Following the sudden firing of a Black administrator at the Columbia Theological Seminary, black students are protesting and pointing out that the firing of administration and faculty members of color has been going on since 2019. The Columbia Theological Seminary is a Presbyterian Church seminary located in Decatur, Georgia. Earlier this week, the Columbia community was notified about the firing of admissions director Rev. Samuel White by President Leanne Van Dyk via an email. Following the incident, the African Heritage Student Association of the seminary addressed a letter to the board of trustees and the president’s council, expressing sadness about the incident and demanding the immediate resignation of the president.
Religion News Service reports:
(RNS) — Black students at Columbia Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminary in Decatur, Georgia, are protesting the surprise firing of a beloved admissions director, saying it’s the latest in a series of firings of faculty and administration of color since 2019.
On Tuesday (June 21), as most faculty, staff and students had left campus for the summer, the Columbia community received an email from President Leanne Van Dyk informing them that it was the Rev. Samuel White’s last day. The following day, the seminary’s African Heritage Student Association published a letter addressed to the president’s council and board of trustees expressing “deep sadness and tremendous frustration” over the incident and asserting that Van Dyk’s tenure “has been defined by racial injustice.”
The letter demands that the president, who is scheduled to leave her post in six weeks, resign immediately, that the board president resign, that White be reinstated and that a new advisory board be appointed to oversee personnel changes at the seminary.
White’s time as director of admissions, the students wrote, “resulted in the recruitment of one of the largest incoming classes in recent history, and the most diverse incoming class in the school’s history. Without fail, Rev. White is committed to ensuring that the seminary upholds the values and ethics it professes around justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
White did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
In an email to Religion News Service, Jennifer Cuthbertson, the seminary’s director of marketing and communications, declined to say why White had been let go.
“Columbia Theological Seminary is sensitive to students concerns over the departure of Rev. Samuel White,” Cuthbertson wrote. “However, it was a carefully considered decision and out of respect for the privacy of all current and former employees and consistent with our policies, we do not comment on personnel matters.”
The students also claim that the Rev. Brandon Maxwell, another Black administrator, was forced to resign as vice president for enrollment and student affairs and cited the 2019 firing of the Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens as the seminary’s chief enrollment officer, prompting outrage from the school’s Hispanic and Latinx association, as well as a lawsuit.
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