October 2, 2018 – Students are notified of a public apology made by the Board of Trustees. You may view the Boards statements here: https://unitedlutheranseminary.edu/a-statement-from-the-board-of-trustees-of-uls-10-2/ and here: https://unitedlutheranseminary.edu/board-update-10-2/ 

The Board of Trustees of United Lutheran Seminary acknowledges with sorrow that the patterns and structures of the Seminary, the ELCA and other churches, and our society are all enmeshed in forms of systemic racism. We regret and deplore the ways that racism has been experienced at ULS by persons of color in its community.

Specifically, the Board of Trustees of ULS regrets and repents of our complicity in the systemic racism and intolerance that its community historically has encountered, and we pledge to work to resist it now and reduce it in the future. We support strongly the Seminary community’s development of a Welcome and Equity Statement and look forward to receiving it in final form so that we can make it part of our own commitment to inclusiveness.

We pledge ourselves, as a Board, to engage in anti-racism and inclusivity training, beginning in January 2019, and we ask the Seminary staff, faculty, and students to continue to do the same work. We desire to make diversity training a regular, ongoing part of our Board development, as we also strive to increase the diversity of the Board’s own membership. We are convinced that we ourselves need to do everything that we expect of others, and we believe that we should model for the whole United Lutheran Seminary community our firm belief in the unity and equality of all the children of God.

We ask for your prayers as we begin our own time of reflection and renewal, and we pray for the future healing of the Seminary we love.

Many students are genuinely glad that the Board is finally acknowledging publicly their roles in the racism perpetuated at ULS. We are genuinely thankful that the Board has now committed to right action in the form of anti-racism and inclusivity training. Yet some students are respectfully asking for transparency in how the Board currently views its own complicity with systemic racism at ULS. The phrase “intolerance that its community historically has encountered” leads a reader not familiar with the specifics of ULS/LTSP/LTSG culture to suspect that this statement is referencing racist acts perpetuated in the distant past. This is false. The systemic racism and intolerance that current students are calling the Board to give an account of have all occurred within the last two years and a vast majority of these acts occurred within the last twelve months (the first academic year of ULS). 

Students and staff filed multiple claims of racist acts perpetuated by former Board member and acting-president Jim Dunlop in 2018. In fact the Board as a whole has a claim substantiated against it for its perpetual delay in addressing claims made by African American students. These and other claims have been substantiated by CCI Consulting (the firm hired by the Board to address claims) and there has been neither private apologies nor right public confession nor any form of disciplinary action for these specific racist acts. It is important we note here that right public confession does not disassociate itself from the act which it is attempting to confess. Furthermore the Board member in question, Jim Dunlop has publicly denied at least one racist statement that has now been substantiated by CCI Consulting. This is rightly deemed as bearing a false witness. Whatever slim hope there may be that we continue together in fellowship it cannot be based on a continuance of this false witness. 

This timeline went through an extensive vetting from April of 2018 through the present to ensure that it is true, and it was shared with ULS leadership routinely from April through September. As of July 2018 many complaints against Jim Dunlop were now substantiated and reported to the board. Yet Jim Dunlop still retained his seat on the board without acknowledging why many in the ULS community found his presence problematic to reconciliation and moving forward. It is only after this timeline was made public (Oct. 10, 2018) that Bishop Dunlop resigned from the ULS Board of Trustees.

It is important to note that not all current Board members are complicit with these specific acts of racism at ULS that have either been substantiated by CCI Consulting or have yet to be fully addressed by third party inquiry. Therefore, for the sake of all involved, students sincerely hope that those Board and faculty members who have acted in ways that ultimately delayed justice and perpetuated grief upon students, especially African descent students, make a right confession of their complicity to the student body. Some acts Board and faculty members may want to consider from earlier this year include recusing oneself from investigating ones peer of racist acts, redacting student statements made to the whole Board prior to the members seeing these student statements, or forwarding on to ULS leadership student statements that attempted to invalidate the now substantiated systemic racism present at ULS. 

In recent months members of the United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) community and the Urban Theological Institute (UTI), including students, staff and faculty have come forward to share stories of either experiencing racism first hand or witnessing racism within the community and our institutional structures. Their stories, both verbal and written, have been shared in several venues including the ULS Diversity Task Force, the Board of Trustees Committee on Enrollment Services and Student Life, The Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, and within an impartial human resources investigation conducted by CCI Consulting Company on the seminary’s behalf. These shared stories revealed and substantiated a deeply imbedded culture of racism within our predecessor institutions, and in ULS itself.

Yes, the above paragraph is a true and verifiably correct public statement.

This historic pattern of systemic racism and intolerance has not only existed within our predecessor institutions for years, but it has also continued up to the present day, even as recent calls for change and justice were ignored. This pattern has not only stretched across the years, but across our community’s relationships, from those among students, to those among students faculty and staff, as well as to the administration and the Board of Trustees.

Yes, the above paragraph is a true and verifiably correct public statement.

It must be publicly stated that during the transition period, former employees of ULS made comments or acted in ways that were either perceived as racist, or in fact were racist. Some of these comments and actions were part of the systemic and relational pattern of racism. There is no doubt that these actions and comments caused pain to those who heard them, and those whose lives, education, worship life, and other activities were affected by them, as well as those to whom the comments and actions were relayed. The board also recognized that it had been remiss in not providing the necessary guidance and training even as ULS was in a period of intense transition that created a volatile and sensitive environment.

While the above paragraph has a ring of truth there is no way to verify that only “some of these comments and actions [are] part of the systemic and relational pattern of racism.” It is much more likely that all of these substantiated acts of racism are both individualistic and part of the system which continues to perpetuate racism within ULS. 

It is important to state that some students wonder if the negligence acknowledged here which continues to manifest as real, verifiable and sustained trauma for many students may have been mitigated had Board members not recused themselves from investigating racism enacted by Bishop Dunlop which has now been substantiated by CCI Consulting since July of 2018. It is unacceptable that Bishop Dunlop (as a member of the Board when this statement was made) acknowledge the acts of others while not claiming his own racists acts which have been substantiated by third party inquiry.

Further, the board also realized in its deliberation that many board members are not sufficiently aware and sensitive to these patterns of racism and our own role in perpetuating them. Therefore, the entire board will participate in anti-racism and diversity training in order to help us not only see and better understand the patterns, but also be able to work to change them in ourselves and within ULS. It is the board’s hope that the entire ULS community will join us in the work of repentance and forgiveness.

Students respectfully ask how the claim can be made that “many board members are not sufficiently aware and sensitive to these patters of racism and our own role in perpetuating them” when students raised these issues in multiple board meetings throughout 2017 and 2018. How will the board avoid this blindness in the future? 

The Board of Trustees is grateful for the courage of all those in our community who refused to be denied the dignity and respect due by our common humanity, and most certainly demanded by our commitment and love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are aware that moving into a more inclusive and diverse future is going to take much more than a sense of regret and an apology. We know that much work needs to be done. Patterns and practices that have been deeply and long embedded will require concerted effort to change. We are also aware that there can be no cheap grace.

Yes, the above paragraph is a true and correct public statement. Now students must respectfully ask how the Board will seek to publicly verify their commitment to the students and the well-being of ULS. 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.