Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ruth Tucker, Calvin Seminary, and Constructions

Just one more note on the Ruth Tucker controversy at Calvin Theological Seminary. (See my previous post for the basic storyline, and this WOODTV8 video interview of Dr Tucker.)

Consider this quote from the Grand Rapids Press article, and as you read, focus on the Calvin administration's rationale for silence in the face of Dr. Tucker's charges against them:

Plantinga said seminary officials are unable to fully respond to Tucker's allegations because of confidentiality rules.

"A former employee on her blog can say whatever she wants without fear of refutation because it's inappropriate for Calvin Theological Seminary to comment publicly on confidential personnel matters," he said.

Why is it "inappropriate" again? And why are seminary officials unable to fully respond? I mean, the lady has had her reputation brought into question here. And all the sudden, when she is the one asking the questions, it's time for Maxwell Smart and the Cone of Silence? (Sorry for those too young for that pop culture reference...)

Calvin's reasons are mere constructions -- constructions that ought to be admitted to as constructions. "Confidentiality rules," for instance, are rules made by men -- and here, I do mean literally males. As such, they can be unmade. They aren't Holy Writ. They have no moral power.

And who says it is inappropriate for Calvin to comment publicly if the personnel matter is one the individual involved in wants made public? Since Ruth is not averse to this, one finds it hard to think Calvin has any real claim to secrecy here.

I suspect the real problem is one of specificity. If Ruth had committed adultery, been sneaking cocaine during lunch breaks, or taught that Sun Myung Moon was the true messiah, I don't think we'd be hearing this talk of confidentiality. My own sense is that Calvin is dealing with not knowing how to retrace their steps gracefully. Dr. Tucker, it seems to me, is not at all interested in legal charges or other nonsense. She wants Calvin's administration to apologize, along with the back pay she deserves (which would also be putting feet on the admission of error by Calvin's administration).

Is that too much of a construction to ask for?


Anonymous said...

I had an aha moment about this particular issue of "confidentiality." That is, it is an issue of confidentiality all right, but not related to what readers and listeners are meant to presuppose.

We are meant to presuppose it has something to do with protecting Ruth from revelations that would not be good for her own reputation.

But, the confidentiality is to protect those who have brought her to this place by inappropriate treatment of her.

The solution to the Calvin Seminary administration's dilemma is simple, but they will probably not be wise enough to take it. The solution is to issue a non waffling statement of apology, as in:

"We are hereby issuing a complete and unequivocal apology to Ruth Tucker for the unjust and unfair treatment she received at Calvin Theological Seminary. She is welcome to return immediately as full professor, with full tenured status, retroactive to the time she indicated her mistreatment began. A check for full retroactive back pay will be issued to her immediately. We regret what has happened and are taking steps to ensure such injustice does not occur again."

This would reverse the bad PR for the school, give Ruth what she has asked for, and more, and make the Calvin administration look like gentlemen and Christians rather than scoundrels. It would also save them a heap of money. You can be sure they are not only paying lawyers, but are seeing a big drop in donor contributions.

But, are they smart enough to do that? Looking at their past behavior, I'd say not. We'll see.

Pat Gundry

Jon Trott said...

I'm honored to have Patricia Gundry, one of the first voices for egalitarianism I encountered in my evangelical experience, post here. Her book, was, I think, "Woman, Be Free."

Pat, in case some haven't read your blog on the Tucker controversy, here's the URL again:

Sarah said...

Pat's apology for the administration sounds just right! Here's hoping they'll come around...

Lainie Petersen said...

Wow! Pat Gundry!

It was your book, Woman Be Freethat first introduced me to the idea of Christian Feminism as a teenager. It is wonderful to see that you are still writing, still blogging.