October 2017 In the fall of 2017 the Philadelphia campus had only the third African American sacristan in chapel history and first two were in the 2008-2010 academic years. The tradition at both campuses prior to the merger was that the Dean of Chapel chose two student assistants each year for the paid position of sacristan. Philadelphia’s 2017-2018 sacristan of African descent desired to see more African descent voices and bodies in leadership. Knowing the previous years denial of Black student leadership in the chapel she formed a plan to request Black leadership during Black History Month. She approached the Philadelphia campus council (elected student leaders) at their first September meeting to gain their approval before approaching the Dean of Chapel Michael Krentz with a proposal that all chapel services during Black History Month (February 2018) should be led by a person of color.
The Campus Council gave their enthusiastic support. Still, the Dean of Chapel would not give the immediate approval which was certainly within his ability to give. He initially denied the proposal. Then sensing the earnestness of the students in the meeting and as an act of avoidance he expressed doubt that enough leaders of African descent could be found to preach and preside over the eucharist. This delay in approval of the sacristans proposal lasted for over three months and further damaged the relationship between African descent students and our chapel. The ongoing omission of welcome to Black bodies and voices is having a continued adverse effect on the chapel.
It is important to note here that the claims filed by students concerning Dr. Krentz’s implicit bias which led to racist words and actions have been investigated by a human resources firm hired by the Board of Trustees. As of July 2018 these complaints have been substantiated and reported to the board. Dr. Krentz resigned as a member of the faculty and was publicly thanked for his service to ULS on August 2, 2018. It is also important to note that at least one of the many claims filed by students and confirmed by current Board Chair Rev. Dr. Peter Boehringer in August 2018 states that both Bishop Dunlop as an individual and the ULS Board of Trustees as a whole was “delayed in addressing concerns brought by African-American students” which shines a light on this delay in the chapel being enabled by a larger system of ULS racism. Many of the proposed policies in the ULS Policy Survey seek to address these ongoing systemic issues in the ULS community. This announcement is part of the timeline of racism at United Lutheran Seminary