This seems an appropriate juncture to make a few comments in relation to Asbury, both in hope that Asbury will move forward and since I will be moving forward. For one, my future does not lie with Asbury (I was not offered the position, saving me the hard decision). Second, this Greenway announcement is surely his final or at least penultimate statement to the Asbury community. Finally, the Asbury board meets next week for the first time since the crisis.
I had been encouraged to apply for the Asbury position and had done so prior to the time that this crisis erupted. This was a recipe for my complete absorption in the event. The fate of the crisis was potentially my fate as well. When I said things like "I for one would never teach on faculty with this EXCO," I said so knowing that I had an application in process. That was of course a comment made in the heat of the occasion, but you can see in retrospect that some of my comments were me wrestling with my own application.
At the same time, I felt that I might also give voice to what I saw as a disempowered faculty and President Greenway with little serious consequence. It was a win-win. To go to Asbury would likely be a win; to stay at IWU would be a win as well. I was deeply conflicted anyway and became rather fatalistic about my involvement. If my provocations killed my application, so be it. By the way, I am told that the relevant committees put my involvement in the crisis aside in their decision making process.
But that's all peripheral--things to say to bring closure. Let me now offer the following thoughts on Jeff's letter and some suggestions for Asbury's healthy advance.
There were a few places in his letter where Jeff hinted at his perspective on the crisis:
"...the rightest stand I have ever taken. I stood my ground during these weeks as an act of obedience. I have loved and continue to love Asbury Seminary, and hope that the Board will take the issues I have raised to them seriously."
From what I understand, Jeff did indeed take a confrontative approach before the board on October 17th. This was not well received. Whether the outcome of the vote might have been different if he had taken a more submissive approach, I cannot say. You might remember that I recommended at the time that he let the faculty and others do the confrontation, that he needed to submit to the board's authority to survive.
I will not, however, pass judgment on his motives. Perhaps he saw himself peforming an act of self-sacrifice for the betterment of the community. Perhaps he chose to present his case against certain individuals in the best interests of Asbury's future, knowing it would mean his own demise? I don't know.
But apparently 3/4 of the board voted in favor of Greenway's resignation, and that is difficult to ignore. I have little doubt but that Jeff was wronged in this process and likely before. But I have to consider this sort of vote definitive as well. To think anything otherwise is to conclude that Asbury is lost. If the power that governs Asbury were this perverse, then Asbury would be a total loss, and I just don't believe this.
Sadly, Jeff also writes this:
"as of the time of this writing, I have not and probably will not receive a severance package that is fair, equitable or just. I was presented a package, but for a variety of reasons could not sign such a non-negotiable, punitive, one-sided document."
Likely part of this disagreement is the usual "gag" order that goes with these sorts of agreements. I'm guessing that Jeff does not want to be gagged.
My suggestions for the board to move Asbury forward:
As the Asbury Trustees come to campus for their regular meeting next week, I have the following suggestions for their self-examination.
1. Simply to "avoid the very appearance of evil," there should be a "good form" re-election of the executive committee, chair, and vice chair. Even if exactly the same individuals are re-elected, the board needs to do this as an act of good faith. They don't have to do it--they are the chief authority of the institution. But they should.
Wouldn't it be great? First one person resigns and then is re-elected. Then another, then another... Again, it doesn't matter if exactly the same people are re-elected to every position. But it would "avoid the very appearance of evil."
2. The charges that President Greenway brought to the board should be thoroughly investigated by this new consultant or a new consultant with recommendations made.
3. Some obvious new policies should be enacted by the board:
a) It should become a by-law that, except under unusual circumstances, there should be a perfunctory change of Board Chair when there is a change of President.
b) In a crisis such as we have just experienced, there should be a mandatory calling of the entire board within a week, unless a distance vote of the whole board empowers a smaller portion of the board to take certain emergency actions.
4. A number of more general matters should be investigated and acted on, although I do not know enough to make specific suggestions:
a) scrupulous measures should be taken to ensure that the board stick to its own policies with regard to a portion of the board not being allowed oversight of the President. This policy seems to have been flagrantly ignored throughout the crisis, if I understand it correctly.
b) the nature of the faculty's "shared governance" needs to be explored deeply. The board should submit to the advice of the key accrediting agencies on what shared governance means.
If I might be so bold as to state what I believe to be the truth, Dr. Greenway did not really seem to understand his subordination to the board. He seemed to interact with the board at times as if it was like a PPR committee or church board. In this sense the board really is more like a corporate board where the CEO is subordinate to the Chair of the Board.
On the other hand, the board didn't seem to understand that shared governance works somewhat differently from anything you might have in a corporation. The appropriate accrediting agencies should be invited to spell out the differences in detail and any appropriate policy changes should be made.
c. In my opinion, the manner of communication--both within the board itself and between the board and the community--should be seriously addressed. My perception is that the power core of the board hoarded its control of the situation and kept the broader board at bay throughout the crisis.
Also, there were some very simple ways in which communication might have taken place to the community without breeching confidentiality. For example, even "the Board would like to let the faculty know that their voice is being heard and is deeply respected, although for reasons we will make known later we cannot inform you further." The confidentiality argument simply doesn't seem to ring true as the whole story.
d) These things suggest cumulatively that the management set up and style of the board has some serious problems to it. I hear Dr. Goodwin from the past suggesting a more systems approach be put in place.
Blessings to Asbury and Greenway, Ken