Dear Esther – Part 5

Dear Esther,

During Orientation, each and every newly enrolled Chatham student recites and signs the Honor Pledge.

The Honor Pledge reads: “Realizing the trust placed in me, I affirm my faith in the individual and in personal integrity and I assume the responsibility of maintaining the tenets of the Honor Code in all attendant matters.” In that moment, we stand with our fellow students and make a promise to Chatham College for Women: a promise to uphold the academic, social and residential standards of the campus community as described in the Honor Code. We live with this in our hearts and minds and face consequences should we violate these standards.

When individuals become members of the Board of Trustees at an institution like Chatham University, they too must adhere to standards outlined in an Honor Code of sorts. A Board of Trustees assumes the responsibilities of maintaining the tenets of their Bylaws in all attendant matters. While Bylaws can be amended over time, they are intended to guide the operations of the Board of Trustees of the institution. One must ask the Chatham University Board of Trustees, “What consequences do you face if you violate these standards?”

What We Know…

These are the current violations of the Bylaws by Chatham University Board of Trustees as we understand them:

Article I Introductory

Section 1.2 Statement of Purposes.

“The University’s purpose is the undergraduate education of women and the graduate education of both women and men.”

While Chatham College for Women is currently operating as a women’s college, the School of Sustainability recruits, admits and educates both undergraduate men and women.

 

Article III Membership of the Board of Trustees

Section 3.5 Alumni Trustees.

“There shall be no more than five (5) Alumni Trustees, of whom one shall ordinarily be the President of the Alumni Association while holding that office.”

There are currently 15 of the 29 trustees that are alumnae, including Gail Emery, Class of 1984, who currently serves as the President of the Alumni Association.

 

Article VI Chair and Vice Chair(s) of the Board of Trustees

Section 6.1 Election and Terms.

“The Board of Trustees shall elect the Chair of the Board of Trustees to serve for a term of three years from the date of the meeting at which he/she is elected, and upon the conclusion of such term such person may be elected for up to three additional consecutive one-year terms, subject in case to her/his earlier resignation, death, disability, or removal. A person who has served for six consecutive years as Chair of the Board of Trustees shall normally not be eligible for re-election to that office until the end of the first year after her/his sixth consecutive year.”

S. Murray Rust III is currently serving in his seventh year as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Prior to serving as Vice Chair, Sigo Falk served as Chair of the Board of Trustees for seven years from 1995 to 2002.

 

Article VI Chair and Vice Chair(s) of the Board of Trustees

Section 6.1 Election and Terms.

“The Vice Chair(s) shall be elected annually upon nomination by the Committee on Trusteeship and shall ordinarily serve in that position for not more than five consecutive years.”

Since leaving his position as Chair of the Board of Trustees in 2002, Sigo Falk has been a dedicated Vice Chair of the Board of trustees for the past 12 years.1

 

What We Believe…

A stagnant Board of Trustees exists and the lack of significant turnover in leadership as well as the violations detailed above have been detrimental to the current state of the university.

The matters that come before the Board of Trustees, including the proposal to make the undergraduate college co-educational, are numerous and complex. While a certain historical viewpoint is important, it’s also imperative that a Board of Trustees be a living organization with members, and particularly leadership, moving in and out in orderly rotation. This allows a university to remain current and not allow any single member to become unduly influential or the university to become unduly dependent on any given member. For too long the Chatham Board of Trustees has failed to uphold this standard for itself, and in doing so, it has impinged the university’s ability to move forward while maintaining the mission it was founded upon.

When a student violates the Honor Code, they will “be subject to the full range of sanctions possible through University officials and the Student Conduct Board.” Consequences for violation of community standards range from written warnings to probation to expulsion. Student violations of the Honor Code are, and have always been, taken very seriously by the Chatham community. So one must ask the members of the Board of Trustees, “What sanctions will you face for violating your Bylaws? Who will you stand before to determine the consequences for failing to maintain the tenets of your Bylaws in all attendant matters?”

 

What We Want…

A delay of the Board of Trustees vote.

Given the violations of the Board of Trustees by-laws and the detrimental effects as result, we believe the co-ed vote should be delayed by at least a year. During that time we ask you and the administration to provide us with the following:

  • A formal review of board member terms, as defined by the bylaws, since you took over the presidency of the college.
  • Board restructuring to allow for new perspectives, innovative ideas, and a dedication to women’s colleges.
  • Consequences for bylaw violations sanctioned by an administrative body external to the Board of Trustees.

You have asked for our feedback, Esther, but are you and the Board really listening? If so, you will take this letter to heart and act upon our requests.

Sincerely,

The Save Chatham Movement

1Note: There are inconsistencies regarding Mr. Falk’s tenure as the Vice Chair. Following his $15 million donation to Eden Hall, Chatham University cites he has been Vice Chair since 2002 (see: http://www.chatham.edu/news/index.php/2013/10/chatham-university-receives-15-million-gift-from-the-falk-foundation). However, information provided to the IRS on the 990s suggests other Vice Chairs since 2002.

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  1. Chatham Still Committed to Single-Sex Education | savechatham - April 1, 2014

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