On January 31st, President Dr. Van Dyk wrote an email to students outlining strategic realignments.
Rev. Kim LeVert's resignation from International Programs Coordinator was announced.
Dr. Azumah (Ghana, Director of International Programs) was given a smaller role as Affiliate Professor.
The International Student Office was closed.
The Center for Academic Literacy (CAL) was closed, and two writing coaches were let go.
The decision not to renew (Korean-Canadian, Korean American Ministries Director) Dr. Kevin Park's contract was announced.
The First Email
On February 3rd, Rev. Brandon Maxwell (VP for Student Affairs & Community Life) wrote an open letter to International Students (with copies to students and faculty) stating that the purpose of the strategic realignments was to support international students.
It was clarified that instead of Rev LeVert & Dr. Azumah's combined 30+ years of experience working with International Students, Khalfani, who once spent a year abroad, would be the new point of contact for International Students. Unstated is that Khalfani is also the primary point of contact for community life of all domestic students too.
It was announced that there would be an additional Admissions hire in the future.
It was announced that Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens and Rev. Matt Rich would become the new designated school officials.
It was announced by Dean Sechrest that a new KAM Director would be seached for. It is unclear if this would be a new hire or an addition to another professor's workload.
Rev. Maxwell's Follow-up
About two hours after receiving Rev. Maxwell's email, an email was sent by the CISA to the President's Council and faculty stating that the International Students were "ignored, disregarded, and disrespected in the decision making process." 69 students signed in support and made three recommendations:
The International Programs Office be retained.
The Director of International Programs position be maintained and adequately filled.
The decision not to renew Dr. Park's service be reconsidered.
International Students' Response
A group of fifteen International Students (comprising African, East & South Asian students) shared their concerns with the Dr. Van Dyk, Dr. Sechrest, and Rev. Maxwell regarding the changes described in the January 31st email. The International Students shared their proposals, and there was a discussion. The International Students also asked that a public apology be given for not including the international community in the decision making process. Dr. Van Dyk asked for a week to respond to the International Students' proposals.
Dr. Azumah (Ghana), Dr. Ward (Japan), Dr. Riggs, Dr. Carter-Florence, Dr. Nadella (India), and SGA President, Khayla Johnson were witnesses to the meeting.
First Meeting with Administration
On February 7th, tenured white-identifying teaching faculty wrote an email to their colleagues at CTS primarily encouraging the creation of space and time for further sharing of the International Student's and International Faculty's perspectives on the changes at CTS.
Response from Tenured White Teaching Faculty
February 7 - 9
Columbia Theological Seminary hosted a three-day conference on the topic of migration and border crossing. "We want to become a leader in theological education that is setting the tone in thinking about these big issues," Dr. Nadella said in his closing speech.
This is a worthy goal to pursue and implement in Columbia's institutional structures.
Columbia Hosts Migration and Border Crossing Conference
One day after the email from the white tenured teaching faculty, Dr. Van Dyk wrote an apology on behalf of herself, Dean Maxwell, and Dean Sechrest.
Dr. Van Dyk apologized for sending a shorter email to students than she sent to faculty.
Dean Maxwell apologized for sending his email to on Sunday instead of Friday.
Dean Sechrest apologized for not consulting with Dr. Azumah about ending the office of which he was Director.
Dr. Van Dyk still maintained that all strategic realignments were in the best interests of the International Students.
The "apology" email included the line "To be clear, we are taking your concerns seriously; however, much of what you outlined will not be possible."
Dr. Van Dyk's and Dean Maxwell's apologies were irrelevant to the apology requested by the International Students in their February 5th meeting.
Apology to International Students
The second meeting with President Van Dyk, Dean Sechrest, and Dean Maxwell took place on February 25.
The three core recommendations from the International Students were rejected.
International Students described a systemic lack of representation in the school across all forms of decision making at both the level of the student and faculty. These concerns were not addressed.
Dr. Azumah stated that Dr. Van Dyk had been trying to get him to leave his position as Director of International Programs for years.
Dr. Van Dyk responds that her attempts were acts of pastoral care for Dr. Azumah.
Dr. Sechrest claimed to have had a meeting with Dr. Ward about this issue, which Dr. Ward stated did not occur.
