Trustees of Northern Seminary issued their first official correspondence with students since one-third of the student body signed a letter of no confidence in the board and called for the resignation of any trustees who could not sign a public apology for the way the board handled the resignation of the seminary’s president.
The trustees’ email contained no apology.
“We prayerfully ask for your continued patience as we move forward,” said board Chairman Wyatt Hoch, who signed the memo. The email said the board met for two hours March 27 and it described specific actions trustees took to offer counseling on campus and review the seminary’s bylaws.
Northern President Bill Shiell resigned March 13 after complaints from 17 staff members about abusive and retaliatory leadership prompted trustees to investigate. Shiell has said he did not act inappropriately and said an investigation didn’t find evidence of misogyny or discrimination.
Neither the board nor Shiell has released specific information on an investigation of Shiell’s leadership reportedly conducted by the board. In a letter accepting the resignation, the board praised Shiell’s accomplishments but did not mention the investigation.
Throughout this process, the board has been dogged by complaints of operating without transparency.
More than 100 students, representing about a third of the student body, signed a letter last week saying they have no confidence in the board of trustees, pointing to a lack of support for those who say they were hurt by Shiell’s alleged actions and for seminary students who felt betrayed by the school’s leaders. The board vice chair, Fay Quanstrom, had encouraged the board to adopt a statement apologizing for failing to engage with the student body and to handle the situation properly, but she resigned when the board declined, saying the dismissive treatment of her mirrored the bullying Shiell had been accused of.
The student group also demanded representation on the board.
Hoch’s email this week said the board of trustees includes a Northern student, but there is no indication on the Northern website of a student member of the board. When asked to identify the student, Hoch responded by email: “I understand that federal statute prevents me from disclosing the name of the seminary student who serves on the Northern Board of Trustees. That individual is not a recent addition to the board.”
In the email to the Northern community, Hoch said trustees had authorized the interim president to hire “as expeditiously as possible” a counselor to help students, faculty and staff “process emotions and anxiety, provide feedback and support, clarify misunderstandings and provide comments to the board.”
The email also said trustees are reviewing the seminary’s bylaws and handbooks to address “issues identified in the course of the recent investigation.”
Elizabeth Souder is a freelance editor and writer in Dallas.
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