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Theology chair steps down

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Chair of the Department of Theological Studies Jay M. Hammond has announced his resignation from the position of chair.

Hammond submitted his letter of resignation, effective Feb. 28, to Vice President of Academic Affairs Ellen Harshman and Fr. Michael Barber, S.J., dean of Saint Louis University College of Arts and Sciences, on Feb. 12.

“Since the Board of Trustees has decided to ignore the Faculty Senate’s vote of no confidence in Fr. Biondi, I am unable, in good conscience, to continue my service as an administrator at SLU,” Hammond said in the letter. “I do not have confidence in his leadership, so I must resign because the silent majority perpetuates the illusion of Fr. Biondi’s effective leadership.”

In a statement explaining his resignation, Hammond claimed that he has not personally met a chair with confidence in the leadership of Biondi.

“All [chairs] privately claim that Fr. Biondi is a leader with few followers,” Hammond said, “Mostly within the upper administration, a few other pockets within SLU, and most importantly, the Board.”

Hammond stated that his decision was a response to the Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas Brouster’s letter to the University community on Feb. 11.

The letter outlined six actions necessary to improve and repair university issues surrounding communication and shared governance. It also gave status reports detailing how said actions were being actualized.

“Much progress has been made in moving these initiatives forward and in increasing collaboration among the faculty, students, staff, trustees and administration,” Brouster said in the letter.

Hammond found the letter to be evasive of the larger issue: the vote of no confidence.

“The Board has never acknowledged publicly and stated explicitly that there is a vote of no confidence against in Larry Biondi on the table,” he said. “In my opinion, they’re trying to write the narrative as if the six points have already done all that they’re going to do for Larry Biondi.”

Further, Hammand believes the methodology employed by the board in settling the situation has been inadequate.

“I actually think this would be ended very quickly if people would just get more involved and stop saying that this can be privately brokered by a select few behind closed doors, to where a majority of the SLU community actually does not know what’s going on,” Hammond said.

He also claimed that there was a severe disconnect between the expectations of the board and the expectations of faculty as to what needed to be done to generate meaningful progress.

“Many board members were surprised that Dr. Jane Turner reported that the vote of no confidence in Father Biondi is still a primary concern of the faculty senate,” Hammond said.

Faculty Senate President-elect Jane Turner presented faculty concerns to the Board of Trustees during a meeting on Feb. 9.

According to Hammond’s statements, Brouster was quoted as saying that the faculty discontent “is being spearheaded by a small group of malcontents.”

Hammond argued that this sort of speech before Turner’s presentation did not provide a neutral setting in which board members were prepared to listen.

“Father Biondi was actually in the room,” Hammond said. “They didn’t even have a closed executive session.”

Brouster’s letter touched on the presentation by Turner, which he considered to be a positive interaction.

“While the trustees do not agree with all of the Faculty Senate’s perspectives… there was agreement that ongoing collaboration and intiatives should continue.

“Misunderstanding and misinterpretation are used as the excuses for the lack of shared governance,” Hammond said.

The department of theological studies declined to fill the office of departmental chair in a unanimous vote following Hammond’s presentation to the faculty on Feb. 19. Hammond was not aware of the any planned decision prior to his presentation.

“I think it says that we are in solidarity to speaking truth to power,” Hammond said concerning the decision.

He indicated that he will continue in his capacity as a professor despite his resignation.

SLU adminstrative officials were not available for comment concerning Hammond’s decision before the story went to print.

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