Dr. Van Dyk walked out of the meeting before it ended.
Second Meeting with Administration
Citing longstanding discrimination, and disagreements with the direction of the school, Dr. Azumah resigns.
Dr. Azumah Resigns
On March 5th, 2nd-year MDiv Student, Christópher Abreu Rosario (Dominican-American), resigned from one of the three student spots on the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Council.
Christópher Abreu Rosario Resigns from EDI Council
On March 7, President Dr. Van Dyk wrote an email to the school announcing Dr. Azumah's resignation. None of Dr. Azumah's primary reasons for leaving the school were mentioned.
Dr. Azumah's Resignation Announced
On March 12, Dr. Kevin Park posted in the Columbia Life Facebook group that Mrs. Krissy Rosell would be resigning from her position as Program Coordinator of the Office of Advanced Professional Studies. Dr. Park praised Mrs. Rosell's work, ministry, and hospitality, and stated that "Krissy is very much grieved as she prepares to leave CTS."
Dr. Park and Ms. Rosell are now both scheduled to leave CTS on June 30.
Mrs. Krissy Rosell Resigns
On March 18th a petition was released on Change.org. The petition proposed the following solutions to the administration:
The reinstatement of the Office of International Programs;
That the Director of the Office of International Programs be filled by an immigrant faculty member who is globally trained and empathetic to the interests of immigrant and international students; and
Seats at the decision-making table for representatives of the Coalition of International Students and Allies when key decisions are made related to the Office of International Programs, or decisions impacting immigrant and/or international students as a whole.
On March 20th CISA held a public Press Conference to announce the launch of their online petition and to speak out against racist practices at Columbia Theological Seminary. "We love our school and at first wanted to keep it internal, hoping the President would do right by us," said Thomas Miller. "The Administration has had several chances and we now know, our fight will not just be for us at CTS but for immigrant seminarians throughout the United States who feel they are not being treated with dignity and respect."
A continuously updating list of media coverage can be found on the Media tab.
First Press Briefing
On December 2nd, Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens was fired from her role as Chief Enrollment Manager and Designated School Official for the Seminary.
Rev. Belonni-Rosario Govens was a native Puerto Rican on the team who was directly responsible for the care of International Students. She was an outspoken advocate for them and all students of color.
She had filed an internal EDI complaint with the school on November 11th, and she had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint on November 26th. She had alleged that CTS was a hostile workplace environment in both complaints.
During her 23 months at CTS, required performance evaluation procedures were not followed, yet informal feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
VP Maxwell started the meeting (which was supposed to be her first performance review) by telling her that she was “not a good fit” and “not representing Columbia well”. Maxwell stated that “the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the narrative we are going to share with the community."
She was offered two months’ pay if she would resign and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. She declined and was terminated.
Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens Fired
On December 3rd, Thomas Miller, President of the CTS Student Government Association, shared a letter entitled “A Public Call For Dr. Leanne Van Dyk To Resign From Her Position As President Of Columbia Theological Seminary”.
In follow-up messaging, he also stated that he would be sitting on the quad at the foot of the cross from 8am until 5pm on December 9th (rain or shine) if anyone had questions or wanted to discuss his statement.
SGA President Calls for Dr. Van Dyk's Resignation
On December 4th, President of Columbia Seminary, Dr. Leanne Van Dyk sent an email to the entire CTS community denying that there was discrimination in the firing of Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens.
President Van Dyk stated that some information about the dismissal cannot be shared because of privacy concerns.
President Van Dyk stated that there would be no changes to how non-discrimination policies would be followed.
President Van Dyk Responds
On December 5th the Hispanic and Latinx Association (HALA) at Columbia Theological Seminary shares an open letter to the President’s Council, Board of Trustees, and wider CTS Community.
HALA stated that they were disappointed by the removal of Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens, which they believe was inappropriate.
HALA announced that they would not be participating in the 2020 Alumni Reunion, because it would use Dr. Justo González as a publicity pawn.
HALA demanded that CTS make clear and measurable goals concerning the thriving of Hispanic, Latinx, and International Students, faculty and staff. Concrete recommendations were included.
HALA Shares Open Letter
On December 5th, Ruth-Aimee files a second complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging retaliation through her firing after her first complaint.