrative imbalance between word and action.

Though I continue to dearly miss my students, colleagues, and friends on campus, my sadness for the state of the institution is increasingly supplanted by shame: not just a casual sense of chagrin, but a gut-wrenching and almost nauseous humiliation. I am personally embarrassed by the questionable ethics and unbecoming actions of this President and other senior administrators, devastated that Board of Trustees representatives would lend endorsement such behavior, and mortified by grammatical mistakes and the facile timbre of fundraising literature. Certainly the College will “survive” (for lack of a better term) the present leadership crisis, but it is readily apparent that the long-term healing process can only begin with a new President selected through clear and transparent means, an individual who can both lead with and embody the “highest level of integrity and quality” befitting a College of the Church.


—Former Gustavus Cantor  Chad Fothergill