Wednesday, August 21, 2013
That is the headline of this Boston Globe article from last week few days ago about the appointment and the rescinding of appointment of Bishop James Tengatenga of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi as dean of the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College. I find it surprising that one often-astute observer of Dartmouth College affairs praises the college's new president, Philip Hanlon, for not flinching in pulling the appointment. It sure seems to me like he flinched. At least that's what I take away from the comments of the chair of the search committee, Professor Irene Kancades. According to The D's story today:
Calling the decision “bizarre,” Kacandes said reversing a provost and president-approved decision after a seven-month search might deter faculty from volunteering to sit on future search committees.
“The way that the accusations unfolded is something that we should be very alarmed about,” Kacandes said. “This man was tried in a court of partial public opinion, and it was not clear that people who wanted to weigh in could do so.”
Kacandes said she felt the strong reaction was perpetrated by a small group of students, blog posts and in emails between some faculty members.
Maybe there's more to the story, which I am viewing from a distance (though not as much a distance as students in Hanover, NH might view the statements of a Bishop in Malawi). But the way this unfolded is troubling. As an alumnus of Dartmouth and AQ, I appreciate now in a way that I did not appreciate as a student the benefits of the institutional independence of Aquinas House, the Catholic student center at Dartmouth, from the governance of the Tucker Foundation.
For more background: The college's statement on Bishop Tengatenga's initial appointment is here, a statement by Bishop Tengatenga on his views on gay rights is here, and a statement by Dartmouth's new President on rescinding the appointment is here. (See also this story from Episcopal News Service and this story from the Valley News.) Earlier news coverage about the controversy is available from the Valley News and Dartblog.
A perspective piece from Patheos, titled "Scapegoating Bishop James Tengatenga," concludes with a quotation from the Globe's coverage and the observations of an unnamed faculty member:
The fears voiced in the Globe article by Zambian exile the Rev. Kapya John Kaoma:
“This is a big blow, because it leaves African activists on the ground wondering if they can work with Westerners,” Kaoma said. “All human rights defenders in Africa are working under very, very hard conditions, and the violence against them is always there. What they have done is exposed Bishop Tengatenga and then dumped him back into Malawi.”
Were echoed by a member of the Dartmouth faculty, who told me:
The idea of the left taking care of their own calls to mind the Republican friendly fire of the Spanish Civil War. In this case, the left refused even to recognize him as one of their own. He unwittingly and in circumstances scarcely imaginable here violated their language code; their own moral pride compelled them to relegate him to the status of outcast, unfit to exercise moral leadership in our community. I don’t think my perception is entirely distorted when I notice a Leninist streak in the American liberal arts left.